If you run a website and you’ve found your way to this page, you probably understand the importance of unique content. Websites that copy all of their content won’t rank very high on Google search results (in most cases, anyways).
However, if you’re sitting down to write something new for your site, there’s a big difference between a 200-word blog entry and 1,600 webpage. Is there a substantial benefit to longer-form content — in other words, how long does an article need to be in order to rank well on the major search engines?
The answer is pretty unsatisfying: it depends on the purpose of the page. I’ve seen some great websites with only 150-200 words of written content, and I’ve seen 2,000 word behemoths that can’t manage to get a message across.
With that being said, you want a more complete answer, don’t you?
My typical recommendation for blogs, articles and other long-form content is 600-800 words. However, website pages can be significantly shorter for well-established businesses. 300 words of quality content is much more valuable for search engine optimization than 10,000 words of rambling incoherence.
Consider the following when setting a word count goal: how much information do you have for your reader, and is all of that information relevant to the subject of the piece?
Google wants to prioritize content that answers the user’s query — the text that they enter into the search engine to generate a list of results — so ideally, your content should be geared towards a certain query.
This means that you can sometimes strengthen your article by narrowing your focus. If you’re creating a page about changing the strings on a guitar, you wouldn’t want to talk about guitar amplifiers, pedals, or tuners unless you could relate those topics directly to the string changing process.
The more relevant content, the better, but you won’t win any writing awards (or high search engine rankings) by packing in a ton of useless information. Visitors will leave your page quickly, and Google will take notice. Long content can be bad content.
If you’re thinking about a new piece of content, try performing a few searches on Google or Bing. Look at the top links, then try to think of ways to make content that will be better than the top links. Think about what the average user might want — the current top-ranking page might leave out some important information, or it might gloss over technical terms that require explanation. You might also be able to add pictures, videos, web tools and other components that extend the functionality of the target page.
Content length is certainly important, but it’s not an especially effective means of evaluating a website. Use the 600-800 word threshold as a guideline, but always prioritize the users over search engine robots.