August 10, 2021

Should You Worry About Post Length? Word Count in SEO

Businesses today are competing in a world where attention is a scarce resource. Companies have to stand out to people who have a wealth of options. For example, Google provides dozens of choices for everything, from entertainment to healthcare. So, people can swap a dissatisfying choice for a better one.

Given that markets get saturated early today, it is important to find loyal customers. Brand loyalists bring steady business. Even if you have similar services as five other stores nearby, brand loyalty will make you their go-to. Local search engine optimization also helps, and one way to secure a local niche is by finding related keywords and putting out great articles. It's not enough to produce good articles, though; you have to know how to hold people's attention.

Why SEOs Think About Post Length

These days, business owners have two main challenges in capturing their audience's attention. First, they have to make content that stands out. Second, they have to present it in a way that keeps people hooked until the last sentence. Write a short article and readers will want more; write a long one and they'll get distracted.

According to digital marketers articles should be 300 words long, at the very least. Anything shorter should be a status update on social media. It is because people who search for articles or posts look for informative content. As such, long-form articles that answer many related questions serve them best. For instance, longer content tends to get more backlinks. Ahrefs' study of 900 million pages saw a correlation between length and backlinks.

The longer the post, the more backlinks it acquired. This holds true up to a certain point, though, but not more than that. The company reports that after 1,000 words, the number of unique backlinks starts to decrease. Other studies have different conclusions for the optimal blog post length. The consensus, though, is that 'thin' articles that do not cover much content will not help a website rank.

Do not think, though, that focusing on word count will help you create posts that serve your audience. After all, word count is not a ranking factor, as Google Trends Analyst John Mueller has said himself.

Should You Focus On Short-Form Content?

When writing for your website, you can choose to write either long- or short-form content. Either one can serve your content strategy, but you need to know the benefits and drawbacks of each. Short articles, for instance, are great for urgent communication. These are best for when you don't want to keep your audience for long but need to convey a vital message. Also, short updates place fewer demands on your resources. You will have a quicker turnaround on them, and they're also easier to adapt for mobile.

That said, short-form is not the best option all the time. It limits the writer to a topical treatment of the subject, and it does not leave room for nuance. Analyses and breakdowns are not possible within 300 words or less. It is also easy to fall into patterns when writing short articles. If you rely on sustained audience interest for your business, this type of article might not be for you. Short-form content focuses on urgent matters, so it is likely to lose its relevance faster.

Should You Write Long-Form Content Instead?

 Many marketers talk about the benefits of writing long-form content. They often center content strategies on these since these tend to rank better in search. Since they cover more ground, they include more keywords as well. Aside from more keywords and better rankings, longer articles mean better conversion rates. People pay more attention to a long article, so you can provide good evidence for claims. As such, people will see you as a reliable source of information in your field, and you will be top of mind for queries.

But these benefits do not come without costs. For one, it takes time to produce a good long-form article. The longer a post is, the more you have to pay attention to the relationship of the ideas. You must also consider how they flow. What's more, long articles often need more data, which means more investment on the owner's part. If you want to present high-quality articles to your audience, you need to put in the effort and money needed for it. 

Finally, long-form content can be tricky to display on mobile devices. If a viewer is reading on their mobile phone, the text will be far smaller, and they will need to scroll more to get to the end. Marketers must make it so compelling that the limitations of mobile become irrelevant.

What To Focus On Instead of Article Length

It could be more helpful to think of reading time instead of word count. Since more people read posts on their phones today, this is a better way of measuring attention span. A study on publishing platform Medium says it's good to aim for a reading time of about seven minutes. In the writer's experience, visitors are likely to finish longer articles. That is, they stay longer on the page, instead of clicking away soon after loading.

from 'The Optimal Post is 7 Minutes' by Mike Sall, Data Lab

Their data concludes that the average total seconds spent peaks at seven minutes. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, though. You can have an article that takes around four minutes to read and still make it relevant to your audience. If you write about compelling things few people have pursued in the past, you will earn readers. People will want to read your unique thoughts even if your posts fall below seven minutes.

 Generate ideas for posts by relating 'high-level' ideas or the big picture of your industry. For example, you can look at consumer trends from recent years and analyze what they have in common. Understanding what is driving these has various benefits for you. First, it helps you figure out your audience, find related keywords, and serve your customers better. It also gives you a lot to write; you can even have a series analyzing these developments.

 Finally, making your articles readable despite their length will help. Keep the language accessible and remove technical terms or jargon. When writing a business blog, your primary audience is your clients, not colleagues. Thus, they need more background information and a simpler approach. They would also appreciate it if you divide your post into sections.

In Conclusion

 As a business, your goal is to convert readers into customers. Doing this involves positioning yourself as a trusted source in your industry. Writing long articles helps, but the word count is not the best indicator of relevance. Beyond thinking of how long a post would be, you should think of whether it provides value to your target market.

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