By Nimalka


2017-06-02 01:04:33 8 Comments

If I read 10 SEO articles, 9 out of 10 have said that you should have 1000 -3000 words. That is huge. Generally it takes more than 3 -5 hours to write a well researched 2000+ word article.

Does it really matter? I mean most topic we can cover just 1000 with some external links. And I can say that it is quality and it is helpful for users.

Do I still have to write 1000-3000 word articles to get SEO traffic?

6 comments

@Goyllo 2017-06-02 05:39:54

Google does not use "word count" as a ranking factor. Think to yourself; does it make sense? Just look at the StackOverflow site, you will hardly see more than 1000 words per page. Still SO and SE sites rank like a rocket.

Do not believe marketing blogs, they have not done any studies, they just show us some nice reports so you believe it. Just ask to see their real inside reports. They have no time to do that. They don't even know how to create a program to crawl webpages, so how can they write a study on that? Especially don't believe marketing blogs (like backlinko) who do not have a team to do real data analytics.

Marketing guys create false case studies to get promotional backlinks. Yes, promotional backlinks, it means writing something different, make it viral, and grab promotional backlinks.

Technically, Google uses word count but in terms of whether the user is satisfied with the result or not. Let's say you've written a 2000 word article for your blog, and people read your whole blog post from start to finish, and spend 20+ mins on your blog. It means the user really enjoyed your article, so it should get a higher score. But what if you've written a 2000+ word article and most people spend just 2 mins on your blog post before going back to the search results page? It is a sure sign that the user was not satisfied with the result. So The time spent/UX is really the important factor, word count is not.

And Google does not use your Google analytics report to find all kinds of UX stats, they can create their own. So if you think that when Google employees like John Mueller and Matt Cutts said that they don't use analytics reports, that means they don't use your analytics report, but still they can create their own by checking how users interact with their search results. Don't think like: what if the user opens your site for the whole day? There is already a bunch of API calls which can identify whether the user interacted with your site or not, by checking their cursor movement for example. I am not data analytics but there are too many things which apply to measure user experience.

But the simple answer is, the number of words does not count as a ranking factor, because it does not make sense at all, in this data analytic world.

@Saifi 2018-08-20 19:54:24

Yes according to the content marketing word count is important ranking factor. Google has particularly specified the length of substance as a vital criteria for a page's quality - and in the event that you comprehend "quality" as a positioning element, you will think that its undeniable that substance length can thus impact your rankings.

In large word count you can put your more keywords in content through which you can internal link you web pages which helps to increase Page Authority and improve your keywords ranking as well.

@MrWhite 2018-08-20 23:32:52

Do you have any references for your claim that "word count is a ranking factor"? The link that you did provide (now removed) made no such claim. Did you have any affiliation with that article (it looked like you did)? Any affiliation must be clearly disclosed, otherwise, it is likely to get flagged as spam.

@closetnoc 2017-06-06 07:10:07

Is word count a ranking factor?

No. Absolutely not!

Any suggestion that word count is a ranking factor is bad SEO and completely wrong. In fact, it is an insult to Google and Bing to suggest such a thing.

There is no limit, short or long, or even a range that influences search except for the ridiculous. The advice to create high quality content stands. Short and concise content, if done well, is perfectly fine.

Looking at the question logically.

Google uses a rule in determining ranking factors. Can the factor be manipulated to artificially boost search performance?

Can word count be manipulated? In a word, Yes. Of course. If word count were a ranking factor, then content would be made long consistently across most sites to gain rank. This is not done. In fact, shorter content can rank very well. This is self evident to anyone who searches Google for any length of time.

Short of extremes, extremely short or extremely long content, the size of the content does not effect how well it performs. There are too many factors that go into indexing and evaluating content for content length to have any effect if it were to. The plain fact of the matter is that content length would, at least, be so insignificant a metric, if used, compared to others to matter.

Here is another rule Google uses to determining a ranking factor. What does the metric say about the content? For example, content quality or how the content should be found, etc. Content length literally says nothing about the content itself. Again, short of extremes, content length cannot logically be used to indicate the quality of the content, how the content should be found, the popularity of the content, etc.

Correlation aside, assuming that there is any correlation to be argued, content length as a metric offers no definitive rule to be made. Long content can be garbage as much as valuable. The same exists for shorter content. Ask yourself, Under what set of rules can content length definitively indicate content quality, value, popularity, etc? You will not be able to find one.

To nail it down.

Some years ago when researching trust factors for a security systems research project for NSF I was working on, Google shared some internal documents that detailed database schema, algorithms, business logic, etc. The reason for sharing the document was simple. There is a large overlap between domain trust factors that Google uses and ones we were developing to determine domain trust on the Internet and Google wanted to see if there were any new factors we were developing and what experiences statistically would help with how Google determines domain trust factors.

Based upon these documents, nowhere was there any metric or algorithm that addressed content length. This bears repeating. Content length is not a ranking factor or even a factor at all.

Where does the word count notion come from?

Primarily from SEO bloggers. SEO bloggers are, for the most part, not familiar with how technology is used in search. Much of what is posted is either parroted from others or anecdotal. Very few actually have researched how search works. They go from their own experience. However, they forget one simple fact. Short content can perform extremely well too.

What does Google say?

Google has a lot to say about satisfying content. Much of what is said is purely conceptual and designed for human consumption. It is not actually how search engines CAN see content. It is a machine afterall. It cannot evaluate content the way we do. The cognitive ability of any computer using artificial intelligence (AI) is extremely low. Instead, search engines use scientific measures many of which date back to the 70's. Semantic analysis of various types, trust networks, link maps, are older technology that search engines rely upon heavily. What is used are technologies and AI that are specific to evaluating and presenting large-scale ontologies of textual information some of which were built examining how humans use, process, and perceive language. Others are about processing information in a manner that allows information retrieval (IR).

Before I begin.

I thought how can I discuss how content performs without getting into the metrics? I looked at my list of metrics and it is far too overwhelming for this Q&A format. Then I thought how can I not get into the technologies such as mentioned above? Again, far too overwhelming. I could write a book! Instead, I will explain a few things you may not have thought about. I will keep it simple. I am working from memory.

How content is evaluated.

Content is evaluated for several things of which topical strength, expertise, reading level, target market, fact statements, semantic structure, citation analysis, etc., just to name a few.

Topical strength is the analysis of specific key terms found in a topical ontology to score what topics a given text is about. Topical strength is the score of all topics, especially related topics, and how focused and complete a given text is on a particular topic.

Expertise is the analysis of specific key terms found in a topical ontology and fact link analysis that indicates the level of expertise a given text presents. This is compared to other writings where expertise has been established. This requires comparison scores with known writings from experts on any given subject. For example, your writings can be compared to research papers from a known expert. In this case, proper use of terms using semantic analysis, topical strength scores, fact link analysis, and other forms of evaluation will indicate your expertise on a topic.

Reading level is the analysis of the required education level to understand a given text. While on some hand this is self explanatory, it is found that highly educated people will write at a targeted level. For example, people with PhDs will often write for their peers. This indicates a level of education and expertise not related specifically to the text. Instead, it will indicate who the text is targeted toward.

Target market is the analysis of markets that indicate who a given text is meant to appeal to. This may be obvious, however, market analysis is used to match a search query more precisely to intent. For example, queries that appear to be looking for SEO advice will lean heavily toward content that is SEO centric. Search queries that are not specific enough can skew results toward an entire market easily.

Fact statements is the analysis using semantics to extract fact statements from a given text and compare them with similar fact statements in other text. Fact statements that pass scrutiny and are accepted compares favorably in search. For example, George Washington's birthday is February 22, 1732. If your content states George Washington's birthday as something different, it will not be found in search. Fact statements are converted into fact links which comprises the knowledge graph. The knowledge graph is simply an ontology of facts seeded with trusted information. For any fact to be added to the knowledge graph, it must be corroborated by several trusted sources. When a fact statement within your content can be corroborated, the content receives a link within the knowledge graph (also known as a knowledge base) as a trusted source for that specific fact. The more fact statements that exist within a given text that can corroborated and linked within the knowledge graph the better that content will perform in search as being factual.

Semantic structure is analyzed and used in a variety of ways. One of the ways that semantic structure is used is to create facts. Facts are not always apparent. For example, "A dozen is 12." is apparent. Whereas, "Brian has an uncle named Pete. Pete has a daughter Diane.", semantic structure and fact analysis can determine that Diane is Brian's cousin and vice versa. Another way semantic analysis is used is to analyze a given text for linguistic expertise. Complex sentences, if structured correctly, can be properly understood and scored. This not only can indicate expertise on a given subject, but also allow complex relationships between facts to exist.

Citation analysis is the analysis where quotations and references are found to be used within a given text that refers to another text. This is often in the form of a quote, but can refer to a title or author of a given work that shows a level of expertise or not. Quoting from one or more authoritative works helps search.

Why did I mention all of this?

Because these all influence how content appears for a given search and applies evenly regardless of the content length. However, how your content scores using the analysis mentioned will influence how your content is found. Here are the two ends of the scale.

Shorter content tends to be fact based and concisely answers a single question. This content works well in the answer engine using the knowledge graph. Search queries that solicit a fact based response will often result in shorter content. This works best when search is trying to answer a search query with one correct factual answer.

Longer content tends to be heavily fact based with a high level of expertise. This often does not work well in the answer engine. Why? Because the answer is not as apparent. However, for more scholarly searches, longer content is often found.

There are exceptions of course. However, I suspect I made my point.

So why do SEO bloggers get this so wrong?

Because most SEO blog posts are relatively short and are shy of fact statements. What fact statements exist many times cannot be corroborated from highly authoritative sources such as research papers and most fact statements can be corroborated only among other SEO bloggers. Other analysis metrics come into play. Expertise analysis falls flat. Reading level is moderate. Topical scores are lacking. However, market analysis is strong. Based upon the experience of SEO bloggers, content within a relatively narrow window of context is created and therefore performs narrowly based upon what is created. SEO blogs are written for an audience that is looking for smaller bits of information. Most SEO queries are not in search of a single fact based answer and therefore rely more heavily on other search metrics. Longer posts tend to do well with more fact statements however, are very narrow in topical scope. It is a fait accompli. SEO bloggers tend to parrot each other in a large echo chamber and therefore few posts offer anything new or insightful. Few ever refer to real authoritative works. This is why SEOs drive me nuts. Most simply do not know how search works.

@Stephen Ostermiller 2017-06-06 13:12:48

Ironically, your answer pushed this page over 3,000 words on this topic. Now it has a chance of ranking well. ;-)

@closetnoc 2017-06-06 16:15:16

@StephenOstermiller Only 3000? I must be slipping!! Cheers!!

@I am the Most Stupid Person 2018-01-15 09:18:07

@closetnoc I must say that this is one of the best answer I read on SE. But how about this case studies ( 1. backlinko.com/search-engine-ranking - Check the sub heading called "Long-Form Ranks Higher in Google’s Search Results Than Short-Form Content".... ).. And neilpatel.com/blog/long-blog-articles and neilpatel.com/blog/… ... As I know both Neil and Brian is very popular in SEO industry.. So why they suggest always go for long post?

@closetnoc 2018-01-15 14:12:52

@IamtheMostStupidPerson Bloggers! There is at least an apparent correlation within the blogging world, however, correlation is not evidence. You cannot blackbox test a search engine. Your first link I have read many times. This other blogger I am also familiar with. For bloggers, most posts were quite weak for a long time. Adding more factual content to blog posts supports what I espouse. It is not length, but topical strength that makes the difference. Thank you for the kind words. Cheers!!

@DocRoot 2018-08-21 12:57:55

@IamtheMostStupidPerson With regards to the backlinko article, they aren't necessarily saying that it is "word count" itself that is the ranking factor. They suggest that "social shares", "topical relevancy" or "quality" may in fact be the underlying ranking factor here. As they say, "it’s impossible for us to pinpoint". As for the first neilpatel.com article, he openly states in the first few sentences, "Word count is not a standalone ranking factor."

@Mazharul Haq SEO 2018-01-12 05:44:29

Google does need content to crunch so as to return popular results for popular searches

So personally, I would be concerned more about creating the quality of the content on your pages.

And, I would worry more about creating low-value pages in some desperate attempt to reach 1000 words.

If you believe all the SEO articles go for it, otherwise keep it interesting for a reader.

And also I think that how much words are needed to explain to convenience the visitor about the content that is enough for Google Rank.

@Josh Salganik 2017-06-02 01:29:17

The technical answer to your question is yes. According to Google, ranking factors can be separated into 1. quality and 2. relevance. In Google's updated Guidelines (as of 2017) (which can be found here) word count is indirectly, if not directly a ranking factor. Google has specifically mentioned the length of content as an important criteria for a page's quality - and if you understand "quality" as a ranking factor, you will find it self-evident that content length can therefore effect your rankings. Before everyone freaks out, please scroll down to section 3.1, where you can find "Main Content Quality and Amount" as one of 4 most important Page Quality Rating Factors. Quality, as it relates to length of content, is based on a landing page of the task url.

However, it is a huge misconception that a web page needs 2,000-3,500 words to rank. This is simply not true. However, based on what your underlying landing page is trying to accomplish, I recommend comparing the underlying keyword query with the sites which rank on page one within your niche - and using an aggregated average to determine the range that your page's wordcount should fall within.

However, relevance is even more important than having a high word count. Sites which cover a topic in-depth, and written by experts within their field will, acccording to Google, significantly outrank sites which don't. Publishing specific content that covers a specific topic can help with Page Quality Rating, and thus search engine rankings.

Original Source: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2015/11/updating-our-search-quality-rating.html

@closetnoc 2017-06-02 02:28:36

Word count is not a ranking factor. Period. What makes content perform well is disciplined writing and covering a topic competently. Expertise matters.

@Goyllo 2017-06-02 05:21:19

The site like backlinko does not do any study, the just show us some nice kind of reports, so you believe on it. I have seen that page and it does not make sense at all. He even forgot to add https as ranking factor in past, use web archive if you don't believe. He never study on any kind of Google patient about search. That kind of post is made only to get promotion backlinks.

@closetnoc 2017-06-02 15:33:01

...longer content tends to rank higher in Google's search results... Correlation and not causation. Be careful to know the difference. Trend studies are not scientific studies and making any conclusions such as backlinko.com has made is a fools game. Again, backlinko.com has not said why nor can they tell you why they got the results they got. I can. In detail. They cannot.

@Josh Salganik 2017-06-03 18:36:16

Look, Backlinko was merely one of many examples that I could have used. The point is this - the more thorough and specific a webpage is about a topic, the better chances is has of ranking. Period. If any of you can find a way to make a page more thorough without the use of content - and from the view of a search engine robot - please do let me know! I've been an SEO consultant for the better part of a decade. I add content, not backlinks, to make my sites rank very well in search engines,

@closetnoc 2017-06-03 19:32:20

You said that word count was a ranking factor in your answer. This is incorrect and misleading. It is not the length of content but many factors in how the content is written and presented. That is the key. Short content can rank very well too if done correctly. Cheers!!

@closetnoc 2017-06-04 00:32:12

I do invite you to edit you answer and put your experiences to paper and explain better what you mean. Cheers!!

@Josh Salganik 2017-06-06 00:35:47

Ok look it, @closetnoc & everyone else. In no way would I ever intend to mislead anyone on this topic. I said that it is technically a ranking factor, by no means did I meant to insinuate that there is any underlying magic number. But if you look closely, each industry has it's norms, and falling within the range of an underlying industry in between the longest and shortest of sites on page one for a given keyword can help seo efforts, in my experience.

@Josh Salganik 2017-06-06 01:28:39

Additionally, see Google's webmaster blog here: webmasters.googleblog.com/2015/11/… and this .pdf here: static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.com/en//… will go into slightly more detail about a "satisfying amount" of main content. See page 20, among others

@Stephen Ostermiller 2017-06-06 13:18:43

I find this answer useful. A correlation between word count rankings may not be enough to indicate that word count is a direct ranking factor. Word count may however be an indirect ranking factor. For example, there may be an optimum word count to appeal to your users and their behavior impacts rankings. It is possible the correlation between word count and rankings is merely coincidence, but I suspect not. It is more likely to be weakly tied (causation) or correlated with other quality factors that do impact rankings.

@closetnoc 2017-06-06 21:31:37

@StephenOstermiller My only heart burn is calling it a ranking factor. This implies far too strongly that word count is a metric that is tracked by Google since the term is so strongly tied to Google. I agree that an anecdotal correlation can be drawn. My objection is calling word count a ranking factor when it is clearly not is seriously misleading. I recognized what the poster is trying to say. I invite him to clarify for the sake of users and to avoid confusion. I want the posters perspective on the correlation as he sees it with the misleading statement nuanced. Cheers!!

@TopQnA 2017-06-02 02:10:03

You shouldn't think word count as ranking factor but rather what may be the good length to justify the blog.

Google doesn't like way too short content with more links.

In my view 1K words blog should be perfectly fine.

It is true that there are many SEO blog guys and they are in a race against words. Some even got 5K+ words, and mostly you will notice they just exaggerate basic points. And at times it becomes hard to take the gist out and becomes confusing.

I will just make one additional point. When you produce a content and if you got a number of sub-headings in the blog post and if you feel people may be searching those sub-headings then you may wish to cover those in detail which will extend the length naturally but importantly, it will be useful for the user too.

Conclusion:

The mindset shouldn't be that you need to produce massive length content but rather solving the problem with required length. Just make sure it is not too short like few hundred words. You can also make your content look bigger by having proper graphics and videos.

@closetnoc 2017-06-02 02:23:47

You make my point that longer content tends to lose focus and dilutes the topic. This is fine if you are like me and don't care too much one way or another. However, most folks should do what I did professionally and that is limit the topic to a single concise point and test each line to how it supports that point.

@MrWhite 2018-08-21 00:09:45

"make sure it is not too short like few hundred words." - This will no doubt depend on the subject matter, but I think a "few hundred words" can be perfectly sufficient. "You can also make your content look bigger by..." - although making it just "look bigger" would seem to be irrelevant in terms of ranking?

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