When you sit down to write a piece of content it’s natural to wonder how long it should be. That begs the question of whether there is an ideal word count for SEO, and if so, what is it? We take a hard look at how word count fits in with SEO and ask does size really matter?
Does Word Count Matter for SEO? [150 Words]
Word count does matter to SEO. Anyone who says it doesn’t should try ranking a blog with just ten words on it. However, it’s not as simple as just saying word count makes a difference to your SEO success.
The key thing in SEO - as with many things in life - is quality, not quantity.
5,000 words of fluff aren’t going to have the same value as 1,500 words of focused, high-quality information. So, while word count has an effect on SEO, it’s not the length of an article that’s making it valuable in the eyes of search engines.
What makes it valuable is the information that’s contained in the article. For some pieces of content, the maximum value might be achieved with 500 words, but for other pieces of content, it might take 2,000 words.
There’s no set number of words that takes you to SEO nirvana; it’s about balancing your goals with the reader’s goals and the number of words it takes to do this will vary.
Word Count and SEO: What the Studies Say? [150 Words]
We all look for guidance in what we do. When it comes to SEO, we often seek guidance in the form of benchmarks: what is an average bounce rate, what is a good conversion rate, how many words are the best articles?
The frustrating thing with SEO is benchmarks are that they can give you some ideas on how to succeed in SEO, but they don’t give you all the answers.
When it comes to word count, many people point to a Backlinko study that analyzed nearly 12 million search results to find out how many words the top pages had on them. The headline number is that the average top ranking result has a word count of 1,447.
It’s easy to skim through the article, pick out this number and assume that the optimal word count for any blog is 1,500. However, as the original article highlights, this is more a question of correlation than causation.
Correlation and Causation [150 Words]
We’re programmed to think of writing in terms of word count. In school and university, we’re used to working to strict guidelines, so naturally, when it comes to writing, one of the first questions we have is “how many words should it be?”
When it comes to SEO, this isn’t the right question to start with.
Instead, the question is, “what does my audience want to see and how can I best give it to them?”
The reason blogs are ranking number one isn’t because they’re 1,500 words long. The reason they’re ranking number one is that they answer their target audience’s questions in the best possible way.
Some of these blogs might be 3,000 words long, others might be 500, and the average works out to 1,500. Each search is different though, and they will be answered in different ways by blogs of varying word counts.
When articles match user intent and answer people’s questions, this causes them to rank number one.
How Long Should Your Content Be? [400 Words]
You know by now that we’re not going to give you a fixed word count you should always stick to. What we can tell you is how to inform your decision-making when it comes to length.
What you want to avoid is thin content - content that offers little to no value, and for the most part, search engines are going to look for at least 250 words to achieve this. From this number up, it’s up to you to decide what word count balances your users’ needs with your goals.
Here are some questions you should ask.
What Type of Page Is It?
You’re unlikely to write a 3,000-word product page. When people are buying a product, they want easy access to the key information they need to make a decision, and they’re unlikely to spend twenty minutes reading through a huge article to find it.
Each page has its own unique reason for being on your website, and the word count will reflect this. Even within your blogs, the purpose of each one can vary greatly - for example, are they designed to give a brief introduction to a subject, or are they in-depth guides?
What Goal are You Trying to Achieve?
This ties in closely with the last point, but it’s a question you always have to ask yourself - what is your goal for this page? What action do you want the user to take next?
It’s easy to get carried away with a certain word count and forget that SEO is about getting humans on the other side of the computer to take action. If you can successfully achieve this in 750 words, then there’s no need to write a 3,000-word epic.
The search engines don’t care how many words your write, they care about how their users experience your site. If you can get people to take positive action (spending time on the page, clicking on internal links, etc.) then you will be rewarded in the SERPs.
This will save you time when it comes to your content planning, but it’s perfectly possible to do it manually.
Your page won’t rank unless it matches user intent - it’s as simple as that.
One of the problems with chasing an arbitrary word count is that you dilute the key messages in your content and lose focus on user intent. If your audience can’t find the information they’re looking for, or you stray from the key ideas, then they can lose interest and click back to the search engine.
For certain queries, users expect in-depth, lengthy articles, but for many, they’re just looking for quick, complete answers to a specific question.
Quality and Quantity
Quality vs quantity - it’s the classic tradeoff you have with almost anything you do. For SEO, if you have to choose between the two, the answer is almost always quality.
If expanding your word count means you’re damaging the quality of your content, then you shouldn’t do it. Ask yourself if you have answered your audience’s question thoroughly and with valuable information - if the answer is yes, then there’s little need to keep padding out an already excellent article.
Does word count matter for SEO?
It’s a little more complicated than a yes or no answer, but it’s not something you need to be too focused on. If you get to the end of an article and think “this is a great piece of content, it answers all my audience’s questions and encourages action through valuable information,” then you don’t need to worry about word count.
Yes, it can help to look at the top results for the keyword you're competing for to see how those articles go about answering people’s questions, but the ultimate question is how can you do it more effectively?
There’s no set word count that can answer this question, but you can always call the experts at Keyscouts to get the best advice regarding word count and all things SEO.