The strategies used for successful SEO continually shift and change to adapt to the ever-changing Google algorithms.
If SEO experts inform you that your search rankings can improve by following their advice on word count, do know that there are many different ideas on what works.
Google doesn't have word count listed as a ranking factor, so how much focus should there be on it for SEO? Here's what to consider and when and why word count can make a difference.
In this post, we'll dive deep to discover what works and what doesn't.
Does word count matter in the ranking?
Google has already announced through employee John Mueller that word count doesn't matter regarding the search algorithm.
He told us that it's not going to make any significant difference to add text to a page to make it longer. It's all about the quality of the content, which also needs to be relevant and original.
That being the case, what can make a difference?
Why Long-Form Content Tends To Rank Higher
Even with this statement from Google about word count, you can still find many pieces of content online, suggesting that the longer the article, the better it will perform.
You can also find SEO tools such as Yoast, suggesting that ranking will be better if you have specific word counts.
It's true. There are a few situations where it's better to put a higher word count.
Firstly, when comparing competitive analysis, you can see that articles that have been fleshed out with valuable information can perform better.
With longer content, it's easier for Google to understand the page.
Pieces that are well-written and cover all aspects will make you look like an expert authority site and help you rank for longtail keywords.
How To Determine The Right Word Count For Your Content
Although there is no guideline on what a word count should be for improved SEO, you need to consider the following to select the best possible word count:
- Past performance
- Keyword research
Start With Your Keyword Strategy
Let's get into the details.
Imagine you start a new piece of content and want to focus on one keyword. The outcome is likely to be that the longer piece of content could rank in the top 10 but for several keywords.
By making your article longer, you can not only cover your topic from many different approaches, but you can also rank for more keywords. The benefit of longtail keywords is that they have less competition and, therefore, higher conversion rates.
You can run a search for your primary keyword and take a look at what Google is suggesting in the drop-down search bar. Then increase your word count to cater to those queries.
Search for the keywords
Understanding what your competition is producing in the word count is essential. You'll find that many tools will give you the word count of other articles that are performing well – namely Yoast and Clearscope.
If you're unsure how many words you should have in your piece, check out the word count of those articles performing well.
Keep an eye on search intent
Even after checking out what you're up against. Look at search intent on your target keyword. The intent is vital concerning what the user will find valuable and relevant.
Consider what your user wants to see when searching for a keyword in the search bar.
If they want complete information, you may need to make your word count longer than the competitors. However, if you know that it's quick answers that your users are looking for, then produce shorter content that is to the point.
With word count, you need to consider the search intent to decide what length you need to create.
Review Your Performance
Thirdly, look at your performance to discover which content length is doing best for your site. Do you think there is a better word count that will get you ranking higher? Or maybe your shorter pieces aren't doing as well as you'd hoped.
If that is the case, go back to your keyword research and see how it's best to add extra content to your piece that is both useful and relevant.
Additional Factors That Affect Your Ranking
Although you can use word count to give your piece more power, it won't be the final decision maker regarding search algorithms.
Here are a few more points to consider when working on improving your SEO performance:
By structuring your content in a way that pleases Google, you'll get more users to your page. I.e. add heading tags. Your content should also have a decent structure that helps with readability and answers.
Think about what's going to give your reader the best experience. And use headings to make the text easier to read and find answers.
Quality Of Information
The quality of the information you provide is one of the primary factors when ranking performance.
Adding fluff to make your word count longer isn't going to help you. You're looking to provide expertise and credible information from an authority on the topic. Ideally, you'll give links to external sources to prove your claims.
Avoid duplication on your domain and check that your content is unique using tools such as Copyscape.
Visual Support And Imagery
Your users will appreciate images to understand better what you're informing them. Google will want to find these extra pieces and see related pictures or video clips.
Adding these will also break up the text and make it easier for your readers to learn. Using original images that are high quality may even get you in Google images.
Optimise For Special Content Blocks
Google likes featured snippets, making it easier for users to access information.
The good thing with featured snippets is that they perform well in rankings. By optimising your content so that it provides snippets, you may even get the top position. You can do this by answering the keyword question within 50 to 250 characters.
Getting good SEO results is not as easy as just running through a checklist of keywords and the length of the article.
You need to understand what the reader is looking for when using that keyword and then produce the best content for them.
Although a word count isn't what puts you at the top, it can help define what is valuable and relevant.
Every word used needs to give value to your users, even if you do use what's above as a guide.
If you need help with your content or your SEO, get in touch.
I'm Paul Gordon an SEO freelancer who has spent the last 16 years helping businesses expand and grow through effective SEO strategies.