Minimalism is one of the mega website design trends for 2020. People are living complicated, busy lives. Creating a site that is clean, spacious and easy to navigate is a breath of fresh air.

With this new trend comes the age-old questions that makes us all sigh. What is the optimal word count to make sure my article ranks? How little is too little copy… or how much is too much when it comes to search engine ranking?

Determining the right word count for good SEO is a complicated topic which I will start off with what everyone loves to hear …. it depends….

Open notebook with the word "Less" typed on it

What’s wrong with a webpage with a low word count?

Shouldn’t webpages with less words rank better since the keyword to content ratio is high?  Well the answer is… (annoyingly)… sometimes. Landing page or blog posts with less then 500 words may have trouble ranking in search engines. Why? Because there may not be enough content to qualify as ‘quality content’ on the specific topic. Remember that Google reveres quality over everything else. That doesn’t mean they CAN’T rank… it’s just less likely.

There are some positives to low word count content like improved readership, the ability to create posts more often, as well they’re a good length for mobile users and usually garner higher engagement. Before you start writing, you should invest time in research – of both your target audience and target keywords. Pages with a low word count can actually be more work then a high word count because you must be ultra succinct and intentional about every word. Every. Single. Word. There needs to be some serious value in that short content.

To get search traffic, keyword research needs to center around terms that get adequate traffic, but that don’t have too much competition. I wish I could tell you  the perfect word count amount, percentage of keywords or KEI, but it will be different for every search location and term. You should invest in a program that evaluates your on-page content and keywords to ensure that your target keywords are hitting an optimal ratio and that you’re not falling into keyword stuffing.

When you’re writing short articles, linking and social sharing becomes even more imperative to broaden your reach. Make sure you link out to any resources mentioned, and share on as many social channels as you can to start getting traffic to the page.

“Please, give me something long
(but make it worth my time.)”
– Seth Godin

Google’s John Muller in August 2019 said “Word count is not a ranking factor”. So while Google might not have an official stance on length, research is showing that longer copy can position better. HubSpot reported that 2,500 words was a ‘sweet spot’, while backlinko reported that most pages that rank #1 on Google average 1,890 words and content of over 1,000 words consistently receives more shares and links than shorter content. Another joint study between BuzzSumo and Brian Dean agreed finding that long-form content gets more links then short. Viola Eva discussed this in a 2019 Search Engine Journal article citing that longer content leads to more links, and more links in turn lead to better ranking. Notice the use of the word ‘link’?  Linking and sharing is integral – if your content has value, and is linked and shared. No matter the length – that is the key.

Should I always write long content then?

In a word. No.

“Write as much as you need to
— and not one word more.”

Your content length will depend on the topic or query and how much content it takes to relay the information the reader needs to see. This is not a highschool essay, so never ever add “fluff” to your article just to meet a word count requirement! It’s a horrible reading experience and it won’t help with your Google Ranking. Instead, focus on relaying high quality content, in clear and simple language. In particular, remember voice search optimization centers on simple language and answering questions.

Quality. Content.

Google is still just a machine without emotion and needs content to be able to evaluate your site’s information. The website design and ‘cool’ factor means nothing to Google’s algorithm. It evaluates the ‘quality’ of your content only. Length should not as much of a concern than helpful, value-filled content.

Moz researchers collectively agreed
that “quality content” was the key to
rankings – not length.

Before you write content you should do some competitive research. Look at your top 10 competitors. Look at their content and the specific key terms that they rank for.

Keep an open mind. Preconceived notions like “readers don’t want to scroll” and “people don’t read” are not generally backed by data. Companies create long sales copy all the time – and it works. For example Neil Patel found that high word count articles positioned better in search. He found it also provided a higher conversion rate, and better quality leads.

Is there anything wrong with really long pages?

Other then the fact that the reader must be able to invest a significant amount of time to reading, really high word count pages (2,800+ words) tend to be harder to optimize for search performance. Pages should focus on a limited amount of keywords and phrases. If a page covers multiple topics it can be difficult to rank for anything. We try to rank between 1-5 terms per page and these terms should be used a variety of times within the content in natural, conversational ways. If the density of these terms compared to the amount of copy is low, they are less likely to rank.

Instead of “content is king” let your mantra be “quality content is king”. Focus on writing content that answers potential customers questions and informs them in simple terms about your products and services. Regardless of your page’s word count, if your focus isn’t on quality, it’s unlikely to succeed.

SEO Process of Research, Create / Revise, Wait & Evaluate

Summary

In the end, whether your content is short or long, watch your google analytics performance to find out if you need to make changes. SEO is not a perfect science and it’s different for every site and every industry.  Focus on a process of research, change, wait and watch for a minimum of 3 months before revisiting the process starting with research. Good ranking takes a lot of work, and a lot of patience.

Do you have any content tips that have worked for you? Comment below to let us know if this article resonates with you.

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