Arguments continue over whether you need a 2,000-word-count blog article to have any hope of earning any SEO love from search engines, notably Google. Short answer: You don’t need to hit a word count of 2,000 words with each article you write to earn search engine kudos.?That is an artificial goal that makes for an easy meme.
In truth, the optimal length for an article hinges on how many words you need to fully answer a prospect’s question, and position it to be attractive to other writers to earn citations, aka “backlinks.” I have seen a useful two-point test for this, and consider it a good content writer mindset:
- Did you satisfy the “search intent”?
- Did you fully answer the question asked by the searcher?
Evidence from analyses run by entities like BuzzSumo and Ahrefs find that length of article does not align perfectly with high page ranks. However, point #2 is relevant because these studies find that length does have a role in “fully answering the question.” Quality explanations have a greater chance of earning backlinks from other authors who like your stuff. And reputable backlinks do still help with ranking.
Staying with point #2, padding articles with fluff to hit an artificial article length can backfire. Google, Bing and other search engines continually improve their ability to spot padding and fluff, and downgrade a page when they find it (or think they have, which is the same thing in the end.)
Brian Dean recently updated a page rank analysis using Ahrefs data, where he found that “the average Google first page result contains 1,447 words.” That’s a bit short of 2,000! And as an average, that leaves an opening for a well-crafted opus of 1,000 words to compete for SEO love.
An Ahrefs analysis of 2 million websites from 2018 gibes with this, although the median length of “top-performing articles” was even shorter then: 800 words
Content length doesn’t rank an article – but backlinks help, and they correlate with length.
My takeaway is that length correlates with quality in highly ranked pages. It takes a certain number of words to create a useful piece of content that has a chance to earn backlinks!
Long-Form Online Articles Earn More Backlinks Than Short Articles
In 2019, Dean and BuzzSumo reviewed 912 million blog posts on this topic. They found that long-form content gets more backlinks, and reinforce that backlinks remain a top ranking factor.
“Long-form content gets an average of 77.2% more links than short articles. Therefore, long-form content appears to be ideal for backlink acquisition,” Dean concluded.
“Don’t shoot for a particular word count — just make sure you cover a topic in full. Whether that takes 500 words or 10,000, the key is that you are creating the best resource available for your target keyword.”
Where to start to create attractive content?
- Keyword research is, well, key. SEO always starts there, right? What keyword phrases bring quality organic traffic to businesses like yours?
- Selection of Target Keyword Phrases. If the idea is to answer a question, take each phrase in series. Do not try to answer two questions with one article. You cannot impress the site visitor, engines and the source of backlinks all at the same time by complicating the content with multiple themes.
- Answer the question up front. Do not “set the stage” with a preamble. Consider your first several sentences an executive summary for what follows.
- Provide data, case studies, anecdotes as supporting paragraphs. Stick closely to the keyword phrase theme.
- Give readers well-labeled Calls-to-Action that invite deeper engagement with other content. Time-on-site is a ranking factor.
- Consider presenting the supporting points as lists, as data supports the idea that lists are shared over 200% more often than other content formats. This is perhaps because they are easier to scan and absorb for the reader.
- Conclude briefly when you have made your point, and supported it. Don’t keep writing by repeating yourself to “fill up the page.”
Having each article page focus on one question/answer makes a search engine’s job easier when trying to rate the page.
Higher word count is a false goal. Quality content that fully answers the question (keyword phrase) is the goal, however many words it takes to do so.
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