Seo content

Does word count really matter for SEO content?

In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), key copywriting strategies continually evolve as we adapt to Google’s algorithm updates.

You may have come across digital marketing experts who offer advice on how to improve your place in search rankings by following their word count range recommendations.

There have been many debates about the importance of word count in SEO, and it’s time to get to the bottom of it.

Is word count a ranking factor?

Google’s John Mueller confirmed that word count is not a ranking factor for the search algorithm.

Specifically, he states that “just blindly adding text to a page doesn’t make it any better.”

Rather than looking at the number of words on a page, Google’s algorithms look for relevant, original, high-quality content.

Why long-form content tends to rank higher

Despite Google’s confirmation that word count does not directly affect rankings, you can still find many articles and keyword tools that suggest longer word counts.

So why tools like Yeast and Clearscope provide the recommended word count if the numbers on the page don’t directly impact rankings?

There are several reasons why a higher word count can indirectly improve your rankings.

Some of these tools base their word count recommendations on competitive analysis.

Writing longer content makes it easier for Google’s algorithm to determine what your page is about.

Thorough, well-written articles also position you as an authority on the topic and help you rank for long-tail keyword variations.

How to Determine the Right Word Count for Your Content

There is no rule of thumb to follow in terms of word limits for SEO.

Instead, you can look at your keyword research, competition, and past performance to determine the best word count range for your content.

Start with your keyword strategy

You can create new content with a single target keyword in mind.

But one study by Ahrefs found longer content is more likely to rank in the top 10 for multiple keywords.

By increasing the length of your article, you can cover your main topic from different angles, which means you can rank for more keywords.

In particular, longer articles are more likely to rank for long-tail variations of your primary keyword, with lower competition and higher conversion rates.

For example, long-tail variations of “Microsoft Word” might include “Microsoft Word for Mac” and “Microsoft Word Resume Template”.

Screenshot of the search for [Microsoft Word]Google, March 2022

So if you’ve identified any long-tail keywords you want to target, consider increasing your word count to cater to those more specific queries.

Discover the competition

You can also use word count as a benchmark metric when comparing your content to the competition.

Many keyword research and content optimization tools provide word counts of top performing articles for a given keyword.

Clearscope rating summary chart with content rating, word count and readabilityScreenshot from Clearscope.io, March 2022

If you’re unsure how long an article should last, looking at the word counts of current top performers is a good place to start.

Pay attention to search intent

Along with looking at what the competition is doing, you should always pay attention to the search intent associated with your target keyword.

Intent will help define what makes the content useful and relevant to the user.

In other words, think about what your target audience wants when they type a keyword into the search bar.

If they want comprehensive information, you can aim to meet or exceed your competitors’ word count.

Conversely, you can choose to create shorter content that gets to the point faster for keywords where the audience wants quick answers.

When it comes to word count, search intent can help you decide whether you want to follow the lead of the competition or differentiate your content by length.

Review your performance

Finally, you can look at your past performance to find out which content length works best for you.

Regularly review your SEO performance and see if any trends emerge.

Is there a sweet spot for word count where you tend to rank higher?

Or maybe you have shorter posts that aren’t ranking as highly as you’d like.

In that case, try going back to your keyword research and figuring out how you can lengthen the content with more useful and relevant information.

Additional factors that affect your ranking

You can use word count to improve your keyword research and competitive strategy, but it won’t be the ultimate deciding factor for search algorithms.

If you want to improve your SEO performance, here are some additional copywriting tips to consider:

Content structure

Google views structural elements, such as header tags, as a way to better understand your content and send the right users to your page.

Formatting your content with a clear and logical structure also improves readability and usefulness for people searching on Google.

Table of ContentsImage created by author, March 2022

Instead of just stuffing your title tags with keywords, think about the best experience for your reader.

Use headings to break up large chunks of text and make it easy for someone to find the information they’re looking for.

Quality of information

The quality of information remains a determining factor for the ranking of search engine results pages (SERPs).

In other words, adding a bunch of fluff to increase your total word count won’t help.

According to googlethe search algorithm prioritizes reliable information and pages that “demonstrate expertise, authority and reliability on a given topic”.

Back up statements and claims with links to relevant external data sources to improve the quality of your content.

You should also ensure that your content is original by performing plagiarism checks and avoiding duplicate content on your domain.

Visual support and imagery

Images and other visual aids can help you demonstrate relevance to your target keyword, another main factor used by the algorithm.

For example, if you target the keyword “Harry Potter”, Google will search relevance signals such as character photos or video clips related to the books or movies.

Adding media can improve the user experience by breaking up large blocks of text and catering to visual learners.

High-quality original images also allow you to ranking in Google Images.

Optimize for special content blocks

Google continues to make its SERP pages more intuitive and navigable with special content types and featured snippets.

These content resource blocks appear at the top of SERP pages and often give users a quick response to their queries.

SERP results for Screenshot of the search for [best places to live in the us]Google, March 2022

Optimizing your content for featured snippets can elevate your content to position zero, above all other results.

About 70% of all the featured snippets are paragraph types, which could be a great place to start experimenting.

Try to answer the key question using 50-250 characters.

Final Thoughts: Why is Word Count Important for SEO Strategy?

Optimizing content for SEO isn’t as simple as going through a checklist of keyword mentions and article length.

Ultimately, you need to understand each keyword’s audience and post the content that best meets their needs.

Word count won’t be the factor that propels your content to the top, but it can help you define what is “relevant and useful” for a particular keyword.

Use the writing tips and questions above to find your optimal starting point for word count, but keep in mind that all of your words should provide value to your readers.

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Featured Image: Wall to Wall/Shutterstock