A hotly debated topic in digital marketing is content length and its role in search engine performance. Search engine optimization (SEO) experts argue that longer content is better because the higher the content length is, the higher the potential position on the search engine results page.
However, word count is not a primary factor in Google’s ranking system. Therefore, it is possible for shorter content to grab those coveted top spots. Short-form content still offers valuable information depending on the user’s search intent.
This article will dive into content length, ranking, long-form content versus short-form content, and what this all means for your content creation.
Correlation between content length and ranking
Many different factors play a role in determining a website’s rank on the search engine results page and no one knows the exact combination of factors that Google considers.
You may not know whether the users who come to your website only have time for a quick answer or if they can stay awhile. But, by looking at their search terms, clicks, the length of the session, and conversions, we can get a feel for the type of content they enjoy and whether they prefer shorter or longer content.
Short-form content is typically less than 1,000 words while long-form content is considered to be more than 1,000 words. Short-form content is quick and easy to read. It covers a specific topic without going into too much detail. On the other hand, long-form content covers a topic in great depth.
Google consistently shows its users longer content. Let’s discuss the reason why behind this and what it means for your own content creation.
Facts about long-form content
There is not a definitive word count for content when it comes to ranking well on the SERP. It seems that content length depends on the topic as well as the medium in which it is presented. However, there are some conclusions we can make regarding content length and search results.
Websites that rank higher tend to have longer content
As previously mentioned, a higher word count doesn’t automatically equal a higher ranking. However, content length does have a correlation with domain authority, website performance, and backlinks. Higher-ranking websites have content that consistently ranges between 2,000 and 2,500 words. Long-form content exhibits topical authority that allows it to qualify for the top spots in the SERP.
You are more likely to earn backlinks with longer content
Lengthier content tends to earn more backlinks. Long content discusses a topic in depth. Therefore, other webmasters and online writers often want to link back to that content to support their argument, interests, or ideas. More importantly, backlinks are one of the primary ranking factors that Google uses to determine search results.
You can establish thought leadership with longer content
Thought leadership is the process of establishing a business, brand, or person as an expert within a certain field. If you want to gain the status of a thought leader, you have to create content that teaches your audience about a specific industry.
Longer copy gives your readers the impression that you are a credible source with expertise and knowledge on a certain topic. Some examples of content that promotes thought leadership are blog posts, ebooks, guides, and regularly sent email newsletters.
The combination of longer content and thought leadership leads to conversions. Users are more like to purchase your product or service when they feel your website is an authority on that particular produce or service. Lengthy content projects the authoritative image needed to boost conversion rates.
People stay engaged with longer content
People are more likely to engage with and share longer content. Content length of 1,000 words or more consistently averages higher shares on social media. Social media websites are meant for browsing. People are taking their time with the content. Longer content gets shared on social media more often because those webmasters are linking back to authoritative content and social media users want their shares to be valuable and useful to their followers.
Facts about short-form content
In spite of its credibility and powerful keywords, longer content isn’t appropriate for every time and place. Depending on the user’s search intent, shorter copy can still rank well when it provides the valuable information that the person seeks.
Given that it is much more challenging for short content to be optimized for search engines, the short content must be unique and extremely valuable to users if it is going to rank well. Some examples of short-form content are social media content, listicles, and infographics.
Here is what we know about short content and search results.
Websites with higher authority can successfully use a shorter content length
Websites that have a high domain authority can usually cruise off their past history of topical authority, backlinks, and keywords. If a website continuously creates authoritative long-form content, they carry those past credentials with every new type of content they create—even if it’s short.
Google’s Featured Snippets are prime examples of short content
Featured Snippets are special boxes where the format of a regular search result is reversed. In a Featured Snippet, the descriptive snippet is displayed first. Google uses these snippets to highlight answers to users’ specific questions. This way, users can get the information they need without having to click through search results.
Other ways Google provides users with short-form content
Google has other ways to provide users with short, easy-to-find answers to their most burning questions.
- Rich Answers are factual answers located directly on the top of the SERP.
- Knowledge Graphs provide information from a variety of sources in infobox format.
- Rich Snippets are search results that include additional data such as ratings, prices, or ingredients.
All of these methods prevent searchers from actually having to leave Google’s URL. They give users the answers they need at the moment they need them. So, in terms of your own content creation, it may be best to prioritize longer content and let Google handle the short stuff on its own.
Best practices for SEO and content length
If you want your content to be successful no matter what the length, you need to implement some best practices into your content creation process.
You have to be strategic with the keywords you incorporate into your content and the target keywords that you strive to rank for. If you’re going to take the time to produce in-depth content for your website, you want to make sure that it has a strong chance of ranking high in the SERP.
Keyword research helps you learn how competitive certain keywords are. If your content includes keywords that you’re more likely to rank for, all of the effort you put into creating the long-form content will pay off once it’s published.
Topical authority is how well and in-depth your website covers a particular niche. It plays an important role in Google’s ranking algorithm. Google is more likely to believe that your website is an authority in your field if you have several long articles and blog posts with multiple headers and keywords.
Here is an example of why word count isn’t the be-all-end-all. Think of it this way, if you can’t really write a 2,000-word article every week, you could try to write a 1,000-word post every week that covers a variety of topics that relate to your focus keywords. As Google indexes all of these posts, it will begin to see the website as being valuable and relevant to its niche.
Content length plays a role when it comes to earning quality backlinks. Long-form content typically generates more backlinks than short-form content does.
But it’s not just the word count that matters here. Don’t just stuff keywords in your article or fluff up your content just to hit a certain number of words. Instead, analyze what you’ve written. Make sure it is well-structured, well-composed, and worthy of getting backlinks.
Readability is vital to your users and to search engines. Valuable content has catchy headlines and an easy-to-read structure. Include photos, videos, and infographics as well to make your content more appealing to readers. This will increase your opportunity for getting high-quality backlinks.
So which content length is better?
The short answer is: it depends. Both short-form and long-form content have their place on the internet. In the end, quality content matters most. As long as you’ve satisfied the needs of your target audience and the needs of the search engine, your content length can vary and you’ll still be successful.
Do you need quality content that is search engine optimized? SEO Design Chicago offers creative content with focused keywords that will help your content rank higher. Check us out today!
- Why is long-form content beneficial?
- What are some examples of long-form content?
- What are some examples of short-form content?
- Why is SEO important for content creation?
- How do you make your content more readable?