Shorter content gains more backlinks and share, new research reveals. Articles with less than 1000 words are shared more on average and attract more backlinks than longer content, reveals a Fractl analysis of more than 5,000 articles.
Content with the most backlinks had 695 words on average.
Some long articles, with 2,000 or 3,000 words or more, win a large number shares and backlinks, indicating that length alone doesn’t lead to success. The best length depends on the article’s topic and purpose, according to Fractl. The length should correspond to readers’ intent: Do they want a quick answer or a conceptual deep-dive?
“The key to creating content that earns both links and shares is to meet the user intent, create something emotionally compelling (tapping into emotions that resonate with your particular vertical), keep it as straightforward as possible, and not underestimating the impact of how-to content,” the report states.
Some Prefer Longer Posts
Some earlier research has found that longer blog posts rank higher on search engine results.
CoSchedule found posts with around 2,500 words typically rank best, and a 2016 Backlinko study estimated average content length for Page 1 results at about 1,900 words. The reasoning is that longer articles are more in-depth and have higher quality, which attract more backlinks.
Other marketers and SEO experts warn that such studies find a correlation between length and page ranking but don’t prove a link between the two. Long posts might rank better for other reasons, since Google and Bing take into account many factors, they argue. Writers concerned with reaching a word count goal for the SEO objectives tend to repeat information and pad copy with unneeded words, and stray from the core topic, diminishing the article’s SEO strength.
“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.”
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.”
Evergreen versus Time-Sensitive Content
The Fractl study also attempted to find if evergreen content performs better than time-sensitive content. It assigned an evergreen score to articles based on the number of social engagements and backlinks they received after being published for 30 days. The average evergreen score was 5.5 out of a possible 30.
Perhaps not surprisingly, how-to articles are the most evergreen, with the highest score, 22.95. How-to articles also reported the most links, 1,814 on average.
The analysis also examined Facebook reactions for insights into common emotional reactions to content. Sports and sex/relationships tend to spark anger, surprise, and sadness at a higher rate. Travel and health seem to succeed more by tapping positive feelings that garner a love reaction.
Content marketers can examine the reactions to try to spark particular emotions depending on their vertical.
Bottom Line: New research indicates that shorter content obtains more shares and backlinks than longer content on average. But that conclusion is not a hard and fast rule. Many long articles are extremely successful. Experts urge content marketers to focus on answering the viewer’s questions rather than pursuing word counts for SEO purposes.
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.