Is there an ideal word count for SEO? It’s a question to which we web content writers crave a definitive answer. Like me, you want your online content to appear high on a user’s search query results — whether it’s a landing page, evergreen content, shareable article, blog post, standard web page, informational article, or in-depth guide.
Many experts say word count is an essential piece of that SEO puzzle. The majority push long-form content as a requirement to achieve the highest possible SERP rankings.
And we want those rankings, don’t we? When your content is served up on page 1 of the results page, you’ve got a greater likelihood that a reader will click on your link. More clicks, more traffic. More traffic, then you gain more readers and expand your reach.
Yet … confusion reigns, for me at least. Should a post about the best collar for my cat be the same length as a comprehensive guide for managing my late father’s estate?
Naturally, I work to be up-to-snuff on the best practices that search engines like. I’m sure you do, too. You’re reading this article, for instance. And once you’ve dipped your toe into the SEO morass of advice, you learn to optimize your content in ways that appeal to browsers. That includes:
When it’s all said and done, it appears we are relegated to writing long if we want search engines to find us. Your article or blog post or other online content must contain a minimum number of words to make the cut, right?
There’s no best word count for SEO. That’s what Google has said over and over. “Reminder. The best word count needed to succeed in Google Search is … not a thing!” says Danny Sullivan, Google Search Liaison. “It doesn’t exist. Write as long or short as needed for people who read your content.”
On the one hand, that’s a relief. I don’t need to write a novella-length post every time I add a page to my site. But I’m a practical girl. Give me tangible word count numbers for different kinds of online content, at least, so I have a ballpark figure to shoot for.
Three cheers for a survey conducted by analytics software company Databox, which gathered input from SEO experts. The result Recommended word count for SEO for specific types of content.
Half or more of those content types fall into the 300–1,000-word range. Yay! But to be clear: those numbers are simply a recommendation. And furthermore, marketers’ obsession with longer content doesn’t align with those word count numbers. Analysts continue to promote long-form content, indirectly connecting it to high-quality pages. Why?
Here’s the logic:
In all these cases, notice what happens when a writer writes long: the reader benefits.
Word count doesn’t guarantee you’ll get more readers. Nor does it guarantee higher search engine results.
Rather, your word count is simply one metric of many. Further, it’s secondary to giving the reader what she needs: an easier way to find your post … a more complete answer to her question … additional resources.
Here’s the truth: the number of words you write carries less weight with search engines than the weight communicated by those words.
Put another way, word count for SEO takes a back seat to identifying what your reader needs and then meeting that need in your content. Whether it’s long or short or in between. “A 50-word paragraph on your site could position IF it was the best answer to the search query,” says SEO trailblazer Heather Lloyd-Martin. “You don’t need to write a 2,500-word blog post every time. Thank goodness.”
It’s not that I should ignore the word count function in my software as I write. I simply need not be obsessed with it. Instead, let me fixate on my reader’s needs.
When my answer is yes to all three of those questions, then I’ve found the ideal word count for SEO — no matter what kind of online content I create. And no matter how long or short my piece is.
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Award-winning content writer and author Kathy Widenhouse specializes in writing for nonprofits and faith-based organizations.
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