Ideal Word Count for SEO – Fact or Myth
Is there are word count system that can be leveraged to gain high ranking on search engines? Does SEO take into account the length of an article? Is there a connection between word count and SEO at all or is it a myth? Let’s find out.
Content marketers and writers do have to confront this puzzle quite often – What is the ideal length of an article in terms of words and paragraphs?
Long Copy = Deep Research? Not Quite!
Yes, the length is an important factor and often puts other aspects into the background such as the core purpose of the copy, the intent of the content, and the audience it needs to address. For some reason, nearly every conversation with a client begins with word count and page length. Is it because of the popular belief that longer articles rank better? Do search engines believe that pages and pages of content indicate exhaustive and deep research entailing long hours of hard work that deserves a high ranking?
You have to agree that there is a strong belief among many people that a longer copy makes the content more rank-worthy. What can this misconception be attributed to?
Content marketing experts point out the presence of numerous studies around the word count subject but none of them provide any firm closure to the debate in the real sense. There are a lot of loose ends which means the confusion persists.
Relevance Matters More Than The Length
Many factors come into play while determining the right length of the content but the ranking of a page is not driven by its length alone. The objective of a page and its contents should be to provide the necessary information required by the visitor to achieve their objective of visiting that specific page.
In some cases, all they might need is a quick, crisp answer to a particular query and in other cases, they might require a detailed and in-depth explanation about a particular topic or subject. Going by this reasoning, the length of a content page does not hold as much importance as the quality and relevance of the information provided.
Google has made it implicitly clear that the needs of the user must take topmost priority and must be adequately addressed before anything else.
The focus should be on assisting the human visitor and not on supporting a search bot.
Is There a Proven Word Count for Best SEO?
If you believe that there is some formula by which search engine ranks an article based on its length then let it be clear that there is none. There are no Google guidelines that a specific number of words must be used for an article or page to rank high. The search engine algorithm is simply designed to rank pages based on its ability to satisfy the query of a user. There is no such rule that a content page with 2000 plus words will rank on the top search pages of Google, guaranteed! No.
Word count or volume is rarely a deciding factor according to many experts.The number of words of a copy is, without a doubt, the wrong way to measure its utility to the readers. Click To Tweet
This has been confirmed by none other than John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google in one of his tweets some time back.
“Word count is not indicative of quality. Some pages have lots of words but say nothing. Some pages have very few words that are very important and relevant to queries. You know your content best (hopefully) and can decide whether it needs the details.”
There is also this trend of piling on words on a content page simply because your top-ranking competitor did it. Some marketers fear that they will be seen as providing lesser information if they do not match the same word count and page length as that of their competitors.
This again is not true! John tweets to set the record straight:
“Having the same word count as a top ranking article is not going to make your pages rank first, just like having a bunch of USB chargers isn’t going to get you to the moon. But, I’m still tempted to buy some of those USB chargers.”
Correlation Between Word Count and Ranking – Is There Any?
However, despite reassurances coming from the right places, a lot of people still believe that there is a correlation between word count and ranking. For instance, it the content length of the top pages for a specific search term is around 2,000 and more, they would see it as a definite sign that any page that has less than 2,000 words will not be considered for top ranking.
While this is understandable, it is definitely not the truth. The longer pages might be ranking well but the length of the content has nothing to do with the rank.
It is the quality of the content and its relevance on these that’s making these pages soar high on the search engine rankings.
It is also possible that it is the link profile of these pages that are driving its rankings.
What Determines the Length of a Copy
Logically speaking, the length of content should be directly proportional to the subject matter and the query it aims to address. Shorter content will do better than longer ones in places where there is no need to stretch the pages. For instance:
For content that seeks to address the query such as the metro station near me will be significantly less than that which addresses the question about the history of Wimbledon.
“Content should be factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive.” – Google’s SEO starter guide accurately captures the picture.
To make it more clear, comprehensive here means complete. The content should include everything necessary to address its core purpose. At the same time, it should be free of fluff and inane sentences and descriptions which hardly adds any value to the overall content.
Marketers have come up with a really practical explanation of why content must not be built around a fixed word count. A piece with a suggested word count runs the risk of becoming diluted and straying away from its stated objective. It may be assumed in such cases that the writer will try to fill the paragraphs and pages with a random volume of words with the sole purpose of reaching the word count, thus sacrificing the quality and crispiness of the content in the process.
Will that make a good reading material? Obviously no!
Will it provide the requisite information in the right manner? No again!
The Consequences of Fluffing:
- It affects the manner in which the copy will rank for the targeted keywords
- The keyword theming of the page will go astray with unwanted content making its way into the pages
- A page that was supposed to be crisp and relevant to the topic will lose its punch as other concepts are introduced to add to the length
- The ability of the page to rank for the targeted keywords may get severely affected
Purpose Over Word Count
Ask yourself what is the real purpose of the page you intend to create. Is it intended to provide information? Is it created to encourage visitors to explore other pages on the site? Is it for performing some transactions? The purpose of the content page will decide the length of the content.
When you provide visitors reliable and accurate information based on the purpose for which they visit the page, you can achieve the objective of ranking higher than your competitors in organic search results.
User intent is another factor that will decide the length of the content of the page. What is the user looking for while landing on a specific page? If you know the answer to this and create content (regardless of the length) to satisfy their needs, your page will be a winner by all counts. The visitor is a busy individual who is unlikely to have the time and the patience to browse through a length description when a relatively crispier one would more than suffice.
A note of caution here: Making a page long does not help the visitor who comes for a purpose. It is more important to serve that purpose and achieve better rankings. And when you do that remember one more thing. Search engine optimization is of course about ranking high but it is more about converting traffic. Remember that while writing the copy.
Copy Length and Conversion
Is there a connection between copy length affects conversion?
While it’s a proven fact that reams of text might be off-putting for readers in some context such as a product description page, other types of pages might necessitate long copies to help visitors achieve their objective and complete an action.
The clear verdict, therefore, is that there is no right word count or best word count for SEO.Word count can never dictate a copy length, its objective should. Click To Tweet
The copy length should be such that it meets the needs of the user and also encourages conversion at the same time.
Some Interesting Research-Based Data
Here are some interesting observations based on extensive research of what the ideal length should be for various posts. Be warned that these are ideal representations based on the research of a large number of such posts and should not be viewed as the best practices. You can use these suggestions as a testing point for your posts wherever it is possible for you to use them.
Tweets with less than 100 characters have a higher engagement rate
Facebook posts of around 40 characters get a higher rate of engagement. Posts with more character count generally grab lesser eyeballs.
Opening paragraphs with around 40-55 words resonate better with readers.
Short and easy-to-remember domain names work best. Limit it to 8 characters for easy recall.
6 characters define the perfect hashtag according to research. Avoid using special characters, don’t start with digits and no slangs, please.
Subject lines get the best click rates if they contain around 39 characters.
Limit your title tags to less than 60 characters; 55 is the ideal number.
Are you surprised to learn that the first 3 and the last 3 words of a headline are usually read? Don’t worry about the length but 6 words headlines work best for blogs.
Limit the posts to 16-25 words for business marketing and 21-25 words for consumer marketing. At least, that’s what the trend says.
Blog posts that can be read under 6 minutes have a better engagement rate than those that can be read under 3 minutes. The ideal word count? 1600!
After researching the top 50 YouTube videos, it was revealed that the short ones are more popular with the average length being under 3 minutes.
Attention can be retained for around 20 minutes only and that’s why the average podcast length should be around 20-22 minutes.
6 minutes is the best time length for SlideShare.
It is important to understand that the post lengths and word counts mentioned for various sites are based on research by diverse agencies and sources. What works for others may not deliver the exact same results for you. This is undoubtedly some valuable data and can be used as a reference point for your needs.
To wind up, here is one from John Mueller again:
“Some low quality pages are unsatisfying because they have a small amount of main content for the purpose of the page. For example, imagine an encyclopedia article with just a few paragraphs on a very broad topic such as World War II. Important: An unsatisfying amount of main content is a sufficient reason to give a page a low quality rating.”