Over the years this topic has been discussed so many times, like… so many times! Whether its inhouse SEO and Content Marketing Teams, small clients, large clients, outsourced SEO and Content Marketing Teams – developing interesting content based around the services and products they offer – its always a question that is asked.

When working with clients on their SEO or Content Marketing Strategies, we always get asked, “how long should my blog content be?” or “what’s the best word count for this page/blog?”. The question seems to be focused around length, word count and how long it will take to develop and also rank, but in reality it really needs to focus on the audience or the user.

long form v short form content - Digital Thrive
Long Form v Short Form Content

But Long Content Ranks Better Right? – Not Really!

Its not necessarily about the length of the content or word count. If you think about being asked a question by someone – how long is the required response to that question – sometimes a short direct answer is the best, other times its literally a story and therefore takes longer to explain. That’s the way we need to approach Content Marketing and onpage copy for optimisation, its not about word count and how long – its actually about value and quality of the answer that consumers have asked or are looking for.

But Research Shows Long Content Ranks Better

There has been so much research, conference talks, discussions around the theme of long content ranks better, but its not necessarily true. Backlinko (sign up to their blog, follow them on social – they have some great content!) did a great piece of research back in 2020, analysing content that ranked on page one of Google, where they summarised that the ranking content, had an average word count of 1477 words. So, you’d think, right, my blog content needs to be 1000-1500 words, include all the keywords I am targeting, or product pages need to be circa 1500 words in length for it to rank better… well, again, not really. The study reveals that there is a correlation between the longer form content and word count, but it doesn’t say “it needs to be 1477 words long”.

I Know… So, What’s the Best Word Count for SEO then?

Again, going back to the earlier point about someone asking you a question – it really depends on what the question is, the consumer pain point or barrier they are faced with. Product pages or blog content that rank really well for SEO, may do so for a really wide variety of factors that are associated to a search engine algorithm as a whole. In the last 13 years of developing Content Marketing strategies and SEO, my answer has always been the same – its quality over a numeric quantity and write for the user, not the search bot. Your content needs to help the user with their question or complete a task or understand something in finer detail, always focus on the user first.

adding word count to content SEO - Digital Thrive
Maybe for a college essay, but not for web content!

So, You’re Not Going to Tell Us What the Word Count Needs to be?!

I know you want me to give you a number, like 700-1000 words, its not that straightforward – its not a case of hitting word count and there, the content should rank – its all about well crafted content that answers consumer search questions.

There is an argument, debate, or even discussion to say that longer form content can rank better, but its more around a longer form piece of content answering a long list of questions around a single theme or topic and being really comprehensive. You can have multiple headers (questions) within a longer form piece of content to eek out the answers to each question – where those questions are based on consumer pain points and barriers. A longer form piece of content is able to do this over a shorter form piece of content. Notice, I have not mentioned the word count for that long form piece. When developing a longer form piece of content, make sure you are focused on the answers and not just “trying” to make it long, which potentially waters it down, or is a load of fluff about the same topic, question, answers over and over.

A short form piece of content works well for many other reasons – where you could discuss product specifications, high level question/answer type (think how Google treats Featured Snippets), maybe with a bulleted list, or recipe and so on – both have their own need for being the length they are.

 

Conclusion – Yep, There is No Word Count Specifically for SEO

So stop trying to hit a “magic number” of words on a page when it comes to Content Marketing and SEO, there is NO quick answer to say that 1000 words will make it work. Write for the reader, give the content purpose – and tell the story, convey the message for the query that has been submitted in a search engine by a consumer, not just fluff on a page. If your content development is focused on answering consumer questions as well as you possibly can, then that goes a long way to helping it get noticed, read, shared etc over something that is a dissertation and potentially boring.

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