If you write content for your firm’s website, whether it’s articles for your blog, news posts, project or service descriptions, etc., you may wonder how long each page should be for “best” results. Will people stop reading if you write too much? Will Google rank your page lower if you write too little? It’s a question we get asked often, and one that has been answered in many different, often contradictory ways.
Long Story Short
There really isn’t a “correct” word count for web pages. Many articles on this subject reference a study by SerpIQ that concluded that pages with longer word counts (2,000 words or more) earned higher SEO rankings. I did some digging and noticed that SerpIQ has not Tweeted since 2013, and the website is now a cannabis shop. Hmmm.
Back in 2015, HubSpot also looked at correlations between word counts and organic search results. They noted that pages with 2,250-2,500 words had the most organic traffic and the most social shares (which often go hand-in-hand). But they also noticed that pages with higher word counts (over 2500) had more links from other domains (aka “backlinks”).
Does that mean that longer word-count pages will always yield more back-links? Not necessarily. But we do know that pages with more quality backlinks will be ranked higher by Google (Google has made that clear.) So, it’s quite possible that a page with a lower word count and lots of quality backlinks could rank higher than a 2000+ word page with fewer backlinks.
Back to Backlinks
If backlinks are more important than word counts, how do you get more backlinks? Other authors will link to your content (creating a “backlink”) if they find your article is in some way valuable to their audience. If your content reinforces their point, acts as a reference, or provides beneficial supplemental reading, they will be more likely to link to it. Thus, writing good content, no matter the length, will encourage backlinks.
The Word from Google
John Mueller, who has the title of Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, said in a Reddit thread: “Word count is not a ranking factor. Save yourself the trouble.” So if Google does not use word count as a ranking factor, I feel pretty confident in advocating for good content over long content.
Write for People, Not for Robots
Don’t try to outsmart Google, you can’t. Instead, write strong, interesting, understandable content that appeals to your target audience. Text should be easy to scan, with the most important information at the top. Break up the body text with short, bold sub-heads, pull-quotes, photos with captions, etc.
On the project page shown above on Tighe & Bond’s website, for example, Project Highlights are featured top-right, next to project photos. Below, a large orange headline piques the reader’s interest, and body content is broken up with bold, blue sub-heads for easy scanning. Even for non-engineers like me, the text is interesting and understandable. At about 430 words total, the information shared is not overwhelming. The photos of Project Leaders and Related Projects entice me to keep exploring the site’s content.
This news post, above, on the LPAA site has about 825 words, but the photos with captions peppered throughout effectively break up the text. Links to Key Contacts along the side, and photos of Related Projects and Featured Case Stories at the bottom, keep readers engaged.
One More Minute
In closing, you may want to consider a study done by Medium, that found the optimal post is 7 minutes, measured in reading time, not words. It’s got some fascinating data (if you are a web data geek like me), but the conclusion is equally as interesting:
“This doesn’t mean we should all start forcing our posts to be 7 minutes! There is enormous variance. Great posts perform well regardless of length, and bad posts certainly don’t get better when you stretch them out.”
Vanessa’s article also appeared in SMPS Boston’s Outlook, January .