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I feel like there should be some kind of “it’s not the size of the ship” innuendo here, but it’s early and my green tea hasn’t kicked in yet. It’s also possible that my blood sugar is low because someone ate my entire box of Mediterranean spice-rubbed pita crackers after I left work yesterday. I’m looking at you, Ben Landers.
Office snack pirating isn’t the only thing Mr. Landers and I disagree on. When we amped up our blogging efforts last June, he wondered if the reason we weren’t getting as much initial traffic as he originally suspected was because some of the posts were on the shorter side.
Why Blog Post Length USED to Matter for SEO
When I first started at Blue Corona almost two years ago, keyword density was an important ranking factor. A blog post with just one mention of “butt implants” wouldn’t be deemed as relevant to a butt implant search query as one with 10 mentions of “butt implants.” (Sorry for the obscure example, but I have a new plastic surgery client and have, therefore, been researching and writing about butt implants all week.)
With longer blog posts, you had more opportunities to use your keyword and could, therefore, drive up your keyword density—increasing your chances of ranking in the search engines.
However, Google soon realized this made for poor user experience. According to the search engine,
“Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.” [source]
Does Blog Post Length Still Matter for SEO?
So now that keyword density isn’t a ranking factor (and can actually get you penalized), Google recommends you use a wide variety of keyword variations and synonyms. A process called Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) used by Google recognizes synonymous terms to deem a page relevant to a search query. So instead of repeating “butt implants” 10 times in a single blog post, you could also use terms like “butt augmentation,” “buttock lift,” and “Kim Kardashian.”
Does Google have an actual word count you should aim for? No. Nowhere in Google’s Quality Guidelines does it have a minimum word count for getting indexed. But our data as well as data from other reputable sources (like Moz and Quick Sprout) show that the highest ranking pages DO tend to have more content.
A Data-Driven Approach to Blog Post Length and Rankings
At Blue Corona, a majority of our online marketing clients are home service companies. So last year we used a piece of in-house built software to crawl, analyze, and score various websites based on all the measurable SEO ranking factors.
All in all, we’ve reviewed more than 9,000 HVAC/plumbing company websites and over 3,000 window and door websites. One of the things we found is that websites that rank well organically tend to have a lot of text-based content on each page of their website. The highest ranking HVAC and plumbing websites have, on average, nearly 900 words per page. Content appears to be even more important in the window and door industry. The highest ranking window and door sites had, on average, just north of 1,600 words per page.
Quick Sprout data supports our findings. According to Neil Patel,
“The average content length for a web page that ranks in the top 10 results for any keyword on Google has at least 2,000 words. The higher up you go on the search listings page, the more content each web page has.”
So now that we know that longer pages rank better, the question remains—do they convert better?
Conversions by Blog Post Length
Most companies aren’t blogging for the hell of it—they’re blogging to get more leads and sales from the Web. So if you spend all your time writing 2,000 word blog posts, are those blog posts going to convert?
There’s no definitive answer on this and it seems to vary by industry. According to the Quick Sprout,
“Copy doesn’t always boost conversions – for some web products or web pages, shorter copy may convert better. You just have to test things out. The reason it works well for Crazy Egg or NeilPatel.com is because we first surveyed potential customers and found out all of the objections they had with the services. We then wrote copy that answered each objection. In addition, we threw a ton of Google AdWords traffic to landing pages with different headline variations and call-to-action buttons to figure out what copy appealed to our customers.”
To compare, I looked at a sample of Blue Corona’s blog posts with the highest word count (from 2,522 to 3,397 words) and compared them to a sample of blog posts with the lowest word count (from 431 to 935 words). Despite one outlier 2,633 word count blog post which has driven more traffic and conversions than any page on our website, the most successful blog posts in terms of conversions and organic traffic were between 695 and 929 words.
See, Landers? Sometimes longer isn’t better.
(This is just a preliminary analysis of conversions by blog post length. Remind me to have someone on our analytics team look into blog post length and conversions more closely.)
Number of Backlinks by Blog Post Length
It’s possible that the reason pages with higher word count rank higher is because more in depth content is more likely to be linked to. And despite all the Google drama over backlink quality (having low quality backlinks is a great way to get penalized), the search engine says that backlinks still factor into how well your website ranks.
“Our dear Dr Pete wrote a post back at the end of 2011 about Moz’s most popular content, in which he saw that there was possibly a correlation between longer content and the number of links a post gained. I’ve always loved the longreads websites and longer pieces of writing and journalism, but is it true that longer pieces may attract more links than shorter pieces? Let’s let the data speak again.
“…if we visualize the links that these posts have gained, there seems to be a correlation between longer content and links.”
Data Driven Copywriting
When it comes to getting more leads and sales from the Web, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got Mark Twain doing your copywriting for you if his writing doesn’t help convert your website visitors into customers.
The great thing about online marketing is that everything can and should be tracked. It’s easy to tell which pages of your website are performing well and which ones are duds.
Want to test out new copy on your website? Hire Blue Corona’s copywriters. We’ve got plenty of experience getting our clients ranked in search engine results and as well as getting them more leads and sales from the Web.
About The Author: Blue Corona is a data-driven online marketing company with offices in Gaithersburg, MD and Charlotte, N.C.
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