'Inbound & Down'
Question of the Day

Published December 16, 2019

How long should your content be for SEO?

  1. At least 500 words.
  2. As long as possible.
  3. As long as the top results in Google.

The Answer is C.

While it's somewhat trendy to say “longer content performs better," this approach isn’t always advisable; in fact, it may ultimately hurt your efforts to rank.

Instead, take the time to analyze current search results, where the answer to your content length queries lie right before your eyes. 

Examining the search engine results pages (SERPs) is a crucial step to the process, as doing so will provide added insight into the proper length for a specific topic or keyword.

Not all subjects require the same level of comprehensiveness. For example, if someone asks what color grass is, the correct answer is quite simple: green. If you were to expand upon this response and compose 2000 words on the topic, you’d likely bore your audience to tears—if they even made it to the end of your monologue. 

On the other hand, if the question centers around the molecular structure of grass, or how it can be modified to create a denser root structure better equipped to fight weeds, a much lengthier, more in-depth answer would be required. 

These two examples perfectly illustrate the issue with having a singular mentality regarding content length. Skyscraper content—a type of blog meant to "tower" over the current search engine results in terms of quality and comprehensiveness—is  great; however, merely adding words can actually decrease user enjoyment, and hurt your search engine optimization performance over time. 

The engineers behind modern search engines—including Google—know that diverse topics require equally diverse answers. To accommodate this, they’ve built algorithms to match up content to the appropriate answer length, while always testing for an improved response. 

If a specific type of content always receives the most clicks, activity, or time on page, these are key indications to Google that it’s a quality result. Over time, provided enough diversity of content, Google’s algorithms will systematically narrow in on the best answers, only serving those that match a similar profile. 

Of course, some search queries don’t yet have enough answers to formulate an ideal length; but, if the SERPs demonstrate a pattern of displaying a specific type of content, it’s a best practice to emulate what’s there. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t test out new formats or lengths—just don’t go all out right away. Instead, make an effort to regularly perform moderate tests—say, increasing word count by 100 to 300 words for example—and then assess the subsequent results. 

Google may be displaying specific results for a particular search because they’ve been deemed the best currently available; but if the top articles ultimately provide users with a subpar experience, there's ample opportunity to demonstrate superiority with higher quality content. 

Keep in mind, crafting comprehensive content can encapsulate a wide range of elements, and may involve the inclusion of a podcast excerpt, a video clip, or perhaps a helpful organizational tool like a table of contents. Each of these added features can contribute to the overall quality, and will likely result in increased traction—and higher engagement—over the long-term. 

So, as you’re pondering the correct length for your piece, remember: always look at the SERPs. The ideal content length is visible in the currently-ranking pieces, but don’t be afraid to experiment a bit in an effort to improve your performance over time.

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