The content on your website is one of the top-three ranking factors for Google to decide whether your pages are worthy of a hallowed page-one spot. Furthermore, its algorithm is constantly updated to improve search engines’ understanding of content – this began in 2011 with the Panda update. Read on to gain valuable insight into how long content should be and some best-practice guidelines.
Check out the data
The best place to start to find whether more words means better rankings is to look at what has been found in studies.
These guys teamed up and reviewed 100 million online articles to see what makes a piece of content go viral – these are the two most relevant key findings:
- the longer a piece of content, the more it gets shared online. The posts that were between 3,000-10,000 words long performed exceptionally well
- there were 16 times more blog posts under 1,000 words than content above 2,000 words.
The takeaway here is that a piece of long-form content will be shared a great deal more than its short-form equivalent, because it is in-depth, comprehensive and keeps the reader engaged.
Secondly, long-form content has lower competition, as there are 16 times the number of blog posts under 1,000 words. So if you produce a piece of content under 1,000 words, you have far more competition – although it’s important to note that you are still competing with the longer-forms of content.
In this study, Hubspot analysed its own blog of approximately 6,000 posts to find out the key factors that made content shareable, linkable and traffic-driving. The two main findings were:
- articles and blog posts that had a word count of 2,250-2,500 brought in the most search traffic
- content above 2,500 words experienced the most social shares and brought in the most backlinks.
Similar to OkDork and BuzzSumo’s study, longer pieces of content were found to bring in more traffic, experience more backlinks and garner more social shares compared to shorter forms of content.
The team at Backlinko conducted its own study on one million pages to analyse search-engine ranking factors, and what helps improve Google rankings. The key takeaway is:
- long-form content ranks better than short-form content, with the average word count for position-one pages being 1,890 words.
Like the other two studies, this one highlights that longer forms of content tend to perform better than short-form.
What does this mean?
As you can see from the studies above, longer-form content ranks better and drives more engagement among users. Let’s explore this further.
Long-form content is king…
It’s clear that long-form content tends to rank higher than short-form content and there are plenty of reasons for this. The longer a piece of content, the more opportunity you have to exercise SEO best practice, giving you more scope for optimising your content to rank on page one. In addition, generally speaking, the longer the piece of content, the more in-depth it will be and therefore will have greater value for the reader.
Going by the studies above, long-form content that tends to rank well is in the region of 1,500 words and 2,000 words – this is a good benchmark to aim for if you’re really stuck on how much to write for a blog post.
…but you can still go short-form
Having said that, just because long-form tends to rank better, it doesn’t mean you do away with short-form content entirely – it still has its value. For example, it may not be good for a website to have a homepage with 2,500 words on it. There are pieces of content out there that rank on page one that are short-form. See this example here, where a 550-word piece of content ranks on page one for the hyper-competitive search term ‘SEO’. Just remember that each page on your site has a purpose, so tailor the length as you would the tone and structure to the purpose of the piece.
Quality is key
While there’s a correlation between length of content and where it ranks on search-engine results pages, it’s wrong to say conclusively that long content outranks short. A 2,500-word blog that repeats itself frequently, isn’t well written, has toxic backlinks, isn’t mobile optimised and is stuffed with keywords won’t outrank an 800-word page that’s high-quality and SEO-optimised.
Your first priority when producing content is to ensure high-quality content creation that satisfies the reader’s need. The word count can be set at the beginning of the process as a guideline; it will depend on the purpose of the piece. If it’s an in-depth discussion of a new technology in the finance industry then a 3,000-word blog may be appropriate. Likewise, if you want snappy, short comment, a 600-word blog would be best.
What’s the answer?
So, do higher word counts mean better rankings? Unfortunately, there is no magical word-count number, but we can say with certainty that long-form content tends to rank better than short-form content – but not in every case!
The best thing you can do is focus on creating the best content you can, and the word count should become natural after that. And remember, if you have search-engine-optimised copy, you will be giving your page every chance to rank on page one.