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Is there really a magic word count for SEO?

Rachel Baker

Rachel Baker | The Ethical Copywriter

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As with many aspects of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), word count is a much-debated topic.

With a huge range of factors deciding whether your web page ranks, as well as Google constantly updating its algorithm, it’s no wonder that digital marketers are in constant pursuit of that elusive ranking formula.

When I first started working in SEO, I learnt that you had to have 500 words on a web page in order for it to rank. Since then, I have also heard ever-increasing word counts tipped as the ideal number – 750, 1000, 1500…

This confusion comes from the fact that SEO is a complicated and multifaceted discipline. Often, how you approach one aspect will depend on a range of other factors, such as site structure, the type of search query you are trying to target, and the industry you are in.

In this post, I’ll try to break down what you need to consider when planning content with SEO in mind, and whether there is indeed a “magic word count”.

Is word count a ranking factor?

According to John Mueller from Google – who regularly tweets golden nuggets about Google’s algorithms – word count is not a ranking factor (August 2019).

This means that in Google’s algorithms, there is nothing specifying that a web page must have a certain number of words to rank, or that the more words on a web page the better.

However, this doesn’t mean that word count isn’t important – as it directly impacts other ranking factors.

According to Google’s webmaster guidelines, Google’s main goal is to provide searchers with the most relevant and helpful results for their queries.

And if you think about how search engines analyse sites, they use small pieces of software called bots or crawlers. These can read html code and written text, but not images, videos, Javascript etc.

So you need a certain amount of written content on your website in order for search engines to understand what your website is about. Your content also needs to be of value to searchers, and it can often be hard to achieve that in 100-200 words.

This is where recommended word counts such as 500 words per page come from – the need for your site to be understood and deemed as valuable by search engines.

As mentioned, word count can also impact other ranking factors. For example, a web page’s ability to fulfil search intent is a ranking factor, as is the number of links pointing to the page – and you’re likely to get more backlinks if your content is comprehensive and in-depth.

Is more better?

Often, yes – but not always.

On a product page of an ecommerce website, 300 words about your product, its features and its unique benefits will be better for SEO than 50 words. It’s more informative customer, and Google can see that too.

For informational searches, where users are looking to learn about a topic, a 2000 word in-depth article that is well researched, structured and written is much more likely to rank than a 400-word blog post.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that long-form content may not be suitable for some search queries. For example, when people are looking for instructions on how to do things, Google might favour video content or concise bullet points.

And there’s also the quality issue…

Quality over quantity

While the length of your content does impact on SEO, quality is equally as important. 2000 words of repetitive drivel isn’t going to rank as well as 750 words of valuable, unique, helpful content.

And on this note, never copy and paste content – from other sites or even from your own website. Google hates duplicate content and your rankings will be negatively impacted.

Basically, don’t publish content for content’s sake. Always have the end user in mind and be aware of the value you want to offer people.

Striking the balance

When writing for the web, you’re not just writing for search engine crawlers. You’re also writing for people.

As such, you need to also consider user experience, branding, messaging, conversion rates and more. Good digital copywriting strikes the perfect balance between all of these elements.

So to answer my initial question:

“Is there really a magic word count for SEO?”

The answer is yes!

But…

It’s different for every page. Word count should definitely be kept in mind when designing content for the web, and thin, low-quality content isn’t going to do you any favours when it comes to SEO. Just don’t sacrifice quality in the pursuit of quantity.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, do check out my website for more of my thoughts and tips!

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