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Have you ever clicked on a search result and read 5 massive paragraphs of text before finding the answer to your question?
You can thank SEO for that.
Digital content seems to be getting longer and more repetitive by the year.
Sometimes it almost feels like most writers copy paste each other’s work and add a bit more gibberish to up the word count for good measure.
But who came up with that magic number that content writers are striving for nowadays?
Editors? Industry standards? SERP competition?
When you think about it, it seems logical that shorter articles will perform better, with people having extremely short attention spans and all that.
Well, don’t listen to logic.
Bigger almost always means better, or does it? (get your mind out of the gutter)
Well, let’s find out, shall we?
Disclaimer: I won’t be giving you an exact cookie-cutter content length. if that’s what you are looking for click off. I will mention some statistics to draw a picture but the main purpose of this post is to find a data-backed perfect content length for YOU considering your industry, audience and content type. If this sounds good keep on reading.
Let’s Go Over Some NumbersAccording to Hubspot’s analysis, the ideal blog post length is between 2,100-2,400 words. They analyzed their own blog to find out the average number of the best-performing posts.
By analyzing 11,8 million search results, Backlinko has found out that on average the Google first page result has 1,447 words.
According to Semrush’s The State of Content Marketing 2021 report where they have analyzed 1,200,000+ articles from domains with a blog section traffic of 30,000-500,000 sessions, long texts (3000–7000 words) get twice as many pageviews and 24% more shares than articles of average length (900–1200 words) while 7000+ word massive guides are absolute leaders in terms of content performance, as they drive almost 4 times more traffic than articles of average length (900–1200 words).
Medium has done different research, they analyzed the average read time and discovered that the read time of 7 minutes captures the most attention, which is around 2,100 words.
Conclusive? Not so much.
There is clearly no magic number as I see it, just an indicator that longer pieces generally tend to perform better regardless of your industry, audience size and content format.
But before rushing to write a 5000-word guide right away, let’s see why longer is really better.
Why is Longer Content Better?I remember, when I first got started in SEO people were writing 600-word articles and calling it a day. The select few who were producing 1000-word pieces were the leaders of the industry who knew something the rest of us apparently didn’t.
I remember thinking why are they wasting their resources if everyone else is putting in half the work.
Time answered that question and many more.
Longer Content Provides More Value For ReadersThe more advanced search algorithms got and the more severe the competition in the SERPs became, content started to take a different shape and place in the industry. From being a mere vessel for keyword placement content has become the driving force of today's SERPs and nobody can deny that.
With the increasing attention on content production, it's quite understandable why the web is so oversaturated with unnecessary, repetitive, unoriginal, unstructured content.
So how do you break through the sea of mediocracy and get a fair fighting chance at ranking on the first page?
In my humble opinion, the answer lies in quality, structure, uniqueness and velocity.
Well-researched, information-packed and most importantly unique content that actually provides
value will always rise above the competition (with a little bit of push here and there).
When it comes to structuring, marketers have started paying more attention to how their content is arranged throughout the website. Content strategies such as content clusters, content hubs and content silos (they all have very similar structures) are becoming more and more popular with amazing case studies to back their success up. These strategies also settle the content length debate with a clearly divided pillar page/guide to supporting page ratio with assigned content lengths.
Uniqueness is a very interesting subject with the amount of content that exists but I am a strong believer that good writers have their own voice and unique style and they can bring something new to the table that Wikipedia-like content simply can't.
And lastly, let’s look at the velocity of content. The publishing frequency of content is a crucial performance booster for marketers who are looking for quick yet sustainable results. Don’t expect to publish 3 posts per year and hope for them to rank. 10 years ago that might have worked but now the competition is far too steep for such a relaxed strategy.
Increases Your AuthorityAs you can probably tell I am a fan of longer guides, as I always have way too much to say to write a listicle or something like that. So picture me writing a large-scale guide, e.g. a content creation guide, in just 800 words. Laughable, isn’t it?
I won’t even be able to answer what content creation is. In fact, it calls for several long-form articles to go over everything. And besides, your audience won’t be fooled by the short and sweet piece. It’s essentially about your authority than anything else.
If you want your audience to believe in your expertise your writing should reflect that with in-detail coverage of the topic and relevant examples to drive the point across. This way, you will not only increase your authority but can establish yourself or your authors as thought leaders in the niche.
Improves SERP RankingsLet’s not forget what we are here for. SERP rankings are the most desirable outcome of content creation and long-form content definitely delivers.
According to Capsicum Mediaworks, the top 10 results for most searches on Google have a 2,000-2,500 word count.
Let’s see. If you have a 2500-word article that covers topic A, compared to a 1000-word post on the same topic, I bet the first piece can use three times as many contextually relevant keywords within the writing as the letter. It’s as simple as that.
Plus the fact that Google loves long-read and comprehensive content as it answers the searcher’s questions best and that’s Google’s agenda at the end of the day.
Increases Time SpentTime on site is another perk that comes with well-written long-form content. The longer the content the longer it takes to read and analyze it, right? Unless your writing is boring and people click off after the first sentence.
Besides, as you establish yourself as a credible and authoritative source, chances are people will be interested in checking out more of your writing and sharing it with their colleagues.
Increases Social Media SharesLong blog posts tend to get more shares on social media. So it seems.
According to QuickSprout’s research, blog posts that were less than 1,500 words received 174.6 tweets and 59.3 Facebook likes. Those that had a 1,500+ word count received 293.5 tweets and 72.7 Facebook likes. As you can see the difference is significant.
With more social media shares, you can grow your audience and increase your brand awareness across various channels, which will, in turn, contribute to your authority. It will work especially well if you have a strong media presence on different platforms.
How To Find YOUR Ideal Content LengthIndustry averages and predictions aside there is actually a foolproof way you can find the perfect content length range for every single article in your content calendar.
Just take a look at the SERPs.
Simple, isn’t it?
It’s all about competition these days. There is absolutely nothing you can write about that won’t unintentionally be a reiteration of something that already exists.
The only thing left is to do better than everyone else and the only way to do that is by analyzing what your competitors are up to.
Starting from the length of their content.
Note: when I say competitors I do not mean business competitors in the traditional sense. With content marketing competition is measured on a page level, not domain level, making any website that ranks for one of the terms you are targeting a potential competitor.
After choosing the keywords you are going to target for the article, do a quick Google search on each keyword and open up the top 10 results. Make sure they have the same search intent as your post. Clean your cache while you are at it.
Measure the word count of each post by using one of the billion word counters available online. For some reason, my personal favorite is Word Counter.
After finding out all the numbers (make sure to copy only the article text), count their average. Your post should be a little more than the average or longer. If you feel like it, you can even go over the highest number and create a killer guide. That’s it!
Finding the Sweet SpotThis was a simple and quick way of finding the average length for one blog post based on a handful of keywords and the first page of the SERPs.
But if you are looking for a more strategic and sustainable approach I’ve got you covered.
This is personally what I use for my clients and personal projects. Admittedly it’s a lot of work and might not be everyone’s cup of tea but if you do this once I promise you you’ll never go back to the guesswork.
Everything starts with keywords.
Remember when I said it’s all about the competition these days? Well, keyword research is no different.
So the first step is competitor keyword research. Why competitors, you ask?
Because competitor ranking keyword data is a far more accurate representation of what’s really going on in the SERPs than random predictions by a third-party keyword research tool that has questionable data sources.
Not to bore you with the details, go over to this initial keyword research guide where I give pretty
detailed instructions on how to get your KW file ready.
Once you have your keywords in order, it’s time to let the magic happen.
Go over to Keyword Cupid and create a new report. If you haven’t used KC before here is a guide to help you out.
You might wonder though what does keyword research have to do with content length?
The answer is Keyword Cupid’s SERP SPY.
SERP Spy is as the name suggests a SERP scraper that goes above and beyond for scraping every single data point there is on any given keyword. It goes as far as 10 pages of SERPs and scrapes every on-page detail, from word count to headings to bolded keywords, to images and more.
Import your keyword file to the tool and activate the SERP SPY feature.
Once you get the email with your report download the excel file and you have the average word count for every single keyword you’ve imported as well as other on-page elements and Google-approved keyword clusters for a killer content strategy.
Doesn’t get more accurate than that in my opinion. No guesswork, no biased averages, no outdated statistics, simply fresh data straight from the SERPs.
If you want to go the extra mile make sure to check out this guide where I talk about how to go from cluster to content. I usually separate each silo/cluster into a separate folder and draw averages for each article be it the pillar page or the supporting posts. You are welcome.
Write AwayThat’s about it.
Apologies for not giving a one size fits all answer. There isn’t any, believe me.
I hope the strategy I described will help you out in creating a more data-conscious content plan that will make a huge impact on your current rankings.
Don’t forget to check out Keyword Cupid if you haven’t already. It’s the answer to all of your headaches, from one marketer to another.
Be diverse, be yourself and good luck with your creative process!