[A Definitive Answer to How Many Words Google Requires for SEO Purposes]

Size matters — but only in certain things, like ice cream cones.

When it comes to word count, however, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. Simply put: Longer content, in and of itself, does not improve search engine results.

In fact, if your 5,000 word opus is mismanaged, you could well be penalized for keyword stuffing.

And if you write to whatever today’s ideal word count is supposed to be, you’ll be switching from 500 to 3,000 words all the time. As Google’s algorithm constantly changes, so too does the best practices advice from SEO experts. Over the past decade, word count recommendations have ranged from 500ish words for blog posts to 1,500+ for sourced and researched articles, with some current research showing 2,000 words as the new sweet spot.

Word Count Trends Over Time

As with everything in life, moderation is the best bet.

While extremely short blog posts can be highly successful, they’re not the norm. Seth Godin’s articles average less than 200 words, but he is a recognized marketing expert and influencer. Unlike most of us, his social media shares for those pithy pieces are in the hundreds of thousands.

It usually takes us mere mortals a bit longer to provide what Godin does in a handful of words: high quality, actionable information.

And even though Google does take note of the time readers spend on a webpage (which wouldn’t be long in Godin’s case), it also considers social shares and backlinks. Those incoming links are important in SEO terms because they give credibility to your website, especially if your site is linked to from an authority page (an influencer, or a .gov, .edu, etc.).

 

Quality First, then Write for the Web

So, instead of concentrating on word count, write quality content and implement standard web writing strategies faithfully. When you’re writing for the web, you can’t forget the basics if you want to create search engine optimized content.

  • Be smart with keywords. Research and then integrate long-tail and short-tail keywords into your copy. Make it natural and don’t worry about keywords density.
  • Craft those headlines, and format with sub-heads. Use keywords in both.
  • Break text with white space, bullet points, images including graphs. Even if your word count isn’t high, engaging content will keep readers on your page longer, which is taken into consideration by search engines.
  • Publish regularly. Unless you’re just starting out, regularly does not have to be often — monthly is fine.
  • Share content on social media, but also ask influencers to share with their followers.

 

Provide Value, Not Words

Keep an eye on your competitors. Check their backlinks: if they’ve got high quality inbound links and are being shared extensively, then do what they’re doing — only better. That may mean switching to longer articles; which is a change you can easily test to see if it’s making a difference.

You need to be honest here. If your switch to long form content is not making a difference, it may be that the problem runs deeper than word count.

The real bottom-line, though, is to provide true value by answering questions that your customers ask and solving pain points. Be generous with information that readers can take away and use immediately. Click To Tweet

When your mission is to help your customers, you’ll recognize what should be a secondary goal: becoming an accepted resource, the go-to expert in your field. And then you’ll be able to do a Godin-type blog post: succinct, useable and shared.