Blogging is a critical element in any business’ SEO content strategy. Blog articles drive relevant traffic to your website, keep your content refreshed, and invite people to return to your website to read what’s new. A good blog article drives SEO because it’s engaging, informative, and educational.
Whether you are a seasoned blogger or a business owner looking to improve your SEO, the question of article length inevitably arises. Each year, as Google tweaks its algorithms, the recommended word count for SEO articles changes. Some SEO analysts say to keep blog posts short and sweet. Others say longer articles attract more readers and rank higher on search result pages.
To fuel the debate, Google’s John Mueller has stated that word count is not an SEO ranking factor. In 2021, he was interviewed by the Search Engine Journal. He said, “From our point of view, the number of words on a page is not a quality factor, not a ranking factor.”
So, what exactly is the sweet spot regarding blog post word count? For 2022, the number most often tossed around is 2,200. Sometimes there’s a range of 1,000-2,500. Where does this number come from, and is it a valid answer? Well, yes. And no. The truth is that many factors go into a quality SEO blog post, and word count plays a part. However, it’s not the ruling factor.
Let’s see where word count falls into SEO search results and the overall quality of a successful blog article.
The Research Behind the Magic Number
The ideal number for a blog post or SEO article is somewhat of a moving target, sliding up and down the number line each year. Decades back, the belief was to keep it short and sweet; 250 words would get the message across without crowding the page.
These days, the trend seems to have gone in the opposite direction. Long-form content is in, with companies posting long how-to guides and listicles to draw readers. The idea is that the more words, the more opportunities there are for keywords, backlinks, and other SEO content items to live within the articles. More SEO content, the higher the rankings, right? Somewhat perhaps.
Let’s break it down.
In 2020, ahrefs stated there was a slight correlation between longer word count (over 2,000 words) and organic traffic. Much of that had to do with the backlinks that those posts generated. Meaning, the more interesting the blog article, the more links appeared on other websites linking back to that article.
However, further analysis showed that this correlation dropped off after the 1,000-word mark and continued to drop for those articles reaching 2,000 words or more. Why? Because length alone doesn’t make engaging content. Those articles that featured clear and interesting information received more backlinks. It’s also theorized that most people quit reading the article after 1,000 words because it wasn’t organized or written well enough to keep their attention.
Author Viola Eva also discusses article length and SEO, recommending articles be around the 2,000-word mark. Like ahrefs, she asserts that the links and backlinks generated by a compelling piece earn higher rankings. A longer article would generate more backlinks – as long as it’s well-written and informative.
The optimal length for an article, then, depends more on satisfying the search intent and the quality of the content itself. Users typically have a narrow focus when it comes to searching. Knowing your audience’s search intent allows you to include the correct keywords in your content. Doing so without keyword stuffing or writing lower-quality filler content is key to improving your rankings. Users will find what they are looking for and then share the love by creating backlinks to your content.
How Word Length Varies with Blog Article Type
Article length also aligns with the type of article you’re writing. Naturally, an “ultimate guide” post will demand a much higher word count than a product review or simple how-to article. The structure and length of your article will also change depending on other logical factors like audience, outline structure, promotional goal, and purpose.
The following are common types of blog articles, factors to consider when drafting, and the recommended word count for each type.
Articles that Generate Leads
Unfortunately, there’s not enough analysis that correlates content with lead generation. We usually see data on posts generating the most traffic or ranking higher in searches. However, it’s more difficult to capture data showing which content generates the most viable leads or new contacts for a business.
Posts that generate higher traffic volumes reach a wider audience. While that’s good, it’s often because the article contains a broad topic that’s too generic to align with your business properly. Typically, these posts receive more traffic because a wider audience has searched for the topic, which indicates the topic may be too generic and doesn’t align closely with your business.
HubSpot reports that 2,500 words is the ideal length for a blog post to generate leads. It appears that a longer blog post is effective when your goal is to build contacts and generate sales leads. Longer content presents you as an authority on the subject, which should be closely aligned with your business (in order to avoid the problem mentioned above). In addition, a longer post means you’ve done more research and presented more in-depth ideas, further establishing your authority while capturing the readers’ interest. This may narrow your reading audience a bit compared to a generic post. Though, it will increase your rankings and the percentage of readers converting to leads.
Ultimate Guides (or Pillar Posts)
Ultimate guides are an “evergreen” post because they allow you to create an in-depth guide on a broad subject area within your niche. Guides often serve as the foundation post to a group of blog articles within the same category. This means you’ll link to those other articles in the pillar post, thus creating a hub of content for that topic. Because of this content structure, pillar posts generate lots of shares and all-important backlinks.
Naturally, the word count for ultimate guides is longer out of practicality. While there’s no exact word count, the topic is likely substantial enough that you can comfortably aim for about 4,000 words. Remember, this is not a prescribed amount. Just note that pillar posts are content-rich, so you don’t have to attempt to whittle the word count to match Google’s algorithm range of 2,200 or HubSpot’s recommended 2,500 words.
List blog posts, or listicles, are appealing to readers and easy to draft for bloggers. Your objective is to provide a list of examples, resources, tips and tricks, etc. Whether your focus is a collection of “best of” or “most common errors,” you can extend the length of your article by adding more examples. You can create a definitive and authoritative article without overstuffing your paragraphs by incorporating engaging images, explanations, and links to your example sources.
In fact, listicles easily align with a word count of up to 2,500 words. Though, you can accomplish a quality article with far less. Given that you’ll want a minimum of five examples (in most cases), your word count should be at least 1,000 words. From there, the total word count will be driven by the content and number of examples you wish to include.
How-To Blog Posts
Again, the word count for a how-to post will vary based on the complexity of the task you are explaining how to do. Some tasks are relatively short, such as updating contact information on a user account. More sophisticated mechanical or coding tasks are more complex and take more words to explain.
A how-to post should be written succinctly, without too much fluff or background. You only need enough of an introduction to identify the task, and off you go. Your instructions should be clear and easy to read, formatted with numbered lists, and supplemented with photos or video. Combining media with text makes for a quality post, albeit with a lower word count.
For most medium to complex tasks, the word count for how-to blog articles should be between 1,700 and 2,100. As the subject matter expert, you are in a position to adjust that length as necessary. If you find that your how-to is climbing too far past 2,000 words, consider whether you can split the post into two articles. Perhaps your topic is actually a group of tasks, such as maintaining your car, and you’ve included the oil change, changing the brake pads, and replacing spark plugs and wires. You may have the makings of three articles (fluid check, brakes, and tune-up) rather than one gigantic one. Again, you are the subject matter expert for your company and your niche. If it takes 4,000 words to step out a process, then post your article at 4,000 words.
What-Is Blog Posts
“What-is” blog posts answer a question. Typically, the answer is short and sweet, though there’s room to include context and examples (and sometimes non-examples) of the item, process, or concept you are defining. The result is an engaging, informative article of over 1,000 words.
The topic of what-is posts often isn’t complex enough to draw out into 2,200 words, although you could, depending on the topic’s complexity. For SEO’s sake, however, it’s not worth trying to stretch your article to that length. Most of the time, 1,300 to 1,700 words will do it.
When readers search for definitions, they want to find the answer quickly. A good what-is article will do that and then provide additional information on the topic that some readers will find informative and read the entire article. Either way, the user will search, find the desired information, and be satisfied. Whatever the final word count, it is vital to provide the answer without layering it in unnecessary detail.
Quality Over Quantity
Now we know word count doesn’t automatically influence website rankings. Then why create lengthy blog posts? It comes around to the adage “quality over quantity.” Although length alone doesn’t influence rankings, it does correlate with quality SEO content, which engages your audience, boosts your visibility, and increases brand awareness.
Longer blog articles allow for more relevant keywords and credible reference links to back up your authority. In addition, Google and the other search engines look for quality content that satisfies user search queries. Sometimes, a thorough, well-structured blog article takes more than 1,000 words to meet those criteria. We have determined that there’s no set word count for an SEO blog post. Though, there are quality factors that impact the length of the article.
Appeal to Your Target Audience
You know your audience, so be sure to respond to them with your topic selection and article type. Do you receive a better response to longer posts or shorter ones? Sometimes, shorter posts with an infographic are what your audience prefers.
If you haven’t yet fine-tuned your SEO strategy, consider hiring professionals to do that analysis. Searched and Found’s SEO services include audience analysis as well as content strategy. Once you know your audience’s demographics (gender, age, expectations, etc.), you can customize your SEO content.
Determine Your Article’s Purpose
Knowing your audience is the first step toward determining the specific purpose for your current blog article. Blog articles are often written to inform, educate, or entertain the audience. Establishing which of these is the focus of your article will steer the structure of the content. Maintaining that focus throughout the article will make the content more engaging.
Choose the Right Topic
Based on your audience analysis, you should choose topics that your readers will find engaging. Those topics have corresponding keywords that you’ll include within the body of the article. SEO tools like Google Keyword Planner are available to help you identify those keywords. From there, you can see what other articles are out there relating to your topic. Once you see which topics are drawing higher rankings, you’ll be able to model your article after those, modifying it as needed to address your audience’s preferences.
Create a Captivating Title
Feel free to be creative with your titles. While dropping in a keyword or two is wise, you don’t have to overstuff the title. A captivating title catches the reader’s eye on that search results page. It is your first opportunity to entice the reader to click your link first over the other nine or so search results on their screen.
Also, remember that the title should also be a succinct description of your article’s topic. The user is looking for something specific, so the title must match the content of your article. Your goal, after all, is to deliver the results indicated in that title.
In summary, word count plays a part in good SEO blog posts. However, it’s only a factor that works toward the larger goals of creating quality content and delivering user experience. There’s no mathematical formula for a longer blog post.
Instead, focus on conciseness and the other SEO qualities discussed above. Avoid wordiness and keyword stuffing. Just focus on providing your target audience with the information they need in a compelling manner that will increase your visibility.
If you’d like to fine-tune your SEO strategy further, please contact us for a free strategy session.