Many SEO experts claim that word count is vital to search rankings. In this article, we break down this theory and answer whether SEO success depends on word count.
Every year, SEO experts suggest writing more pieces of longer content to land on page one of Google. Additionally, Google’s regular algorithm updates, like the May 2022 core update, puts marketers on high alert, making them wonder how to push content toward position one.
But despite experts recommending varying word counts for higher rankings, one question arises: Does word count matter for SEO? Let’s look at what the experts and Google have said about this long-debated topic.
When it comes to word count, SEO pros have suggested different numbers. In 2021, analytics software company Databox interviewed several SEO and content marketing experts about their optimal word counts for web content. These talks recommended the following baselines and maximum text lengths for specific content types:
As for renowned customer relationship management (CRM) software provider HubSpot, they believe that the lengthier your content is, the better.
The company’s research on ideal blog post lengths for SEO suggests that marketers should write articles with 2,100 to 2,400-word lengths. HubSpot also recommended longer word counts for different types of blog posts. For instance, pillar pages (web pages with an in-depth look at broad topics) should be about 4,000 words long. Meanwhile, “how-to” blog posts can be 1,700 to 2,100 words long.
The people behind WordPress SEO plug-in Yoast also recommend producing lengthy content. They claim that long, high-quality blog posts can help a website reach page one of Google. And Backlinko’s research says the same: top 10 Google search results are 1,447 words long on average.
But how does lengthy content help you improve your search rankings? Let’s dig deeper into why longer web copies rank higher on Google.
First, longer texts give Google more clues to determine its context. If you put out lengthier, optimized content, your main keyword will pop up more often. But that can only happen with naturally optimized text. Plus, the longer your content is the more synonyms and related keywords you can include.
Lengthy texts also mean more headings, links, and images to insert. You can (naturally) optimize these elements with your chosen keywords. Ultimately, more content allows you to present relevant, high-quality information.
Screenshot from the Google homepage
Additionally, your website can rank for long-tail keywords related to your main keyword when you produce longer content. Through lengthy text, you can use related, long-tail keywords when you cover multiple topics. This method may help you cover niche subtopics that appear on search results for the long-tail keywords you’re targeting.
Google considers web pages with only a few words as thin content. Unlike lengthy content, thin content doesn’t answer people’s questions and meet user needs. In turn, it may rank low on Google.
While some SEO experts argue that word count can help websites rank better, Google has disputed this fact. The company’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, stated that word count doesn’t come into play for higher search rankings. His exact words were, “Just blindly adding text to a page doesn’t make it better.”
Simply put, Google doesn’t recognize a connection between more words on a web page and high search rankings. Instead, the search giant’s algorithms focus more on relevant, original, and high-quality content.
Several SEO and content marketing experts have shared insights backing Google’s take on word count’s presumed effect on SEO.
In Databox’s article on the matter, SEO specialist Janis Thies asserted that there is no fixed optimal article length for SEO. Moreover, the head of German SEO agency SEOlutions raised the following points regarding search queries and the content you can create for them:
Another online marketing pro, Neil Patel, advocates writing better content even if it’s lengthy. Like Google, he stresses that word count doesn’t necessarily mean better search rankings–it’s extensive, comprehensive, and keyword-focused content that gets websites up the search ladder instead.
With the SEO and word count debate cleared up, you may be asking yourself, “What should I really focus on for higher search rankings?” Here are some factors directly affecting search rankings and how you can use them to your advantage.
Screenshot from “Why is My Website Slow? (And How to Fix It)” [Growth Rocket blog]
Essentially, content structure is how websites present content to users. By Google’s standards, heading tags and other parts of a web page’s structure help websites serve more digestible content and direct the right users to their pages.
Content with a logical structure will appear more readable and helpful to users. That said, consider giving site visitors the best experience. Headings are an excellent way to deliver a good user experience (UX). Divide large blocks of text with these elements to help your visitors find what they’re searching for.
Google will always favor websites with high-quality information over those presenting insubstantial content. Hence, filling your content with fluff will hurt your search rankings.
Some of the SEO and content experts that Databox interviewed verified this result. As Canadian SEO company Easy Mode Media’s Ben McLaughlan puts it, compelling content is crucial to search success.
So, how can you improve your rankings with high-quality content? Reliable information and websites with expertise, authority, and trustworthiness on specific subjects (known as the E-A-T factor) are always on Google’s radar.
Screenshot from “UX Tips to Drive Greater E-commerce Sales” (Growth Rocket blog)
If your content contains disputable statements or claims, link relevant external data sources to them. And most importantly, check your content for possible plagiarism and avoid publishing duplicate content. These steps can help you deliver original content.
Screenshot from Backlinko
Google’s algorithm also looks at visual elements like images and videos when assessing content. With these elements, you can support a blog post or another webpage’s connection to your target keyword.
Additionally, media divides big chunks of text in your content for better readability. It also engages visual learners for better UX. For example, if you’re writing a blog post on must-see destinations in France, you can put images of the places you’ll feature between paragraphs. As for data-heavy content, including infographics, charts, or graphs is a great idea.
Screenshot from Google
These resource blocks, particularly special content types and featured snippets, are located at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). Once you’ve entered a specific query (usually a long-tail keyword), you’ll see a special content block that immediately answers the query.
Optimizing your content for featured snippets can push it above other search results on page one, known as position zero. Semrush noted that these snippets are mostly paragraphs, lists, tables, and videos. And among these content types, paragraphs always appear at position zero (70%). If you want to end up in that placement, start answering queries in 40 to 50 words or 250 to 300 characters. Brief yet informative answers help as well.
Despite experts pushing a supposed correlation between SEO and word count, what Google actually rewards is high-quality and valuable content. Short and long-form content that provides users with relevant information that helps solve their pain points and engages people will come out on top. Thus, producing and serving relevant, helpful, compelling, and credible content is best.
Do you need help improving your current search rankings? Reach out to the Growth Rocket team today, or visit our blog for more expert tips and insights.
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