For SEO copywriters, here’s a question that remains valid to this day: “How many words should a blog article have?”.
Writing an SEO-optimised article isn’t easy as Google has reportedly more than 200 ranking factors. It isn’t easy to read into the minds of Google’s search engine engineers, and the fact that it doesn’t publish how its algorithm works doesn't help either.
Often, writers are in a dilemma with the number of words they need to squeeze into an article. Would Google rank a 3,000 words article better than 800 words one? Does the search engine ignore anything that’s below 300 words?
If you’re troubled by such questions, you’re not alone. This guide is meant to shed some light on what’s the ideal word count for an article. More importantly, you’ll pick up on ranking factors that are more important than mere article length.
There was once where you could put up a 5,000 words article and propel it to the first page of Google.
Today, long-form content isn’t guaranteed to rank if they are not ticking the boxes of other important ranking factors.
Google shed some light on how word counts matters for SEO earlier this year. John Muller tweeted that having the same numbers of word counts as a top-ranking article doesn’t necessarily guarantee a similar position for your content.
Google has been harping on fulfilling search intent in many of its recent algorithm upgrades. The reasoning is simple. Google functions to match users with content that best answers their queries.
If you’re delivering a 5,000 words article, but fail to provide answers to the user, it isn’t going to rank anywhere near the top pages.
Rather than obsessing with cramming an ‘x’ amount of words in an article, you should be focusing on fulfilling the user search intent.
When creating an article, you’ll need to put yourself into the user’s shoes. Think of what the user hopes to achieve when searching for a specific keyword.
For some keywords, it may take a longer content to thoroughly address the topics, which is why long-form content tends to do better than shorter ones. Content length and SEO keyword ranking are co-relational rather than causational.
Content length doesn’t matter either if you do not prioritise user experience. For example, you can have a 10,000 words long-form article published, but if users have a hard time digesting the content, it isn’t going to rank well.
A longer piece of content can sometimes backfire, particularly if it confuses rather informs the readers. Not every article needs to be monstrously-long.
This article takes the top spot for ‘does Febreze spray kill dust mites’, and it only has 500 words of content.
It answers the question concisely, and in detail compared to its competitor, which is a comparison guide of dust mite sprays.
User experience is also influenced by factors like web page layout, loading speed, mobile-friendliness and finer details like typography.
If users came across a well-written article that’s bogged with a slow page loading speed, they are bound to exit the page in seconds.
The same is true when your website isn’t optimised to be mobile-friendly. More than half of the global population are browsing the internet from mobile devices. If it takes too much effort to enlarge the text or scroll around the content, you’re going to get a high bounce rate.
Google prioritizes user experience and sites that have UX issues, particularly mobile-optimisation ones, aren’t going to do well regardless of content length.
While we’ve cited an example of ranking on Google #1 page with a 500 words article, it is not a rule of thumb that applies to other niches or types of articles.
The keyword ‘digital marketing tips’, returns articles that are above 1,000 words. HubSpot’s content takes the top spot, with 1,300 words well-written content. It triumphs over LyfeMarketing’s longer 2,300 words article.
Investopedia’s article on investment tips ranks on the first page with 1,700 words.
Articles that provide an in-depth guide, tend to rank better with higher word counts. That’s because it takes a longer article to properly explain the process to the users.
An article that contains a step-by-step guide of building a website, ranks on the first page of Google with a mammoth 4,500 words content.
If you’re creating listicles like ‘9 Best Vacuum Cleaners” or “Top Budget Laptops In 2020”, you’ll want to go above 2,500 words. That’s the numbers of words needed to run through a list of product descriptions and answers commonly-asked questions from the readers.
It’s obvious that the ‘ideal’ content length varies depending on the types of topics and industry you’re writing for. Don’t go fretting over hitting a world count limit just because you’ve heard someone is ranking with a 5,000 words article.
Still, it never hurts to create long-form content if it suits the given topic.
It seems that the argument on the perfect article length produces varying answers even amongst top publishers.
Medium, which boasts 60 million monthly readers, reported that a 7-minute article is the best for capturing attention. A 7-minute article is generally made up of 2,100 words. Still, Medium cautioned that authors shouldn’t be forcing themselves to produce 7-minutes worth of articles. It stresses that quality always triumphs over content length.
Hubspot, known for its vibrant marketing community, ran an analysis of over 6,000 of its published articles to determine the ideal article word count that attracts organic SEO traffic. The results indicate that those between 2,250 -2,500 words attract the most organic traffic.
However, Hubspot also found that articles that are above 2,500 words tend to get the most shares on social media. They are also more likely to be tweeted via the ‘click-to-tweet’ feature.
What’s evident from the various analyses is that long-form content still matters, for topics that demand so. It’s impossible to provide an effective guide on building a website, except elaborating the steps in long-form content.
The same applies to publishing a comprehensive list of industry-specific ‘tips’. You won’t be doing the readers justice by producing a 500 words ‘marketing tips’ article and calling it the most in-depth guide on the internet.
When creating pillar articles, which forms the foundation of a website, long-form content is mandatory. You’ll want to go beyond the 4,000 words mark to create articles that are perceived to be authoritative.
So, long-form content is very much alive when you’re competing within certain types of keywords and industries. If anything, it’s better to play safe by producing longer articles than thin content.
There’s much to gain and little to lose by producing long-form articles. That’s a fact that remains true throughout the years.
When a user clicks into your webpage, he/she expects to be satisfied by the underlying content.
A well-written long-form article not only engages the reader but also keeps him/her on the webpage longer. By increasing an article by 350 words, you increase the dwell time of the reader by 1 minute.
Often, blog articles are created as a content strategy that turns visitors into leads. It involves breaking down information into smaller chunks for the readers.
Writing long-form articles allow you to address every possible question from the reader, gain trust, and ultimately boost conversion. It also allows the opportunity to address criticisms and doubts from would-be buyers.
You can’t ignore the power of social media in content marketing. After publishing an article, it’s only natural that you promote that piece on social media and hope it got shared by users.
If the article is less than 1,000 words, you’ll find that it will have very low share numbers on the social media network. The figure is backed by an analysis by Backlinko on over 912 million blog articles.
The magic word count number that you need to hit for maximum share rate is between 1,000 - 2,000 words. Primarily, articles that got the most numbers of share are listicles and how-to articles.
There are reasons to believe that content within 1,000 - 2,000 words strikes the best balance between depth and reading time. According to the same study, the share rate gradually decreases when the article goes beyond 2,000 words.
Despite Google denying that content length is a ranking factor, it is undeniable that articles that are relatively longer rank better on the search engine.
A longer article can answer questions more thoroughly. For a list-type content, it takes considerably more words to produce a better piece of content. Backlinko’s Skyscraper technique is based on offering longer and better content.
When you create superior (and often longer) content, it naturally attracts more shares, clicks, and backlinks. Some of these metrics are used by Google to rank web pages.
Therefore, it is fair to state that having longer content helps to improve SERP ranking.
There is much more to optimising an article for SEO than obsessing about word count. You shouldn’t be obsessing about word count at all when you’re crafting an article.
SEO copywriting is all about having the correct mindset that adds value to user experience. Here are some tips to get on the good books of Google.
Chances are, what you’re going to write is already published on the internet many times over. If you’re going to take an article and rehash it, you’re going to end up with a piece of content that offers no value. The same goes for unscrupulous parties that publish plagiarised or ‘me-too’ articles.
So, your best bet in writing an article that ranks is to ensure that it’s deeply-researched, unique and easy-to-understand. Most importantly, the content should fulfil its purpose, which is to address the user’s query.
A user who’s searching for ‘how to practice yoga’ should be presented with an article that dictates the steps of doing so. It shouldn't be an article about yoga mats or online yoga courses.
Whenever you start on a piece of an article, you should have a target audience in mind. To get the best engagement, you’ll need to write in a tone that resonates with the audience.
For example, if you’re writing a guide for yoga exercise, you ought to be familiar with terms like ‘asana’,’ hasta’ and Drishti’. It helps the readers to connect with the content.
It’s also a best practice to use simple terms when you’re writing for the broader audience. This is particularly true when you’re explaining technical concepts to the general public. Avoid using technical jargon. Instead, provide explanations using laymen terms.
It’s tempting to come up with a clickbait title that’s guaranteed to lure the audience into clicking into your article.
You can potentially get huge traffic as the readers are tempted by the overhyped title that sparks curiosity.
However, there’s very little value generated by traffic to clickbait content. The nature of a clickbait article is that the content is a mismatch from the title.
Therefore, users are bound to be disappointed when they learn that what’s offered in the article is far different from their expectations.
Low dwell time and high bounce rate, which are red flags that will harm SEO ranking.
One of the most common pitfalls when writing an SEO-optimised article is to write for search engines.
It sounds ironic but it’s a fact that writing for search engines is the ONE thing that you want to avoid at all cost.
But then, what does writing for search engines mean?
It stems back to the dated-practice of keyword stuffing to gain SEO ranking. It has stopped working since the Google Panda update in 2011.
An ‘overly-optimised’ article often sounds unnatural and fails to deliver value to users. Therefore, it’s crucial to write with your users in mind instead of worrying about keyword density.
It isn’t difficult writing an article that spans thousands of words. However, doing so while maintaining its quality is a tall order.
Humans tend to be distracted easily, which means a poorly constructed long-form content is unlikely to engage.
Here are some useful tips in creating engaging, high-quality, long-form articles.
It’s going to be tough to start writing a 4,000 words article on the spot. You may end up repeating facts or fail to ensure the content flows naturally.
You need a plan prior to writing the first word. Spare some of your time to brainstorm and create an outline of what you’re going to write.
A long-form article usually revolves on a broader topic. As such, there are various ways you could expand on it.
For example, if you’re writing a pillar article on ‘Everything you need to know about Yoga’, you can create an outline based on the following:
When you’ve put out a creative brief from the possible ideas, you’ll have more than enough to easily create a 4,000 words article without the fluff.
We’ve mentioned it and we’ll like to stress it again that you shouldn’t ever write for machines. It’s true that your goal is to rank that piece of article on Google, but ultimately, they are meant to be read by humans.
So, remove all notions of keyword stuffing, or figuring how to optimise the content when you’re writing. Place all your attention to what you’re trying to convey to users.
And write naturally.
You can do the optimisation later when you’re convinced that you’ve written a satisfactory article.
Just like giving a speech, the first few lines of an article are crucial in grasping the readers’ attention. Mess it up and you’ll miss the golden opportunity to keep them hooked to the rest of the article.
Therefore, it helps if you can entice the readers with a creative opening. It shouldn’t be conventional, neutral or dull.
You need to be more daring when crafting the opening. Use strong words and controversial opinion to strike up the reader’s emotions. Or you can get him/her to start thinking with a well-placed question.
Something along the line of “is your website a profitable investment or a piece of expensive worthless junk?”
Occasionally, an amusing anecdote is more than enough to keep the readers irresistibly hooked to the article.
It’s a mistake to make an article all about the writer. While it’s good to be knowledgeable in the subject matter, you’ll need to write in a way that’s easily understood by the readers.
For example, a health article on the benefits of working out should use terms like ‘reduce weight’, ‘more energy’ and ‘lose belly fat’ if the audience is the common public. It shouldn’t be overly-laced difficult terms like ‘ musculoskeletal fitness’, “physical inactivity” or “hypercholesterolemia”, which are more suited for the medical community.
Therefore, it’s important that you know who you are and the tone that they converse in.
Ultimately, a blog article isn’t a sales pitch. It’s a medium to strike up a conversation with your readers. Being conversational means it’s more about ‘you’ than ‘I’ or ‘we’.
Also, proofread your article before publishing. Spelling and grammar mistakes are disruptive to the reading experience.
Imagine if this article was created without the headings and subheadings. Chances are, you probably wouldn’t make it this far.
The same applies when you’re writing blog articles for your website. Your audience will find it hard to sustain focus on the content if it’s not structured with headings.
Use headings to separate content by subtopics. While it isn’t a strict rule, it’s best to keep the text within 250 words for one heading. Break it down further to subheadings if there’s a need to keep it organised.
It’s all about ensuring the users have a pleasant experience when reading the article.
For a certain niche, the target audience may opt to skim through the articles and read every single text. The headings will be useful to guide the reader to information that they’re looking for in an instant.
Never dismiss the value of original content. Netflix has done it, HBO too and YouTube is keeping up with its own creations.
People love unique content that is worth their time. If you’re rehashing an article that you’ve read elsewhere, you’re not delivering the full value to the readers.
Of course, most of what you’re planning to write is already covered by someone else. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t inject a breath of originality in the article.
You can relate your experience in the article, as no one else will have the same exact one. Or you can ensure that you’re writing based on the latest information.
For example, an article on 3D printing written 10 years ago is no longer ‘original’, if it’s not updated while the technology itself has grown leaps and bounce.
Just bring up your browser and search for any information on Google. You’ll only get the latest, unique content on the top results.
That’s how important original content is, for both users and search engines.
Optimising a blog article for SEO is a delicate balance between creativity and science. The creative part of writing engages the readers, but a little tweaking is needed for SEO. After all, Google’s search algorithm is still a piece of complex software.
While keyword stuffing is a frowned-upon practise, you shouldn’t abandon keyword ranking in your SEO content strategy. Keywords are still important because they reflect the user’s search intent.
Therefore, your content ought to be created around the keywords used by users if you’re hoping to rank on Google.
Here is what you ought to do to optimise your content with the right keywords.
The foundation of a well-optimised article lies in keyword research. It’s a necessary task where you leverage existing keyword tools to find out what are the best keywords to work on.
As far as SEO is concerned, you don’t want to waste time on a lengthy article with keywords that have little to no traffic. Or one that isn’t optimised with any keyword at all.
Instead, you’ll want to identify keywords that will bring you substantial traffic and if possible, without too many competitions.
Keyword research is an easy task if you’re using one of the many premium tools available. For example, here’s the result for the keyword ‘how to practice yoga at home’.
It has an average of 152 searches per month, but it’s quite competitive. With the keyword metrics, you’re able to decide if it’s a good keyword to work on.
Ideally, you’ll want a keyword that’s more targeted and with fewer competitions. Expanding on the above provides one with fewer search but also easier to rank.
You’ve now identified the primary keyword for the article. To increase the chances of ranking, you’ll need to establish a keyword theme, which brings us to the next section.
Secondary keywords are related phrases of interest when users are searching for a particular topic. A keyword theme is made up of primary and secondary keywords that are related to each other.
Having a keyword theme makes an article easier to rank on Google. That’s because an article that includes secondary keywords is more likely to satisfy the search intent of the primary keyword.
For example, someone who’s looking for information to practice yoga at home may also be interested in knowing the best type of beginner-friendly yoga exercises.
There are a couple of ways to identify secondary keywords.
First, search for the primary keyword on Google, and check out the ‘People also ask’ section.
These search terms can be turned into subtopics or included in the content of the article.
You can also use phrases highlighted in the ‘Related Search’ section on the bottom of the search result for more ideas.
Build the outline of your article around the primary and secondary keywords. Then, flesh out the content.
We can’t help but repeatedly stress that you should avoid keyword stuffing at all cost.
Keyword stuffing was used to manipulate Google into ranking an article for a particular search term. It has worked in the past but not anymore since Google Panda update in 2011.
Here’s a blatant example of keyword stuffing of ‘yoga for beginners’.
It sounds unnatural, unappealing and clearly isn’t written for humans. Google will pick up such manipulative tactics in an instance.
Besides, keyword-stuffed content is hard to read. You’re unlikely to get a decent conversion rate nor engagement from such articles.
Admittedly, some keywords are hard to work on without sounding unnatural. If you’re creating an article on ‘best yoga exercises for beginners’, it will sound awkward if you’re sticking with the exact keyword around the article.
Instead, try using variations of the keywords, such as
Using keyword variations prevents the article from sounding monotonic. It also helps you to avoid unintentionally committing keyword stuffing.
Don’t worry about Google not being smart enough in picking the keyword variation. After going through countless upgrades, it’s algorithm has no problem in doing that.
Also, using keyword variants also increases the chances of ranking for them and results in more organic traffic.
You shouldn’t keyword-stuff, but should you give up on hitting the right keyword density? Depending on who you ask, the answer may vary.
Alexa recommends that keyword density should be around 1%- 2%. That’s like having the primary keyword repeated at least once in every 100 words.
However, John Muller of Google dismissed the importance of keyword density in this 2014 video. He implies that being natural in the article as far as Google SEO is concerned.
Here’s an article that ranks for ‘yoga poses for beginners’. The article has approximately 2,000 words, but the keyword was only repeated 3 times. That’s 0.15%, which seems to verify Google’s dismissal of keyword density.
Therefore, there isn’t a magical number for keyword density.
It makes sense because your readers aren’t going to count how many times the keyword is repeated to understand the context of the article.
If the content is written naturally, the keywords will appear where they ought to be. So, do your best in creating the best engaging content.
Whether it’s for the sake of SEO ranking or conversion, long-form articles are still very relevant. An in-depth, well-written article that spans thousands of words helps to keep readers informed in topics of their interest.
Studies have proven that long-form articles get more shares and engagement on social media. They are also known to rank better than shorter articles competing for the same keywords.
We’ve shown what it takes to create a lengthy article that connects with the readers. More importantly, we’ve highlighted what to avoid when writing an article. Keyword stuffing and plagiarism have no place in content writing.
Hitting the word count is not enough. Instead, focus on providing value and fulfil the reader’s search intent in the article.
If you need further assistance in creating SEO-optimised blog articles, feel free to reach out to our friendly digital consultants.
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