How Does Word Count Affect SEO?
In our previous blog, we looked at the importance of using keyword analysis tools in SEO. If you missed that post, have a look by clicking here: Keyword Research And Analysis While keywords and keyword analysis tools play a significant role in your page scoring well in search queries, they’re not the only factor that comes into play.
If you’ve never paid much attention to the length of the posts you’re writing or utilizing for your online presence, you’re missing out on maximizing your SEO. If you’re the author of your posts or manage the content for a blog or website, you can either incorporate posts that are short and concise or longer and more descriptive. The question is: which one will get your ranking higher? Not surprisingly, the answer to that lies within the following criteria:
- Determining what your target audience prefers. – What are people searching for in regards to length and content?
- Understanding how Google ranks pages. – What is the word count that Google favors?
Fast Food Or Dining In?
The assumption used to be that you could reach more people with shorter posts and that posting longer articles would deter readers. The reasoning behind this was due to such assumptions as you can’t possibly hold a reader’s attention if your post is too long, and people are too busy to read long posts.
In our culture of drive-throughs and instant convenience, these conclusions seemed to be quite logical. And not too many years back, that you’d find much shorter posts on blogs and websites than you do now. However, something else became clear over time, and it’s led to some changes in the general perceptions about content length for digital media. Let’s look at that by considering a possible scenario:
Imagine a man named Jim wants to start a business painting houses. He’s got no previous experience at starting a business, but he’s good at painting, and he enjoys it. Since Jim already knows how to paint, he’s more likely to do a search query on how to run a successful business as a self-employed person.
Now, put yourself in Jim’s shoes. You’ve never done this before. You know next to nothing about how to start a business. If you do a search on the topic, are you going to want to read a short post that summarizes the key aspects to consider? Or, are you going to want to find more in-depth articles that will educate you and give you the ins and outs of what to do and how to do it?
Most people, if not all, will lean towards the second option. It’s going to provide much more information than a shorter post, making it more practical and useful. And this points to why people prefer longer content volume in general:
People don’t just want facts when they do their searches. They want solutions. They want to find answers to their questions and problems. And they want to gain an understanding of what it is they need to grasp and are interested in learning about.
To supply that kind of information, you’re going to need to write a post of considerable length with a high word count and varied content. Shorter posts just don’t contain enough room for detailed content like high volume posts do.
That’s not to say, there is never a place for shorter posts, but when it comes to reaching your readers in general, you’ll want the bulk of your posts to be long ones.
Longer Posts Rank Better on Google
Not surprisingly, Google and other search engines also favor longer posts. Google caters to what it identifies as being the intent and preference of the people doing the searches, and as just discussed, that means posts of greater length.
As with most anything, there are some exceptions to the rule. For example, someone that is a well-known personality with a good reputation will be apt to draw in readers, despite the length of their posts. People gravitate towards sources they already know they can trust. Along the same lines, once you’ve got a good following, you can take more liberties with the length of your own posts, with some shorter one thrown in on occasion.
Notice I said “on occasion.” In order to keep up a standard of content quality that ranks you well, you can’t forego keeping the bulk of your posts at a higher word count.
Avoiding Thin content
Keep in mind that you don’t want to have longer posts that will sacrifice quality for the sake of length. It will just work against you if you do.
Here at Pathways, we have a team of writers that will maximize your SEO through our knowledge of using word count to your advantage, creating the kind of quality posts you need to rank well
Google is looking for quality posts when it ranks your page. It measures the information in light of whether it is useful to the search queries performed by its visitors, and not length alone. If your article is long but full of fluff, it will be interpreted by Google as “thin content.” In case you’re not familiar with the term “thin content,” this refers to anything Google considers as putting forth little or no value. Google considers posts that are too short to be ‘thin content’ as well.
How Many Words Should My Post Be to Rank Well?
If you want to avoid thin content, you’ll need to know how many words Google favours a post to be. As already inferred, there have been several studies done to look into this. However, the difficulty in this is that if you compare those studies or rely on them individually, you’re going to come up with a whole host of numbers. Part of this is likely because each website conducting studies will have their own unique content and target audience and so the word count people prefer varies somewhat from site to site. There have also been fluctuations over time in the overall trend of what lengths rank higher than others. However, some general patterns have emerged, and we’ll look at those below
There was a time, not even a decade ago, when the sweet spot was around 1200 words. Then it moved to the 1800 word-mark, and then to 2500 words for the highest-ranking posts. More recently, some studies suggest that number has dropped. So although there may not be one perfect number for word count volume, when we combine those studies we can get a pretty good idea of what works well and what doesn’t.
Below are some good guidelines of what your target word count should be for writing digital content:
Blogs and Social Media:
- Under 300 – Too Low!
- 300 – Bare minimum
- 800 – 1000 – Adequate
- 1500 – 2000 plus – Ideal
Let’s look in a little more detail at writing for blogs since there are a few more variations in this category. As a starting point, you’ll want to ensure your post has a high word count of at least 1000 words. 800 is adequate, but just 200 more words will make a significant difference in rank. Aiming for between 1500 and 2000 is even more ideal.
What you don’t want to do is write a post that’s under 300 words. This is the length that Google classifies as “thin content.”
But remember what we just talked about – just making your word count higher isn’t going to rank you higher necessarily. You need quality alongside quantity of words.
Writing High Volume Posts
When writing longer posts that will give you the quality needed to perform well in SEO, it can be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it informative?
- Is it interesting?
- Is it helpful?
- Is this something I would want to read?
If your answer is “yes” to the above, you can know you’re on the right track. There are also some practical tips that we endorse and are skilled at utilizing here at Pathways with our clients. And we believe you will find these helpful as well:
- Do in-depth research so you can write in more detail on your subject
- Give examples that help clarify your subject matter
- Cover subtopics that no one else is writing about
- Include quality links
- Network with other sites to help promote backlinks to your site
Tip 1: Even if you believe you are an expert in your field, other articles will present contrasting views, and give further insight into your topic.
Tip 2: Examples breaks down the information into an easily accessible form and create a point of interest to keep your audience engaged! Aim to use examples that are creative and relevant.
Tip 3: You can draw in readers by having unique content
Tip 4: Including links to other pages sends the message to Google that you’ve done your research, and will add value to your page to help you rank higher. Your readers will appreciate the additional reference points as well.
Tip 5: “Backlinks” refers to other sites linking back to yours (i.e. including links to your site on theirs) as a reference. Writing articles that are longer in length will help you get more backlinks. This is a primary key for SEO. Please see our article on backlinks here: Introduction to Backlinks
Formatting Layout For High Content Volume
But it’s not just having high volume content that counts, but also the way you format and present it in your post. We’ll get to that in a moment. But first consider this: according to studies done by Medium.com the highest percentage of readers spend an average of seven minutes reading a post. (You can read more about that here: The Optimal Post is 7 Minutes). That equates to a word count of about 1600 words. Interestingly, many of the posts getting the highest amount of traffic are longer than 1600 words. This infers two things:
- Readers prefer longer posts
- Most people don’t actually read the entirety of long posts
That seems like a dichotomy, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. Let me explain.
Although people may prefer longer posts, they don’t necessarily read them in full. Most will just read portions, scanning through it for highlights and the most pertinent information. With that in mind, it’s going to be advantageous if you format your posts so that they are easy to scan for content. Some simple formatting applications will allow you to maximize content volume to engage your readers.
Formatting tools can include any of the following:
- Pictures and visuals
- Highlighting portions of the text
You can highlight text portions in several ways, including but not limited to bullet points, italics, paragraph indents, and bold print.
When you break your text up into smaller portions by applying the formatting tips above, you’ll be well on your way to making your long content user friendly.
Hint: Take a quick look over this post from start to finish to see a visual example of these formatting tips for high volume posts!
A good layout will not only make your post easier for people to scan, but it will add variety and variety is key to holding your reader’s interest. And with all the competition among other websites and other forms of digital media, holding the interest of your audience is something you simply can’t afford to miss out on.
At Pathways, we have a team that is skilled at writing online content that effectively incorporates high content volume (high word count) to keep your readers engaged and help you score high in SEO.
Please feel free to contact us. We’d be happy to help.