One of the most common questions for SEO content beginners has to do with word count.
“What is the best word count for SEO?”
Right question. Search engines are concerned with a whole range of factors when determining what content to rank. Why shouldn’t word count be one of them?
Therefore, content creators care about the length of their content. « Are 1,000 words enough to rank? » they ask themselves. « Should I always aim for the same amount of words in each piece? »
But the thing is…
Word count is Not a ranking factor
It doesn’t matter how many words your content has. Google said so.
Because that’s how it is? And what matters more than word count? Let’s talk about.
Because the best word count for SEO doesn’t exist
There is no « one size fits all » word count that will automatically increase your page’s chances of ranking.
That Also meaning that longer is not always better.
It’s not that easy.
For example, let’s say you create a blog post that targets a keyword… but it doesn’t rank.
Would elongating that page with more relevant content help push it to the top positions on Google?
No, because adding more words doesn’t necessarily make it better. Adding more words only makes it longer.
Length ≠ quality.
So, what would make your blog better besides more words?
- Ensure that the content targets the user intention of the keyword. What kind of information is the searcher looking for when he types the keyword into the search bar? Provide it.
- Ensure that the content is of high quality. Is it well written? Useful? Original? Precious? Does it educate, inform or entertain?
- Ensure the readability of the content. Is it formatted well? Is it scannable? Are descriptive titles included that organize the content into sections?
- Ensure that the content is complete. Is your content missing key information or providing just the right amount that will satisfy a searcher?
All of these factors matter more than word count.
And, if you edit your content in light of these factors, you may notice that your content stretches. But that’s just a byproduct of producing useful content for a particular search query.
The number of words doesn’t matter. What does matter is the relevance of these words to the researcher’s needs.
Sometimes you need more words to be relevant.
Sometimes fewer words are needed.
This is why there is no perfect word count for SEO.
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How to determine the best word count for a blog or article
Now that we’ve established that the best word count for SEO doesn’t exist, we can move on to determining the right word count on a case-by-case basis.
Each piece of content you produce for SEO will have different needs depending on the topic you are writing about.
Figuring out a general word count to resume each time will help you produce content that is satisfying and covers all the important points.
Here are some strategies for determining the word count for each blog you create:
1. Look at the competition
First, look at what’s already ranking in Google for your keyword (your top competitors), and study the length and word count of these articles.
The logic goes, since the search engine ranks these pieces of content high, that means they are meeting its criteria. Their amount of depth and usefulness makes sense for search intent.
This also means that their overall word count is a good point of reference for what your word count should be.
But don’t just look at the word count. Look at other things like:
- The number of main sections (H2) in each blog and what they cover.
- How deeply each aspect of the topic is explained.
- What parts are left out or skimmed.
All of these things will determine the length of your content. Remember, you’re not just trying to match the best results, but to create something better.
2. Study the search intent of the topic/keyword
In addition to checking the competition, you should also study the search intent of your keyword: Find out what users want to know or discover when they type that keyword into a search engine.
What are they looking for and how much information will they need to be satisfied?
To do this, study the results themselves. The first page of Google will give you tons of suggestions on what searchers need and want from a specific keyword search.
For example, for a keyword like « how far away is the moon, » the front page shows a featured snippet with the correct answer. You have to scroll halfway through the page before you even see a smooth result.
And, if you click on the featured snippet result, you’ll find that the content is only 156 words long.
Users aren’t trying to read an entire article when they search for this term. They just want a simple answer (informative intent). The SERP (search engine results page) reflects this.
3. Analyze your expert knowledge of the topic
Sometimes Google doesn’t know everything.
Let’s say you’re the expert on the topic/keyword you’re looking for. See holes in the knowledge presented in the main content (thing seekers will need/want to know). This is your cue to fill those holes with your article.
This is a case where the word count will deviate from what is already available, especially if there is a lot of crucial information missing from the top of Google on the subject.
But this is also your opportunity to differentiate yourself. If your topic requires more comprehensiveness than what the SERPs show, don’t hesitate to dive in and provide it, even if your blog will be much longer than average.
Because long content tends to rank better than short content
We know that word count isn’t everything. So why does long content (anything over 1,000 words) tend to rank better than short content?
- Long-form content tends to be fuller than subtle content. The longest content is Generally more in-depth than shorter content. Covers multiple facets of a topic, provides multiple explanations, and generally goes deep. Since longer content is usually not subtle, this means it has better potential to rank, but only if the keyword requires long content.
- It naturally includes more keywords and keyword opportunities. More words = more natural keyword placements (especially related terms and synonyms). It’s that simple. Obviously, if the long content is filled with keywords, it is an exception for good rankings.
- Long-form content is better for demonstrating your expertise and authority. Long-form content gives you more time and space to really challenge yourself, so to speak. You are more likely to give a reader the value they seek through your expert knowledge with more paragraphs to do so. Of course, if your long-form content is full of clutter, you’ll do the opposite: you’ll drive away readers.
Better ways to improve your on-page SEO than just word count
Since longer doesn’t always mean better, what other ways to improve your content than adding a bunch of extra words?
The structure of your page (headings, sections and their order/formatting) gives Google important clues about the content and its relevance to the search query. Structure also helps readers engage with your content and find the information they need.
Ignoring page structure, not adding headers, and not organizing your content will impede its readability, which readers and search engines don’t like.
For this reason, always organize your page into useful and descriptive sections headersand format them to make them readable. A well-structured page with great content has the potential to outperform a poorly structured page, even if good content is hidden within it.
Even if your content is great, if it’s not relevant to the search query and the intent behind that query, it won’t rank well.
This means that you shouldn’t add extra content to an irrelevant page in hopes that longer content will boost results (they won’t). Instead, figure out how to create that page Moreover relevant to users with smart edits.
For example, maybe you’ve included subtopics in your blog, but haven’t focused on the right ones (for example, in a blog about building a doghouse, you veered away from discussing all the different types of doghouses out there, when readers just want to know how to build a simple, classic structure).
Or maybe your blog is generally good when you stick to the topic, but you also have long sections about your company’s services that have nothing to do with that topic. In this case, deleting those sales pitches will make your content that much better.
Another example: You’ve created a relevant blog, but your headers aren’t descriptive and don’t label each section accurately. Changing the headers would instantly make your blog easier to read and more relevant to both users and Google.
This last point ties into the next strategy for improving your content.
Content quality and readability
You can create the longest blog in the world, but if it’s badly written or unreadable, it doesn’t matter.
If a blog doesn’t rank, take a long and hard look at the quality of the piece.
- Is the writing clear and engaging? Is it easy to follow?
- Is the blog organized? Does it follow a logical order?
- Is the content original? Present the topic without copying or rehashing what has already been said?
- Is it created for users? Is it aimed at a particular audience? Is it useful for them?
- Are the claims and statistics supported by credible sources?
- Are the links high quality and relevant to the text?
Next, consider readability. Is your content formatted and organized well so that users can easily read, scan, or search it to find a particular piece of information?
(This is related to the structure of the page, by the way, but it also has to do with the clarity of the writing and the organization of all your ideas and thoughts.)
Finally, ask yourself and answer honestly: Does the content provide value, successfully teach, inform, or entertain the reader?
All of these things are more important than word count, and changing or improving them will do even more to improve your content’s potential for real results.
Forget word count for SEO and focus on relevance, quality and optimization
Getting stuck on word count when creating SEO content is a recipe for failure.
Adding another 200 words won’t help you rank. Nor adding 500 or 1,000.
It’s not the number of words that matters, but the relevance, quality and optimization of your content.
So make your content more relevant to the person looking for answers. Make it higher quality so they get more value out of it. Optimize it well so that it has the best chance of ranking in search engines.
Do all of this and your content will be just the right length.
The views expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff writers are listed here.