What’s the ‘best’ word count for Google?

Dog with questionOnce upon a time, SEO consultants recommended that every page have at least 250 words of content (although that was always a rule of thumb.)

Today, it’s an entirely different story. Today, 250 words is almost considered thin content. Plus, there doesn’t seem to be a hard-and-fast answer to the “how many words is right for Google” question.

For instance:

One recent case study reports that longer blog posts (over 1,500 words) position better in Google.

Another article discusses that we’re in the “age of skimming” and people won’t read a longer article. Anything too long will get stuck in the tl;dr trap (too long; didn’t read.)

What’s an SEO writer to do?

Your answer: Quit wondering “what Google wants” and focus on your reader.

That means:

- Throw your assumptions out the window. Many writers think long-form sales copy doesn’t work in today’s overstimulated world. Yet, some studies show the opposite. Neil Patel found that long-form copy positioned better, plus provided a higher conversion rate and better-quality leads.

It’s easy to say “people don’t read online.” But perhaps it’s more accurate to say, “people won’t read content that doesn’t meet their needs.” As Seth Godin says, “Please, give me something long (but make it worth my time.)”

- Poll your readers. A simple way to learn what your readers want to read is to ask them (amazing, I know!) You may find that many of their suggested topics would make great in-depth-article fodder or quickie “tips” posts. Free software like Survey Monkey makes running reader surveys a snap.

- Learn from analytics and testing. What posts do people love? What posts fall flat? Are longer posts getting shared more than shorter ones? What are your post bounce rates? Carefully review your analytics, test your content and see what’s clicking with your readers.

- Tighten up your writing.  Godin may write a 150-word post one day and a 1,500 word post the next. And that’s OK. Either way, his word count represents how long it takes to get his point across – and no more. Don’t “fluff up” a page just to meet a certain word-count requirement. 

Finally, think about this when you’re writing the copy: Have I said everything I could? Have I overcome all objections? Have I showcased the product or service? Is the keyphrase usage seamless? Does the copy encourage the next conversion step? Have I connected with my reader?

If your answer is “yes,” you’ve done your job.

It’s really as simple as that.

(Note: This post originally ran in 2008, and I completely updated it for today’s brave new Google world. I hope you enjoyed it!)

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