It’s commonly wondered, searched, and debated by anyone who works with website content and copy: What’s the ideal blog post length for SEO?
The answer isn’t as simple as a number of words.
There are many variables that can and should be considered when deciding what is the best length for your articles and blog posts, but the two most important factors to get an answer are:
- Who is your target audience?
- How long does the post have to be to successfully explain the material in a way that resonates with its readers?
People are oftentimes quick to assume shorter content is best for users. It’s easier and faster to read, and people don’t want to stare at the same thing on a computer screen for long.
We already know attention spans are getting shorter each generation. But does that mean shorter articles mean a better user experience and, thus, a better organic ranking in search?
Probably not, no.
There are literally hundreds of ranking factors that go into the search results for Google. And one — and likely more — of those ranking factors are at least influenced by user experience.
But exactly how important is article length when it comes to SEO?
And what is the ideal length for a blog post to not only rank well but to perform well and actually satisfy the user? (Wait, did we just answer our own question?)
Statistics Don’t Lie
Stats offer a pretty good starting point, but we all know they can sometimes also be manipulated.
So, let’s get something clear from the get-go: regardless of length, there is always going to be good content and there is always going to be bad content.
Studies examining hundreds or thousands of pages of content, like the one mentioned above, are probably not examining which content is really good, which is really bad, which is mediocre, and so on. It’s analyzing article length and how that may affect how good or bad that content ends up being based on simple practicality.
It’s probably true that shorter content is easier and faster for people to read; I’m not going to dispute that.
But does that one-word answer satisfy the question/query a user is looking for? Sure, some questions can be answered in as little as one word, but that’s not usually quality content. That’s a one-word answer with no explanation or sourcing, and Google (usually) knows that’s not enough to distinguish a piece of content as high-quality, educational, and resourceful.
Of course, there are one-word answers that would be deemed useful and could score the featured snippet in Google, also called Position Zero.
Plus, good content comes in many forms; it’s compelling and often easier to digest because of sourcing, rich media, and sensible structure/formatting.
Google wants substance, evidence, and facts from authority entities on whatever the topic may be. Turns out, longer content typically has these elements baked into it.
That’s a big reason why long-form content ranks better in organic search than short content.
Average content length for Page 1 results is around 1,900 words, according to a 2016 study. That’s a lot longer than the 200- or 500-word blog posts most writers or webmasters think is ideal.
Depending on the query, the search results on Page 1 may not be flooded with blog-style content, but the content that is going to be deemed resourceful by users — and Google — certainly may include well-constructed, thoughtful blogging content that satisfies a search query.
And that should be your goal as you begin planning content ideas and article structure for your website’s blog and other written on-site content.
Quality Over Quantity: Don’t Focus on Article Length
Too many people put too much of an emphasis on the average word length for articles and the misunderstood importance of having more than a certain number of words on each page to rank well.
Sure, it’s important to have some substance (and length) to the piece, but it’s not worth publishing a 2,500-word redundant review of a movie talking about the main character’s bad hair and foul language four different ways throughout the entirety of the content.
Surely the movie offered other elements and scenes that make the movie good or bad. Talk about them. Expand on real situations with reactions and in-depth explanations.
That’s what people are looking for when they search for information about a movie. “Was the movie good?”; “Why was it good or bad?”; and “Should I watch it?” are the real questions. The best movie reviews answer all three of those questions and don’t make it hard to figure out.
Give users what they want regardless of how many words it takes to say it.
Choose Your Target Audience: People, Personas, & Keywords
Like all good web content, you need to have a goal — a target.
You need to study your target audience. Who’s going to search for and consume your content?
You also need to consider that person’s level of intent as well; are they looking for basic discovery information, or are they trying to buy something right now in as few clicks as possible? Your content will reflect that person and their different stages of user intent.
Ideally, good content is mapped out before it is even created. It should connect the goals of your website/business and the content you are publishing with the goals of the users looking for it.
Content should satisfy a user’s search query. Thus, content should satisfy the user.
And, most importantly, there may very well be similar content on a website that satisfies various stages of user intent for one specific topic. That isn’t an accident.
Don’t Just Focus on Written Page Copy
Quality content goes beyond just written words. The best content connects thorough research and respectable writing with a user’s interest (their search query).
Even a great video should be accompanied by well-written text that explains the video, it’s concept and goals, and any other resources that may improve the content to better help the user.
That’s our ultimate goal as content strategists: offer the best information, in the most appropriate format, on the right platform.
Some content is easier to digest in the written word. But other content is more suited to visual and needs imagery or video. Sometimes, audio files will be the best type of rich media.
When you use visual or audio content, be sure to accompany it with written content that can connect the dots and make sense of everything on the page, as well as help users find your content.
Your content can take many forms, and it can be discovered and consumed in numerous ways.
It shouldn’t be your goal to write 2,000 words on a blog post because that seems like the “perfect length” to rank well in organic search.
If you’re worried about hitting an ideal blog post length for SEO, then you’re missing the point entirely.
Your goal should be to supply the best, most useful (and optimized) version of content for your target audience that matches their intent.
Your audience will appreciate it – and your website analytics will reflect that.
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