What Is the Ideal Word Count for SEO? (Myth-Busting Attempt)

Seasoned copywriters have different SEO techniques ingrained in their writing style. They use the keywords organically within the text and take the user to a journey that answers their question and more.

Many also prefer longer content to a shorter one. Thus trying to add as much information to their article as possible.

It is a common understanding that longer content does better in terms of SEO. But to what extent is this true? And what is the ideal word count for an SEO article?

What Is the Ideal Word Count for SEO?

There are some data that suggests there is an optimal word count for an article.

Although the data I found are mostly 4-5 years old (and getting older every second).

In an analysis Moz did in 2015, “long-form content of over 1,000 words consistently receive[d] more shares and links than shorter form content.”

via Moz

Also, there was a 2016 Backlinko analysis that found “The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words”.

So, many experts conclude that you need to go for a 2000 word article to achieve the best result.

But if you work in the field of SEO, you find many short (and sometimes relatively new) articles that rank #1 or within the first page. Also, you see a lot of long and skyscraper-type articles on the 3rd, 4th, 5th page, getting beaten by shorter content.

How does that make sense? In the past few years, Google has moved from a simple ranking system to a more complex way of understanding the articles and matching them with the user’s intent.

So, sometimes Google decides maybe the longer article is not the best for the audience to find. Or the signals suggest that the article hasn’t been useful.

With all of that in mind, writing a long-form article is still our best bet, right?

Is Google Counting My Words?

Well, No!

This question has been asked from Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, as late as August 2019. And his answer was very straight-forward:

“Word count is not a ranking factor. Save yourself the trouble.”

Then what makes the longer articles (at least longer than 1000 words) perform better?

My guess is it’s difficult to find a proper and comprehensive article, with less than 1000 words. (Though it’s not impossible.)

Also, we need to consider what’s called the Dwell Time.

The Dwell Time is the time a user spends on a certain page, before returning to the search result page.

So it’s good if the user doesn’t come back at all. But if he comes back, it’s better if he has read the article, rather than quickly rejecting it and looking for something else.

So the longer articles send at least two positive signals:

  1. The user finds the answer, as the article is comprehensive, and doesn’t go back.
  2. The user goes back, but the article is an interesting, long article. So he/she spends a long time reading it and then goes back.

Notice for this to work, the article should be long, but also something people are interested to read.

Why the Skyscraper Technique Doesn’t Always Work?

Skyscraper technique, means you write a content way more comprehensive than your opponent. The classic example is, if everyone is suggesting 10 apps, you suggest 50.

Does it always work? Well, it depends on what we consider more comprehensive. For example, if your audience is searching for one app to install, many times mentioning 10 is more than enough. Mentioning 50, is like mentioning 10.

Why the Skyscraper Technique Doesn't Always Work?

So to beat the competition, maybe you need to add some useful information on how to use or pick these software programs.

But then you are stuck with the question ‘how can I make this Way Better™ when they’ve already found their app and what the competing sites have written seems sufficient?’

Skyscraping needs original ideas and original content, both difficult to find.

Also sometimes adding more items or words to your content, may just add to the confusion. Whilst a straight-forward answer and quick instruction ultimately help the visitor to find what they want.

When Should I Go for Shorter Content?

Sometimes a content with 700-1000 words can do very well. Such content gives the answer straight-forwardly and explains a couple of extra points that are actually interesting. And then links to other interesting articles.

The best approach is to write your content without thinking about the word-count. Answer the user’s question quickly (preferably within the first heading) and then move-on to explain other points you find interesting.

You will find that very rarely the subject finishes in an embarrassingly small word-count.

Feel like you need more? Well, find more interesting things to say. But none of this is directly related to the word count.

Considering today’s algorithms and the way Google is moving forward, the best approach is to create a connection with your audience and write your content according to that.

Write something that is easily read from top to bottom. That would send a much better signal than a long article that is only partially read. (Or not read at all.)

How to Prevent Readers from Getting Lost in a Long-form Content?

How can we keep the audience interested if we are going for long-form content?

Seems cliché, but good writing is always the best way to keep people interested, and stems from how interested you are in the subject.

But there are also other factors involved. For example, it’s better to give the main answer fairly quickly and then move forward with extra information. So the reader gets what it wants and can leave happy under any circumstances.

Also, you can add a Table of Content to your article so that users understand the construct of your article and they can jump to the portions they find interesting.

Sometimes you look at the subheadings and notice they don’t make sense or their sequence is wrong. Make sure there is a downward stream from the first heading to the last.

You can also highlight and embolden the important parts of the article and add pictures and infographics that are interesting and useful.

There is only one way to write a long article, and that is to make every part interesting and informative.

Is There a Minimum Word Count for SEO?

Many experts suggest that you need to at least write 300 words in your article.

I haven’t found any credible source that suggests Google has a limit on how long an article should be. But articles under 300 words usually are light on content and have a short time-on-page.

Also, they may very well be perceived as thin content by Google. So, it’s better to write at least a few paragraphs of quality content and have a couple of subheadings.

So that’s it. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences on the word count in the comments section. Always nice to hear from you.

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