For years, various people in the SEO industry have debated whether word count actually plays a factor in improving your web rankings. What started as a guideline of 250 words has now escalated to as high as 2,000. But is there any truth to word count impacting rankings?
Let’s examine this question and take a look at some real-life cases to see whether this SEO topic is fact or fiction.
To Start, Here Is What Experts Are Saying
Google’s own Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, recently addressed word count in this tweet:
Having the same word-count as a top-ranking article isn’t going to make your pages rank first, just like having a bunch of USB chargers isn’t going to get you to the moon. But, I’m still tempted to buy some of those USB chargers…https://t.co/TIuJHwHufn
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) February 8, 2020
And while he isn’t the clearest in his point, Search Engine Journal gave a solid interpretation of this tweet, saying “…reaching a certain word count will not help a page rank better. But there is a nuance to word count that is commonly overlooked.”
Along with this, we have 92% of SEOs surveyed agreeing that higher quality content is more important that the quantity of words on the page.
Which content is likely to rank higher?
— Bill Slawski ⚓ (@bill_slawski) April 30, 2020
The debate of quality over quantity is something Google has hinted at for a while, as they continue to push E-A-T (expertise, authority, and trustworthiness).
With this in mind, let’s dig into some real-life data:
Case Study #1: Dog Groomers in Chicago
I decided to choose a random service in a random city to evaluate some search results and what types of content were ranking.
When you search “dog grooming Chicago,” you are presented with the following:
Let’s break this down. First off, we have a local three-pack showing what we can assume are featured listings based off the location indicators in my search and what Google classifies as “Chicago.”
Then, we get an assortment of listicles and news articles from high-authority sites (Yelp, Expertise, Thumbtack, and NBC Chicago) mixed in with regular, business-serving results.
Here are the other websites and the word counts on their pages that have been listed, not counting menu, header, and footer content:
- Position #3: Temple of the Dog & Meow Lounge – 95 words
- Position #5: Tucker Pups – 1,000 words
- Position #6: DogOneFun – 792 words
- Position #8: Ravenswoof – 205 words
- Position #9: Urban Canine – 250 words
- Position #10: City Pets Chicago – 254 words
Right off the bat, you can see that most of these results do not present high word counts, outside of positions 5 and 6. But before we diagnose why this may be, let’s take a stab at a different type of search.
Case Study #2: Dog Grooming Tips
I wanted to look into a topic that presented blog content results on a national scale, instead of local business home and service pages. So here are the results for “dog grooming tips”:
Here we have a much different results page, as we have a featured snippet up top, an organic listing, a “people also ask box,” another organic listing, some featured videos, and then, finally, the rest of the organic results.
Just as we had with the last query, we once again see some high authority websites, these now being animal-related .orgs. I am going to leave these out due to the thousands of backlinks these domains have so we can see how smaller sites stack up compared to each other:
- Position #1: Holiday Barn (the featured snippet) – 1,047 words
- Position #2: Dogviously – 2,108 words
- Position #10: Central California SPCA – 1,067 words
(Note: Caesar’s Way actually had two organic listings, positions 8 and 9, that were both 404s!)
Notably, these results were quite varied. While we have higher word counts present, there is also more competition against authoritative sites and special search results features like question boxes and video.
We have some very different results when examining a query that is deemed to have more of an informational intent, as opposed to a service or “buying mode” search.
As you could see with the dog grooming tips search, the websites that were not .org sites all had over 1,000 words on the page, and were in the top 10 for results. And according to Google’s keyword planner tool, the term “dog grooming tips” has 1,900 monthly searches on average and low competition, just for the record.
However, going back to our first case study, we saw a more varied word count in the results, but all were 1,000 words or less, with the #3 position being only 95 words! It’s safe to say that both proximity and search intent were both top factors for this search in comparison to grooming tips.
In short, while you can see that a lot of the top results for certain queries do correlate with high rankings, it isn’t concrete evidence to say that the two go hand in hand. However, as John Mueller hinted at in his tweet, it’s not to say it’s done without reason.
Other Reasons to Strive for Higher Word Counts in Content
Outside of just having a number that can correlate to your positions on search engine results pages, there are other upsides to wanting to having more copy on your pages:
- Shows users you are knowledgeable and an expert on the topic
- Expands your sales pitch on why they should choose your product or service
- Gives more opportunity for users to find the answer they were looking for
- Shows effort, dedication, and thought were put into the content
- More opportunity for interlinking your own content
So while we can’t promise you that having a 2,000-word page will have you ranking #1 on Google, there are more benefits than just SEO to providing quality, lengthy content on your website.
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