Have you ever asked yourself “How long your article should be?” “Should we keep it short or long?” I had this question for myself as well. Everyone has different opinion on this that what should be the ideal content length?

After a while of testing and experiencing myself together with reading a series of case studies and proof done by other industry professionals; I have compiled a list of convincing facts that helps prove content length affects rankings.
Read on to the end, I’m going to give you some short and sweet key take-away points for you, so stay tuned:

1. Content rich sites get more links

The reason number 1 for longer content ranking higher is because it tends to get more links.
Link is another important factor and acts as a bonus points in improving your site’s ranking. Links can be acquired naturally through your website content.

So why longer content tend to get more links?

First, length does matter when it comes to evergreen content and users want to use those pieces of content as reference source, and the longer your content is (with the assumption that is a good quality article) the more likely you get people link to your article as a reliable reference source.

At least for me, If I see an short article writing about an currently debated topics I would have an impression that this article is not going to give me some insightful information into the topic, I might just be able to pick up a couple of points from there but would not be convincing enough for me to link back or share on my social network.

Second, we tend look for information that could help back our point or to help prove something and longer form content tends to include graphs, stats, studies that help back up the point the writers try to make, thereby make it more reliable source of information.

Can number of words really increase your external links?

MOZ did a study in 2011 trying to establish a correlation between the amounts of links that a page on their site saw, compared to the amount of words on the page. The results were interesting, in that the more words presented, the more links were shown. The most popular page for links on the website had more than 35,000 words and generated more than 800 links. The correlation stayed consistent across all of the analysed pages.

For answers here is a research study by Moz based on visualising 500 posts :

 

links-based-on-word-count

Figure 1: Average Content Length (Words)

number of words increase your external links

Figure 1: Average Content Length (Words) Image Source: Moz

The two graphs show the variation of links with word count with same data. You can easily observe that as the word count goes down, the number of links also reduces. So there is a direct correlation which can be observed from the study above that for getting more links you need to write a content rich post.

Content with more words can cover a wider breadth and are likely preferred to shorter superficial articles. SERPIQ found that content length correlated with SERP position, they did a research on first ten results in Google using 20,000 keywords. It shows the average word count at different positions in search rankings.

word count at different positions in search rankings

Figure 2: Average Content Length and Ranking Position

It can be clearly observed from the graph that as we move from position 1 to 10, the average word count goes on decreasing. It shows that Google loves content rich sites. Google likes to provide more information to its users by showing sites with high word count on top.

Getting more links will definitely give you more SEO authority and that’s why you can say that content rich sites rank higher on Google. I personally also prefer reading long interesting articles and this also gives you a reason to write longer content.

2. Google in-depth content algorithm update

Did you know that 10% of searchers use Google to find more detailed content? You know…the detailed content that contains stats and data? See the stat here:
For this reason, Google rolled out an algorithm update that featured sites with detailed content throughout its search results.

What are the benefits from this update? Your content would potentially get;
– more exposure to readers
– more social shares
– more backlink opportunity
I’d like to give you an example, this is an 2500 word article I wrote last month for Jeff Bullas’s blog and the article itself has gained 129 backlinks over 1 month period and it is still growing because it is more of evergreen type of content. If you google “common seo mistakes” it shot up to position number 2 of search results a week after the article was published.

6 common seo mistake article backlink

Figure 3: 6 Common SEO Mistake Article Backlink Profile

As you know, there are a number of factors that make this page rank highly, they can be from Jeff Bullas’ highly authoritative site with strong network of existing subscribers and therefore it could reach more readers, increase the backlinking opportunity.

However, if you pay attention, top 3 articles found through this keyword are all above 2,100 words, even the Google Webmaster Central Blog Post about similar topic written in 554 words only ranks number 5th.

most common seo mistakes

Figure 4: Rankings on Google.com.au for keyword “common seo mistakes”

3. Content Rich Sites Get More Social Attention (shares and tweets)

Let’s see a study by Quicksprout based on 327 blog posts. They divided the articles into two segments: one is below 1500 words and another above 1500 and observed the number of likes and shares on them. Here is the result in form of a graph:

social share and content length

Figure 5: Social Share and Content Length

The posts with content greater than 1500 words got 68.1% more tweets and 22.6% more Facebook likes than the content with less than 1500 words. And considering the fact that Social signals are direct ranking factors, you definitely can’t ignore it.

4. Longer Content Converts Better Than Short Content.

Marketing Experiments ran tests on Google Adwords that landed on longer content pages vs shorter content pages. In every case, the longer content showed a better conversion rate than the shorter content. In the first test, the longer content converted at a 40.54% better rate. When even longer copy was used, the rate of increased conversion continued to rise, ending at a 45% better rate in the test that used the longest content.

Use these guidelines as a template for creating the best quality content on the web, and the rankings will come.

What does this mean for you?

– Quality content that is well-researched, thorough, and original is a must have.
If you decide of writing a long content then make it interesting for users to read otherwise it is going to repel your readers. Try to use pictures, graphics, videos to make it interesting. Use data, stats, graphs, video to back up the points in the article.

– To show up in Google in-depth search results, your content should reportedly be about 2000-5000 words — not all of it, but about 10% of your content should — and it should be thoughtful and well-written so that it remains relevant for months even years to come.

– Ideal word count
Let me tell you one thing there is no such thing as “ideal word count”. It just depends on your niche and your writing style. For eg news sites really can’t add 1000 or 1500 words to their articles. they need to keep it short and to the point. So the question which comes out is: “How to know best word count for your niche?”

Analyse your competitors: Get detailed data of your competitors and anayse it carefully. This might give you the best idea that what can be a suitable word count for your niche.

Perform testing: Write both long and short articles within your niche and observe which is performing better. This will help you in analysing what your readers are looking for.
– The copy itself isn’t completely responsible for conversions.
– Use social media to spread the content around.
– Do not write long copy just to write long copy. Quality still matters.

Written by Huyen Truong – Search Marketing Director of Result Driven SEO in Sydney

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