Hope you're ready for another guest post! We've got a special guest, Brenda Burg, with us today and she's helping us justify our unreasonably long SEO posts – while adding in a bit of Google history.
Let's get to it!
As content marketers and affiliate site owners, it’s safe to say that we spend so much time optimizing our content with keywords, images and other forms of SEO techniques to ensure that our pages rank as high as possible in the search engines.
Anybody who has been in the content game for the last few years will already know that the requirements are far different from what they used to be and it’s simply not a case of cramming your content with optimized keywords. It’s all about finding the right balance of tactics and giving your readers the best experience possible.
However, how often do you consider how the length of your content affects your search engine ranking? This is quite an unspoken subject matter among some content writers, but is that because it doesn’t matter? On the other hand, could it be a serious consideration that you need to be taking into account?
Today, we’re going to find out once and for. Let’s jump right in and take a detailed look at the length of your content and how it directs affects your Google search engine result page ranking.
What Does Google Say?
Firstly, let’s take a look at what Google officially requires when it comes to your content length. In short, it doesn’t. John Muller, a representative from Google, stated back in 2012 that it simply isn’t required, and that word count isn’t considered when ranking a content page.
“Rest assured, Googlebot doesn’t just count words on a page or in an article since short articles can be very useful and compelling to users.”
This is worth noting since Google indexes Tweets with now only a tiny 280 character length, which makes sense. So, judging by what Google says, the word count of your content is irrelevant, as long as your content is relevant, informative and valuable to your readers.
Phew. We can all take a deep breath knowing that our 300-word articles will still rank highly in comparison to our 2,000 long-form posts.
Or can we?
The Statistics of Word Count Rankings
Despite what Google says officially, research suggests an alternative conclusion. Medium, one of the leading content/media publication websites, conducted a survey on all the posts on their website back in 2013.
The results were surprising, to say the least. Medium found that their most popular and highest hitting blog posts took around seven minutes to read. Roughly speaking, a seven-minute article converts to about 1,600 words. Summarising their survey, Medium stated that this is because people reading their blog posts preferred to read something that educated them and provided them with valuable information.
They also suggested that content that was longer than 1,600 words received fewer hits and shares because it was more specialised and only appealed to a select audience. Likewise, SerpIQ carried out a survey on a selection of posts.
Within this survey, SerpIQ found that the best performing posts had an average of 2,450 words per post (including sidebar text). In the same survey, they found that the further down the results page you go, the fewer the words in the content post.
In conclusion, SerpIQ stated that the best word count to have on a page, based on search engine ranking and the number of hits that post had received was around 1,500 words and above, much in line with Medium’s findings.
In fact, there are countless studies and research that has been carried out on the impact of the word count of search engine result page (SERPs) ranking, and they have all found something similar. Back in 2012, Neil Patel has written an extensive post for QuickSprouts on his study into the word count of posts and their ranking in the results pages.
In this post, he references the same SerpIQ study which analysed over 20,000 keywords and their ranking in the SERPs – which none of the entries drops below 2,000 words.
So, Google doesn’t actively index and rank pages based on their word count, but the research is showing that it’s important for the online visibility of your posts?
Let’s take a look at why this happens.
Why Post Length Affects Your SEO Ranking
When it comes down to it, there are many reasons as to why the word count of your content affects your SEO ranking. As we all know, Google favours informative and valuable content that provides the reader with the information they are looking for in the best possible format.
In short, if an internet user is searching something like “how to train my dog to sit”, Google is going prefer and highly rank a post with 2,000 words with step by step guides, alternative methods and tips and tricks on how to do this successfully (a post with a high word count) in comparison to a post that simply says for you to tell your dog to sit and then to give them a treat when they do it.
If you take a look at grammar blogs like State of Writing and Via Writing, you’ll find that their pages are lists of tools and resources you can use, which in total adds up to thousands of words, making it a lot more valuable to the reader as a bookmarkable database.
However, let’s dig deeper.
More Words, More Keywords
If you’re writing a 500-word post on a particular subject, the chances are that statistically speaking; you’re going to have more keywords embedded in your content. Since there are more relevant keywords, and key phrases, in your content, it’s naturally going to rank higher in the SERPs.
It’s also going to rank in a lot more unique searches which will boost its hit rate, again ranking your page higher.
“In line with this theory (in this section), the chances are that long-form content posts are going to be broken up by more H1 and H2 headers, another place for you to put keywords and therefore rank higher” exclaims Peter Olson, a content manager for Australian Help.
Just because you’ve got more space to play with keywords, that doesn’t mean that you should stuff your content with keywords, just make it natural and read well. Otherwise, Google will rank you lower. Don’t forget, when writing your content, you can use tools like Easy Word Count to actively check and monitor the word count of your posts as you’re writing them. Also, you can use tools like Grammarix to make sure your grammar is perfect, therefore improving your user experience.
Providing Your Readers with Valuable Content
As we mentioned in the introduction to this section, the longer your post, typically the more value and information you’re providing your reader. This is because long-form posts are more researched, contain more information and tie up all the loose ends, which leads us nicely onto my next point.
If you’re struggling to produce this kind of high-quality content, you can always use the premium writers here at Human Proof Designs.
An Increased Number of Backlinks
Let’s say you’ve written a 2,000-word mega article on teaching your dog how to sit. Since this is a highly researched, highly informative post, the chances that you’re going to receive a tonne of backlinks from other dog and pet-related blogs increases dramatically. As we all know, the more backlinks your posts have, the higher you’ll rank in the SERPs.
It’s worth remembering that social signals are also also at play, so if you’ve written a hugely successful article that’s being shared all over social media, it's possible that Google will be taking note of this. They've previously mentioned that they do not take into account these social shares, but that was before Facebook and Twitter were big names.
A Possible Link with Content Length
Another theory that some sources have suggested is that the longer your content posts, the longer someone will spend on your website page. Even if someone has clicked on your 4,000-word post and is put off and slightly overwhelmed by the length of the post, you’re still drastically increasing your pages dwell time, therefore, boosting your SEO ranking. However, this is just a theory and although tests have been run privately, none of it is publicly available data from Google.
Actionable Advice – Don’t Forget the Basics
While content length obviously affects the ranking of your posts in the SERPs, it’s important that you find the right balance with this and don’t try and make your posts as long as possible. Firstly, average users will be instantly bored and overwhelmed by long-form posts, especially those exceeding 2,000 words.
Secondly, the longer your word count, the more likely you are to have plagiarised content in your posts. You can check this easily by using tools like Copyscape and Academized. Failure to remove plagiarised content from your posts means Google may not index your page, therefore making it impossible to rank in certain circumstances.
As you can see, although not officially, it’s safe to say that the length of your content posts does directly affect its SEO ranking. By taking the time to invest in your content, heavily researching it and making it as valuable as possible, you’ll be able to boost your SERPs ranking, backlink count and website hits, leading your website to more views, more followers and, consequently, more success.
Brenda Berg is a professional with over 15 years of experience in business management, marketing and entrepreneurship. Consultant and tutor for college students and entrepreneurs at Ukwritings. She believes that constant learning is the only way to success. You can visit her personal blog at Letsgoandlearn.com