The SEO landscape has evolved over the years, and with Google set to roll out major announcements in the new year, it seems the changes aren’t about to stop anytime soon.
Blogging remains a powerful tool for businesses to get targeted eyes on their products and landing pages. Aside from the fact that you get valuable content for your social media channels, it also helps you to get organic traffic from Google and other major search engines.
Search engine traffic still ranks amongst the most targeted traffic sources because you will be attracting visitors who are actively searching for solutions to their problems. But getting your blog posts ranked isn’t the easiest feat to pull off, and it seems the word count of your posts is still an important ranking factor.
In the early days, SEO experts usually advised people to churn out short posts of 500 words or less, but now, the bar seems to have been raised. But what effect is it having on rankings. What should be the best length for SEO blog posts in 2019?
Why is the word count of your blog post so important?
Word count is important because it seems to be directly linked to higher placements in the search engine result pages (SERPs). This correlation has always been in existence, but there seems to be more evidence that posts with higher word counts are the way forward.
Google is always committed to ranking the content with the highest quality at the top of the SERPs. After all, it’s all about a great experience for the user. They have therefore concluded that longer content is likely to be higher in quality since they are more likely to provide detailed answers to the questions of users.
Naturally, when users enter a search query into the search engines, they might not be looking to read a long post. This is why Google introduced Rank Brain, to try and figure out what the intentions of searchers are and present them with better, more streamlined results.
But at the moment, longer content still seems to be outperforming shorter ones despite the introduction of Rank Brain into Google’s algorithm. This implies that companies should target longer content if they want to attract more search engine traffic to their websites.
The word count of blog posts in previous years
In the past, the general piece of advice usually given to people is that they should aim for 500 words, but now that seems like the minimum anyone should think of. There’s a simple reason for this: Google’s algorithm wasn’t as sophisticated as this five years ago. Their algorithm wasn’t able to accurately judge the quality of the content on a webpage and had to rely solely on backlinks.
This made it easier to game the SERPs, and it wasn’t necessary to focus on longer or higher quality content. But the pendulum has shifted. You will achieve far higher rankings in 2019 by creating longer and detailed content that is useful for the users.
What will be different in 2019?
One major difference we will witness in 2019 as compared to 2018 is that Google is going to give higher rankings to responsive websites because they are aware that more than 50% of their users are entering their queries from mobile devices.
We then need to ask ourselves if mobile users would be interested in reading thousands of words.
Over the last few years, posts with about 2000 words seem to perform well. Posts with higher word count attained better rankings, but readers have proven that they are not interested in reading blog posts this long.
That’s an indication that Google is still not delivering the best result to users, their algorithm is ranking pages based on word count. But this might change now that Google is moving to ‘mobile index.’
Drawing inference using basic data
According to some major studies, blog posts with word counts of around 2000 rank best. It was also concluded that post length is strongly linked to ranking on the first page.
However, if we are to extrapolate from basic data, we need to tread with caution. We shouldn’t work with single factors and disregard the fact that there are about 200 ranking factors used by Google to determine the position of a page in their SERPs.
While all data points to the fact that longer content ranks better, websites which post long and detailed content are more likely to invest time into promoting their content. This means that we cannot disregard the impact of social shares and backlinks, and only analyze the effect of content word count on rankings. Overall, common sense tells us that longer posts would perform better, but ‘longer’ doesn’t always mean ‘better.’
The keyword determines the length
Let’s be candid, shouldn’t our post length depend on the target keyword? Here are the two angles to this; first, is there any point writing a 2000-word blog post if the average post length for those keywords is about 200 words? Second, your content should be centered on the intent of the searcher.
If making money is the ultimate goal, you are not likely to waste money by creating posts that are longer than the average length. If 200 words is the average word count for a blog post, you will probably rank number one by creating a 1000-word blog post.
So, your posts shouldn’t be 2000 words or longer just because a study shows that posts that are that long rank well.
While there are searchers who want long articles, most of the time, it isn’t necessary.
For instance, if someone is searching for the search term “how old is Jessica Alba,” would they be interested in a 2000-words post? They will probably be okay with less than a hundred words, and this is because their question is simple. Longer is not always better.
Sometimes it’s best to keep it simple
Simple answers often give the best results, especially when it is SEO related. There’s a reason some web pages are ranking at the top of the SERPs, copying their strategy is a smart move.
However, don’t expect to outrank them with the same quantity and quality of content; you need to do more in every aspect.
Therefore, you should aim to achieve two things with your content; provide answers to users’ queries and create more content than your competitors. When you do this, you will be giving more value to the searcher than the pages you are competing with, and you will likely outrank them. If a page is ranking #1 and has 200 words, try to write more than that. If their post is 5000 words long, make your content longer than 5000 words, with the presumption that those posts are all providing value.
You can’t just look at a study that shows that most pages ranking #1 have content that is 2000 words long, and presume that you will attain the same rankings by producing the same amount of words. You should broadly assess the data instead.
While previous studies have shown that longer blog posts perform better, too much emphasis should not be placed just on the length. The main idea is that longer posts perform better because they go into more detail and tend to provide more value.
Finally, while it might be difficult to establish a sweet spot for the best length, it seems 2000 words help with rankings. Most importantly, longer posts have proven to rank higher. However, you still need to ensure that those posts are full of value for the user.
Churning out longer posts might be effective right now, but there are no guarantees going forward. As Google’s algorithm and Rank Brain continue to evolve, keywords where searchers only want to read short articles might be prioritised.
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