Well, over 1500 words right? Or was it 2000? Anyway, long, the longer the better. You’d think, but that’s not necessarily the case.
There’s no one answer to this question.
Also, while long-form articles perform better, that doesn’t mean you should strive to write as much as possible.
It’s not about quantity. Optimal post length is more complicated than that, so let’s talk this through.
Does Article Length Even Matter?
Yes, it does, but not for the reasons you may think it matters.
Let’s do a little exercise. If you google “SEO”, you’ll find this result from Moz:
It’s got 848 words.
First page for “online marketing”?
Same story, 798 words:
So it’s obvious that shorter articles can make it to the top too. It’s not a matter of how long your article is.
A while back, we analyzed 1.1 million search results to see what really matters for Google. We did find that the average page ranking first had about 1800 words, so that seems like a good ballpark.
But when we manually checked the results, we found a lot of articles both longer and shorter than that.
So what’s the catch?
You should aim for longer content, but not because it directly helps SEO. Google doesn’t really care how long your article is. By the looks of it, it’s not even one of the over 300 ranking factors.
However, longer content tends to perform better because it allows you to focus on the stuff that’s actually important.
So What’s Important?
(Very) shortly, here’s what matters:
- Added Value
And longer content tends to help with that, so let’s break it down.
Being able to use the right keywords (organically!!) in your article is a big SEO advantage. Naturally, when you write longer content, you have more room to use your targeted keyword (and LSI keywords) organically, without spamming it and making Google think you’re not an authoritative source.
In our research, we also found an important detail. The parent topic of your primary keyword is usually present in top-ranking articles 3-4 times more often than the primary keyword itself.
So again, longer content means more room to use these words naturally.
And that’s why your posts should aim for just enough space to do that.
But it’s not just about keywords.
Added Value & Backlinks
Google wants users that end up on your page to be satisfied with what they read.
Considering that a lot of posts tackle big topics, having longer posts is important to be able to properly address the topic.
Which in turn keeps people on your page, decreasing bounce rate, and showing Google that they found their answer on your page, and that’s what helps your SEO efforts.
But this is a double-edged sword.
Because you should never aim for 1800 words if you’re answering a very specific, straightforward question like “how to measure how much brick I need”.
200 words and a calculator based on your prices should be more than enough. Trying to draw out a topic just for the sake of word count can actually hurt your SEO efforts if people bounce as soon as they see your unnecessary block of text.
Moreover, if the piece is well-written, not too drawn out, but not too shallow either, people in your industry will notice.
And this also means natural backlinks in the long run.
But you ask again: How long should your posts be?
I try to stick to writing something over 1200 words, regardless of the topic. That being said, I have written shorter articles, but I’ve also written buying guides clocking in at over 10.000 words.
If you just want to stop thinking about it, use the Surfer Content Editor. It’s an SEO tool we love here at Authority Hacker, and it has tons of features for keyword research, SERP analysis and most importantly: content editing.
To use it, just settle on a primary topic from their interface, and install the Content Editor extension, which will show up in your Google Docs like this:
It shows data on:
- Desired word count
- Primary keyword usage
- LSI keyword usage
- Other elements important for SEO, like images
And from what we’ve seen, it actually does a pretty good job at analyzing the SERP and coming up with good recommendations.
But you may not be sold on it.
Or you may not trust its suggestions completely.
There’s no straight answer, so let’s break it down based on your needs.
Article Length According To Your Needs
The first thing you want to take into account is how large your topic is. An article on “Affiliate Marketing” will definitely be longer than an article on just “The Best Affiliate Programs”.
What you want to remember is that your headline is a promise.
You’re creating expectations for your readers, so the more extensive a topic is, the longer your post should be. I’m not going to give you a number, so don’t focus on that.
Instead, focus on living up to the promise from your title.
However, if you want to do a pillar post on all things Instagram marketing, you need room to properly address things like hashtags, niche research, growth tactics, stories, post types, and even monetization.
And the thing is – your competitors already cover a lot of those.
So in that case, going up towards the 5000-10000 mark might be necessary.
The same is true for buying guides. If you’re writing a guide on how to buy the best smartphone in 2020, you need room for reviews for top contenders, explanations for things like processing power or battery life, and other elements.
Consider who your ideal reader is. If your buyer persona doesn’t really have the time to read through a detailed 4500 word review, you might want to keep it shorter.
If your audience is extremely engaged on your longer posts, keep writing them that way.
Lastly, if you run a tight-knit community, you could even ask them what they like. As long as you have room for keywords, and you add value, Google will like it either way.
Bonus Tip: Work On Your Copy Quality
Beware of filler words and fluff.
You want your posts to flow well, but you should never add words just for the sake of it.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: If a sentence makes sense without a word, cut it.
Do that to your articles a day after you’re finished writing, and in time you’ll drastically improve the quality of your copy.
And then, 1000 words won’t mean the same thing they mean today.
Long-form is important, but not because Google likes big word counts. A longer post leaves room for the right keywords to be used naturally, and it’s got a higher chance of actually answering your readers’ questions.
So aim for over 1200 (in most cases), but don’t be afraid to go lower, or much higher, depending on your needs.
And now we pass it back to you.
How long are your posts?