There’s a popular idea that how you use your keywords is important for SEO. Various SEO software analyze search results to provide word count information. Many SEOs recommend analyzing the search results to understand what word count Google prefers. But Google’s John Mueller says there is nothing to it.
Understanding what Google is ranking is an area of inquiry known as SERP Analysis. Trying to understand why Google is ranking certain web pages is tricky.
There are many SERP analysis myths beyond word count, including debunked ideas like LSI keywords.
Who Cares About Word Count?
Many people care about word count. Part of the reason is because of correlation studies that discovered that Google ranks web pages that are a certain length. They also discovered things like longer pages tend to acquire more links.
But the problem with all of those correlation studies is that they are correlation studies. Correlation studies have consistently led to disastrous SEO practices.
For example, a correlation study from 2012 concluded that 1500 words is a good target for optimizing for Google.
As dumb as that may sound, even today in 2020 there are people who still push the idea of minimum and maximum word counts. That’s why some SERP analysis software includes word count features that recommend specific word counts based on what Google is ranking.
Yet, Google’s John Mueller has debunked the idea that word count matters.
Analyzing Word Counts for SEO
John Mueller tweeted that matching the word count of top ranked sites will not help a page rank.
Having the same word-count as a top-ranking article isn't going to make your pages rank first, just like having a bunch of USB chargers isn't going to get you to the moon. But, I'm still tempted to buy some of those USB chargers…https://t.co/TIuJHwHufn
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) February 8, 2020
Does Word Count Matter for SEO?
As Mueller said, reaching a certain word count will not help a page rank better. But there is a nuance to word count that is commonly overlooked.
In auditing client sites, I have discovered that over-written content tends to drift off topic.
In those cases, their goal for being comprehensive or for reaching an arbitrary word count caused their content to become about something other than what they were targeting.
My advice is to stay relevant to users. Relevance for Google is understanding what users mean when they type a keyword and matching that to a page that answers the question. So my advice is before writing a single word, check out the search results and try to understand what users mean when they type a search query.
Read: Search Results Analysis: The Latent Question
Understand what Google calls the “need beneath” a search query to analyze search results and plan your content strategy.