Throughout the recent but very dynamic history of SEO, there have been different opinions when it comes to the length of content and use of keywords. SEO software that analyzes search results after providing word count information has already been available and was supposed to inform users of the importance of word count. After all, many people still think word count is important. This may be because various correlation studies through the years have revealed that Google tends to award high rankings to web pages of a certain length and that more links are acquired by longer pages.
However, correlation studies have not really proven themselves in terms of long-term results. For example, a 2012 study claimed that the best content length that Google can effectively optimize is 1,500 words, which for today’s standards can already be considered a tad too long. Thus, we ask: Are word count and content length still relevant points to consider in SEO for 2020?
What does Google say?
Google is one of the major (if not the biggest) players in the SEO industry, so whatever the heads of the organization say is pretty much the law in SEO circles. A recent tweet from Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller downplays the role of word count in better page rankings. Rather than presenting articles or content that ramble or go off-tangent just to reach a certain length or word count, content providers should instead focus on targeted content that visitors and users will find most relevant. Understanding what users are looking for when they type in a search and using these learnings to beef up your content will be appreciated by Google more than putting fluff and overextending explanations just to reach a certain word count.
John Mueller tweeted that matching the word count of top ranked sites will not help a page rank.
Should you trust the tools?
These days, various SEO sites have page length as one of their default offerings in their auditing tools. However, these features can be deceiving because websites that are really structured to contain other kinds of content like videos, audio files, and pictures, this having few texts, will be flagged as poor because of “low word count.” Some tools will go on and recommend that Google needs to see 1,000 words every page, which should be very challenging for sites that do not really want to be text-heavy. After all, you wouldn’t want to stuff your website with unnecessary text just to fulfill the recommendations of these tools. Thus, we recommend taking the advice of these tools with a grain of salt.
In your question above, if you start adding tons of content only to appease the tools, you could create a bad user experience and spammy experience for search engines.
You may pass the automated audit but you could also be doing damage to yourself.
Your instincts sound right, but I also don’t know what your website is so I cannot review it to see.
Support for longer content?
Two studies related to content length should also be taken into consideration. In 2018, an analysis of digital marketing tool Ahrefs revealed that in the 2 million websites they audited, the best performing ones are not necessarily the ones with the longest content or the ones with the shortest, but those with “median” length of 800 words. On the other hand, a 2016 Dean and BuzzSumo review of 912 million blog posts showed what we may already know: Sites with long-form content attract more backlinks. This means that if you aim for more visits, go for median-length articles, and if you want more backlinks, go for long-form content.
It seems what might be ranking the website is not so much the content length itself (though it for sure helps to be competitive with the Page 1 results), but firstly the amount of links the page received.
Guides, skyscrapers, pillar pages, and content hubs make the most interesting link targets, thus it is recommended to create the most conclusive, interesting, and in-depth piece of content on the web and run an extensive outreach campaign for it.
Making it sexy might not even need more words – but more targeting, better graphics, or detailed results of market research.
So, what is it really?
Digital marketers have become obsessive with clear-cut rules, and this is true in the area of content length. With our need to understand algorithms and having to adhere to best practices, we want to achieve precise results as what has been experienced by successful sites. But we should also consider that when it comes to the question of how long content in the page must be to be ranked high, there might not be one precise answer applicable to all websites.
The question of how long a piece of content should be is divisive because there really is no right answer. Actually, it’s worse than that. There are a lot of right answers. People have short attention spans, so writing concise, 500-word blogs is the way to go, right? But if you look at the top result for just about any search, you’ll find the word count rarely dips below a thousand. So longer must be better, then. Well, you can’t argue with the fact that most readers only get about halfway through a piece of content, and that many don’t even scroll to begin with. The reality is that there’s no ideal length for content, because length in itself doesn’t mean anything. What does matter is how well you’re answering the question, or addressing the needs of your reader.
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