September 30, 2021
SEO

Best Word Count for SEO? There Isn’t One

Alex Lindley

Alex Lindley is an expert copywriter and on-page SEO strategist.

This blog post is 950 words. Is that the best word count for SEO purposes? Nope. 

But it is the best word count for this topic. That’s because it’s enough to cover the topic in full, get the point across and match what competitors have written when trying to rank for the keyword we’re targeting with this post.

To be clear, there is no ideal word count for SEO. No matter what some guru with an expensive, self-congratulatory online course to sell tells you, there just isn’t one. Here’s what you need to know.

Word counts don’t matter that much, but the words themselves do. The Hire a Writer team has a real knack for arranging words in ways that are pleasing to both people and search engines. Want some of that magic on your site? It’s yours. Contact us.

Inflated Word Counts Can Harm SEO

There’s an interesting divide between today’s SEO and old-school SEO. It’s hard to define old-school SEO, but you know it when you see it. Any time someone is advocating for keyword stuffing, multiple microsites or insanely long articles on simple topics, that’s old school.

It’s true. People used to say that you need to exceed the word count of the competitors who are outranking you if you want to outrank them. Unfortunately, this practice actually had — and still has — negative effects on SEO efforts across many industries.

Here’s how it happens: you want to rank for a relatively focused longtail keyword. You decide to write 7,500 words about it in order to outrank your competitors, who have all written 5,000 words. To get those additional 2,500 words, you have to go into topics that are at best tangentially related to the keyword you’re targeting

The result? Unfocused content. That’s a problem from both the general writing quality perspective and the SEO perspective. For general writing quality, it’s never a good idea to go off-topic. For SEO, if you start writing about things that aren’t really related to your target keyword, search engines aren’t going to understand what your content is really about. That means the content will struggle to rank highly for the target keyword.

It may, however, rank for more keywords. But it’s likely that those rankings will be lower across the board than the single ranking for your target keyword would have been had you stayed focused. Between 15 page three rankings and one page one ranking, which would you prefer? The latter is where it’s at for traffic — no question.

But There is a Lower Limit

There may not be a best word count for SEO, but there is a lower limit. Google hates thin content. That’s what the search engine calls content that provides little to no value to a user.

If you publish a blog post that’s 50 words, you’re probably publishing thin content. Words are powerful, but you need more than 50 to really provide value when discussing almost any subject. 

SEO Word Count Studies: Correlation vs. Causation

Hundreds of so-called SEO “gurus” would probably be spinning in their office chairs if they read this blog post. “But, but — the studies,” they’d say. 

They’re talking about studies like this April 2020 study from Backlinko. And they’re wrong. Specifically, they’re mistaking correlation for causation. To summarize the word count part of that highly comprehensive study, the average piece of content ranking on the first page in Google is just under 1,500 words. Does that mean your content has to be 1,500 words to rank on the first page? Absolutely not.

What it does mean is that many top-ranking pages share the 1,500-word trait. That’s it. It’s just like that old story about the link between ice cream sales and homicide. Obviously, ice cream doesn’t make people homicidal, but if you look at the numbers behind ice cream sales and murders, you might think so — until you dig deeper and realize that ice cream sales spike in the summer, when temperatures are higher. And there’s tons of evidence pointing to heat as the cause of violence.

Applied to SEO, that concept should make it clear that word count is only one of hundreds of factors — backlinks, internal links, anchor text, meta titles and descriptions, keyword density, domain age, domain authority and so much more. 

Your Content Should be Comprehensive

Where does this leave us? If we don’t have a word count benchmark, how do we know when to stop writing? 

It’s simple: write until the topic is covered in full. If you are answering a question, make sure the question is fully answered. If you’re explaining a process, take us from step one to the final step. You may be left with 300 words or 3,000 words or more, but you’re covered if you’ve fully covered the topic.

Google’s own Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide clearly states that content should be comprehensive. Don’t mistake “comprehensive” for “long.” Those are not synonyms. Comprehensive content addresses the user’s search query in full — no minimum word count required.

Stop Worrying About Word Count for SEO. Worry About Quality Instead

According to years of research by some of the world’s top SEO experts, there are more than 200 possible ranking factors that Google considers. We’re suggesting that you place roughly 199 of them ahead of word count.

Really, it’s about content quality. As the algorithm evolves, that will become even more true than it is today. Focus on quality, and it’s hard to go wrong.

For quality content that’s written for SEO (not word count), you need Hire a Writer. Contact us.

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