Many bloggers and content marketers believe longer blog posts rank higher on search results. More than a few studies, they argue, report that extremely long articles are more likely to rank at the top of search results for their keywords. Many PR pros also adhere to the longer is better approach to press releases and website content creation. HubSpot reports that its ideal blog post length for SEO purposes is 2,100-2,400 words. CoSchedule found posts with around 2,500 words typically rank best, and a 2016 Backlink study estimated average content length for Page 1 results at about 1,900 words.
Longer articles are more substantive and provide more information, long-form proponents say. As a result, greater length equals top search engine page results (SERPs).
Other SEO and marketing pros counter that length does not necessarily equal quality or in-depth research. Writers concerned with reaching a word count goal for the SEO objectives tend to repeat information and pad copy with unneeded words, annoying readers. They often stray from the core topic, diminishing the article’s SEO strength.
Correlation vs. Causation
Correlation does not equal causation. A long article may rank well for reasons other than length.
“Correlation studies have consistently led to disastrous SEO practices,” writes SEO expert Roger Montti for Search Engine Journal. “For example, a correlation study from 2012 concluded that 1500 words is a good target for optimizing for Google. As dumb as that may sound, even today in 2020 there are people who still push the idea of minimum and maximum word counts.”
Instead of worrying about word length, stay relevant to users, Montti advises. “Relevance for Google is understanding what users mean when they type a keyword and matching that to a page that answers the question,” he says.
Many SEO experts – including some of the same researchers who correlate length with top SERP results – say Google and Bing take into account a host of SEO factors. Shorter and medium-length posts sometimes rank well for their keywords.
A Persistent Misconception
Asheehs Mani Jain, head of business at Relevance.com, calls the belief that articles rank well just because they’re long a misconception.
“There are no Google guidelines that a specific number of words must be used for an article or page to rank high,” he asserts. “There is no such rule that a content page with 2000 plus words will rank on the top search pages of Google, guaranteed.”
The best writers succinctly and clearly answer the web user’s question, and their copy remains relevant to the topic. They match the article length to the type of post and the query it addresses. While some subjects demand in-depth information, others call for brief answers.
John Mueller, senior webmaster trends analyst at Google, once tweeted: “Word count is not indicative of quality. Some pages have lots of words but say nothing. Some pages have very few words that are very important and relevant to queries. You know your content best (hopefully) and can decide whether it needs the details.”
At another time, Mueller tweeted: “Having the same word count as a top ranking article is not going to make your pages rank first, just like having a bunch of USB chargers isn’t going to get you to the moon. But, I’m still tempted to buy some of those USB chargers.”
Think Before You Decide to Go Long
Many bloggers are disappointed when they fail to achieve first page search engine results from long posts, warns Blog Tyrant. Before you decide to go long:
- Determine if your audience will read long posts. Some people don’t consume long-form content.
- Select a topic that warrants massive detail and in-depth research. Many popular topics require only very short reports.
- Decide if your writing skills are up to the task.
- Don’t do it just for the sake of it. Publish only if you have something worthwhile to say.
Publishing Less Frequently
A survey by Orbit Media reported that bloggers who write fewer but longer posts say they generate better results. Publishing less frequently than others, they publish anywhere from several a times a week to several times a month.
“Careful with this data,” cautions Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media co-founder and chief marketing officer. “This doesn’t say that long posts are always better. But it does show that greater investment correlates with higher ROI.”
Bottom Line: The ideal blog post length remains a point of contention in content marketing and SEO circles. Although research studies show that long articles often rank at the top of search engine results, many experts recommend against pursuing length for the sake of it.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.