How Important Is Word Count For SEO In 2021?
Back in 2019, Google’s John Mueller announced that word count alone is simply not enough to count as an SEO ranking factor, so why in 2021 do so many marketing sites still promote the narrative that longer is better when it comes to producing organically high ranking content?
The length of your copy should be determined by effectively answering the topic at hand, not simply be based upon an arbitrary number of characters that fail to factor in the complexity of your keyword and the knowledge required to create a highly relevant article.
In this article, we’ll help to dispel the myth of an ideal word count for SEO and explore why focusing on the context of your target keyword is easily the more essential factor in creating high-ranking content.
SEMrush’s SEO Writing Assistant Wants You To Keep To The Point
As part of our content creation process, we use SEMrush‘s SEO Writing Assistant which is an extension for Google Docs that audits the content you are writing as you write it and gives you a real-time score of your likelihood of ranking highly for your chosen term.
Aside from purely focusing on SEO ranking factors, the tool also takes into account consistent tone of voice, plagiarism, and overall legibility to ensure that your content ends up being an easily digestible read for your audience over simply being a keyword-stuffed combination of paragraphs that makes for tedious viewing.
One of the most interesting aspects of the tool is that it often warns us away from making the content longer than external pages that it has analyzed which are ranking for our target keywords.
The tool appears to take into account that the user is looking for relevant answers to their query, not simply the more expansive article on the supporting parent topic.
Choosing Relevance Over Word Count
If you are resorting to padding out content to the degree of losing relevance (which is a common experience for anyone who has visited a recipe website in the last five years), then you’ll likely turn away users that are simply looking for answers and not filler copy to be scrolled past and ignored.
Unfortunately, as SEO professionals we operate in a space in which competitors are often studied and replicated for their content strategy. Because of this, I don’t see the issue of overly bloated articles disappearing any time soon unless we push towards working with content writers with experience on the topic they are writing about or involving a degree of cross-team collaboration between your technical specialists and content marketers.
As our typical reader is technically adept (often working in development or cybersecurity), we are fully aware that any content published must suitably answer the topic in question so our primary objective is to educate and inform.
No matter how long the content may be, the main goals to be met ensure that the user is kept on the page, that they are engaged, and that they leave us better informed and aware of our brand. By meeting these requirements and strictly choosing to work with experienced collaborators we’ve had blogs ranking for key terms in a matter of days after publishing.
Context Is King
When it comes to explaining how our team approaches creating content to support technical subjects in detail, a higher word count is often preferred when it is dictated by the topic at hand and the reader’s intent not SEO, a lot of professional marketing resources advise the inverse of this approach.
For example, a blog post detailing the history of Java but failing to include any mention of James Gosling, Sun Microsystems, or object-oriented programming is going to raise questions on if the content is going into enough detail to be suitably relevant or needs revising and expanding upon prior to going live.
When it comes to writing landing pages, we often find that just writing unique content already gives us an advantage among competitors that fall foul of using duplicate copy and imagery across all of their landing pages that they are using purely for paid advertising activity only.
We hope this serves to clean up any misconceptions around the topic of word count for SEO, and overall focus on context, relevance, and the strength of knowledge of the author are going to contribute far more ranking potential than simply paying for a 2000 word article or padding out the content yourself with an irrelevant copy.
Eleanor Bennett is a digital marketing specialist at ELK based log management platform Logit.io. She writes on technology & marketing, with a special focus on informative pieces to help IT decision-makers consider tools and software to secure their operations and scale for business growth. Her research has previously been featured in the Financial Times, The Huffington Post & Dzone across a range of topics.