How Long Should Your Posts Be?

If there is one debate that keeps resurfacing in the web content and SEO space, it has to be the million-dollar question, “how long should your blog posts be?”

While a few SEO gurus insist that long posts will boost your website rankings, it should be many more, as the intuition is a correct one. Can long posts with 2,000 words and an eye-catching headline get you the ranking you desire?

Let’s not ignore that the attention span of readers is getting shorter with each generation. So, is it safe to assume that shorter articles mean better ranking in search? Looks like it might be difficult to put this debate to rest anytime soon.

But if you go by the general consensus in the content space, the length of the article depends on two things:

  1. Prioritizing the user’s search intent.
  2. Packaging your content with relevant backlinks.

If we break it down further, there are five other things that might be more important than your word count in 2019.

Are you ready to walk through the list?

1. Backlink your content

The primary reason why your extremely long content post might work is backlinks. It’s obvious that long-form content presents more opportunities to insert links than shorter articles.

Apart from linking your earlier relevant articles, you can beef up your backlinks by adding links from other websites to your page. Each backlink will alert the search engines that the content on your site is valuable. This will in turn help you improve your site’s rankings in the search results.

Note – If you want to rank higher, you need to focus on building quality backlinks.

What will bring your content on page one of the search results is not necessarily long content but the number of links in the article.

To summarize, the two-step process to better ranking are:

  1. Long-format content that allows more backlinks.
  2. Rich backlinks will pave a path for better rankings.

2. Addressing user’s search intent

What will retain the user’s interest on your site is the relevance of information he receives the moment he lands on your page. The goal of your content, irrespective of the length, has to be to provide value to your readers. If that isn’t achieved in the initial few seconds, chances are the reader won’t share your page/link, making it difficult to rank in search results.

When a user lands on your page, make sure he gets an answer to his question first. As you move ahead, the article can dwell into the details for the benefit of those seeking more information.

The content could be structured in a format where it begins with the most relevant answer to a query, before further padding with reasons and examples with  minor/secondary details coming after.

Secondly, always lead the users to relevant articles with backlinks. You can do this by guiding them to:

  1. Links to ‘Also Read’ articles/embedded videos or images.
  2. Subscription page/Sign-up page/newsletters.
  3. Purchasing the product/service.

3. Cut the fluff, deliver content

One of the biggest mistakes that can hurt the page is filling it with superfluous content. In a quest to achieve a longer word count, a writer might be tempted to fill his piece with irrelevant detailed information, which has the potential to instantly put off the readers.

What is key is understanding the user’s intent and providing him value for the time he has spent on your website.

For example, if an article is about refrigerators and the writer goes ahead to talk about electrical appliances in great detail, he will hit the word count but it isn’t the content the user came looking for.

The key takeaways to avoid here are:

  1. Prioritize quality over quantity.
  2. Don’t take the user’s intent for granted.
  3. One article should address only one keyword. Don’t let them overlap.
  4. Avoid confusing the readers and search engines by providing irrelevant information.

4. Target on keywords

Over the past year, Google has been sensitive about content duplication and keyword cannibalization. Falling into these traps could harm the SEO potential of your pages. This is the most common mistakes many websites make.

If you have been posting content on your website for years, it is quite possible that you might have multiple articles/pages addressing the same query.

For example, you might have an article on ‘How to process your Canadian visa’ and another one on ‘Five easy ways to apply for Canadian visa in 2019’. It is possible that both these pages could have similar info or one could have more in-depth, updated material. But how can Google decide which one to rank higher?

Keyword cannibalization creates confusion for the search engine as it struggles to decide which page to rank for what search. It is possible that this confusion could lead the undesirable article to get more clicks and higher ranking. So, you are ‘cannibalizing’ your search traffic.

The best option would be to merge similar pages or avoid confusing the search engine by duplicating content. Also, don’t forget to boost the article with relevant backlinks.

5. Beyond just words

In today’s time, when the reader is pressed for time and prefers to receive information in a glance through videos, graphics/infographics, audio, expecting them to read a 1,500-word article is too far stretched.

Instead of a text-heavy page, you can visually enhance it by adding elements like images, graphics, and videos to make it more engaging for the readers.

For example, it’s possible to explain “how to install electrical connections around the house,” or “how to bake a cake” in great detail in text format. But a video or pictorial format will triumph text any day. In such cases, we can argue that the length of the content is not essentially the king but the richness of the information is.

You can enrich your offering by adding an infographic or a how-to-guide image and break the text. A video on your Vimeo or YouTube channel could break the text clutter and also create another content and marketing platform to increase your visibility and add to your revenues in the long run.

Hosting rich content on your page could also lead to other websites linking to your site for more detailed information. As said earlier, this backlinking by other websites can help you figure higher in search results.

It is safe to conclude that a content length can sometimes be inversely proportional to the content length. If a writer begins focusing on making his article wordy, chances are he might dilute the value of each word. The target shouldn’t be to create long 2,000-word pieces when the same can be explained in concise, tight 800 words.

Your goal shouldn’t be to write a 2,000-word article as long articles don’t guarantee better ranking in organic search.

To summarize:

  1. Always remember – quality over quantity. Don’t focus on making articles wordy.
  2. Focus on keywords and avoid keyword cannibalization.
  3. Give your target audience what they need.
  4. Enrich your content beyond words.
  5. Lead readers to next articles with relevant links.