If you’ve ever wondered about the optimal content length for SEO and whether longer or shorter is better, then this SEO tip will be for you.
There have been many online debates about what works best, hence resulting in some confusion for many beginners and novices.
One argument in the past is that people have short attention spans hence short-form content (approx 500 words) works best in getting the reader’s attention and engagement.
However, the common consensus now is that long-form content has the greatest impact for SEO in getting ranked for keywords versus short-form content.
This is because with the lower word count of short-form content, it is more difficult for Google to not only index it but also detect the relevancy of keywords to the content.
With the lower likelihood of getting ranked for keywords, your content may not even be found on Google, let alone be seen by your target audience.
Google’s main focus of its search algorithm will always be to deliver the most value to the user, and in most cases, it is long-form content that provides the highest value.
What is the most optimal content length for SEO?
Many studies have been done over the years to determine the most optimal length for SEO.
In 2015, serpIQ did a study of the average length of content in the top 10 Google search results, finding that top ranked posts are usually above 2000 words.
Closely correlated to SEO will be a content’s social shareability, which serves as positive signals to Google’s crawler bots.
There have been some interesting studies done, such as by Neil Patel who did an analysis of his own content on QuickSprout to determine the link between content length and social sharing.
He found that out of 327 blog posts, the content below 1500 words received an average of 174 tweets and 59 Facebook likes while the content above 1500 words received an average of 293 tweets and 75 likes.
From another perspective, according to Quartz editor Kevin Delaney, there is a middle area of 500 to 800 word articles that everyone should avoid – the Valley of (Content) Death.
He argues that you should either publish short, snappy and topical articles less than 500 words or more in-depth articles of 1200 words and more.
In general, while you need not have long-form content for all your articles, it will indeed work better than short-form content in most cases on top of having other key benefits.
Benefits of long-form content for SEO
There are many benefits of long-form content besides being more engaging and shareable (because it has higher value).
Long-form content increases the amount of time a user spends on your site, leading to lower bounce rates and a higher average session duration – both positive signals for Google in it’s search engine algorithm.
With a higher word count, it is also more likely that your content will be ranked by Google for long-tail keywords which generally have less competition.
Another overlooked reason to create long-form content is that it positions you and your brand as an authority in your niche over time, especially if you can write consistently.
With all these benefits, bear in mind that it is still quality over quantity that matters most to your reader – ‘fluff’, or writing for the sake of hitting a word count, can be easily seen through and it will not be appreciated.
The more you write, and the faster you write, the higher the chances of grammatical errors or typos that reduce your overall content quality as well – the Google crawler bot may notice this and even penalise your site if so.
Ultimately, people will read long-form content if it is worth their while, and if the quality and value provided to them is high (think insights, experiment results, cool graphics, infographics, detailed step-by-step guides etc).
And in the worst case if somebody leaves midway after reading 25% of a 2000 words article, that’s already the equivalent of a 500 words article.