497…498…499…500 words! Time to hit publish. 500 isn’t the magic number for a top Google ranking, increased social shares, or KPI busting conversions. Let’s look into some statistics about word count and its correlation to your bottom line.
2416 Words: The Average Word Count of Top Ranked Searches
Go ahead, tell your writers that 500 words aren’t enough and you want them to crank out 2,000 word blog posts from now on. I’ll wait.
Longer articles are typically well-researched with plenty of data to back them up. They serve as credible sources to journalists and bloggers that link back to the article as a source. Rather than a quick summary with one statistic, a long article takes the time to explain why and flesh out ideas. The credibility of the website that publishes the article mixed with the link juice given from other sites referencing it brings the post to the top of search engines.
Speaking of quality content, Neil Patel did A/B testing on his site and found that his homepage with 1,292 words led to more leads – better leads – than a second webpage with only 488 words. Why? The content on his page answered questions that were commonly asked from customers. He was already solving their problems before they even bought his product! The word count wasn’t the deciding factor as much as what was actually being said.
40.54 Percent: The Amount Long Copy Outperformed Short Copy
In a study conducted by MarketingExperiments, long copy outperformed short copy throughout a series of three tests. In the first test, long copy beat out short copy by 40.54%, in the second test, long copy converted by 50% while short trailed, and both long and short converted equally in the third.
What can we learn from this data? These points, combined with Neil Patel’s results, prove that longer length provides better ROI when the content is relevant. Writers and web designers shouldn’t be afraid of content below the fold, they won’t lose their audience by making them scroll. If you have valuable information that is helpful to your readers – and customers – they’ll stick around, and your ROI will reflect it.
9 Seconds: The Attention Span of a Goldfish…and Your Average Reader
Every once in a while this myth bubbles to the top of the Internet with the help of copy fear-mongers. “A Goldfish!” they exclaim from their soap boxes. This statistic has been repeatedly shot down (take a look at your Google Analytics to find the actual time visitors are spending on your site) but the lesson remains with regards to word count. In all likelihood, your readers won’t remain captivated through all 2,000 words in your article.
Dallas Piana explained how readers view webpages in an F-shaped pattern: skimming the first paragraph, moving to the middle if something catches their eye, and then scrolling to the bottom. Both Piana and the team at Conversion Rate Experts gave suggestions for creating content that will keep visitors on your page. By incorporating different mediums (videos, graphs, pictures), laying out the content in an easy to follow way (with bullet points and sensible fonts), and continuously testing to see what works, bloggers and companies can extend the attention span all the way to the bottom – and into a conversion.
200 Words: What Google Labels Thin Content
Google’s Panda update punishes websites with thin content, or pages full of links or SEO writing. If your average article length is under 200 words, search engines will likely be more critical of the content, and the general rule of thumb is that articles of 300 words or more are less likely to put you at risk for infringing on “thin” content.
However, this is your online presence, not your 9th grade English essay. Bloggers that write just to hit a word count will get the same results as when you wrote a summary about Romeo and Juliet in summer school: a C+ grade at best.
Before the age of the Internet, writers advised to avoid using five words when one would suffice. That phrase rings true today. There’s a difference between short content and thin content. Thin content is chock full of keywords, low in quality and rehashed from other sites. Short content is original and concise and offers value to readers, not search engines.
Takeaway: Find Your Sweet Spot
What do these four statistics have in common? Even though they provide information for search engines and focus entirely on quantity, percentages and attention span, they all come to the same conclusion about quality. With the impending Penguin 2.0, there have been rumors of Google rewarding sites that focuses on writing high-quality content for the sake of the reader and for share-ability, and punishing content written purely for SEO.
Use these numbers as a starting point for writing articles, keep them in mid when you’re creating a ballpark estimate for length, but don’t keep an eye on word count when you write. If it takes you 4,000 words to fully convey your message, great. But if you can say everything you need to say in 400, even better.