It’s time to bust this myth about word count in SEO wide open. I’ve been waiting years to get this off my chest, but if you already have years of experience in this field, you must stop relying solely on word counts to drive results. I’ve been at places where they went so overboard with data and arbitrary metrics like this, they missed the forest from the trees and it’s time to set the record straight! You must consider the big picture if you’re an SEO Manager at a company or agency.
Today, I’m going to expose this myth and tell you the truth on what actually matters for content creation today in 2023, 2024, and beyond!
Word Count Should Be Used as a Guide – Not the End All Be All!
When you’re new to the industry, yeah, I get it.
It’s a way to make sure you’re writing long enough to hit on all the key points you wanna make. But that’s all it should be used for! Yes, it also can help to look up the competitor’s average word counts as a baseline to give you an idea of what content you need to write.
But word count is subjective and depends on the user intent of the article you’re going for. If you’re doing a comparison guide, by all means, go nuts on the 1500-2000 words! I’ve written an FAQ guide here that goes beyond 2000 words and it’s about as helpful and informative as possible. You’re getting in-depth and answering tons of customer questions, as long as you keep your prose simple and concise!
But you don’t need to do the same if it’s a simpler article on things that can be explained clearly for much less. It’s all about playing it by ear. Jimmy Durante was that kind of musician who could adapt and be funny, but serious with many of his old songs. Be more like him when it comes to SEO and “ha cha cha cha” it! Find that lost chord, like in this funny song I come back to sometimes when I need a laugh!
Your Content Can Still Rank If You Have Strong Citations in Place
Sometimes, you can make up for lack of depth in your content if you already have good citations and backlinks on the site. Think about your industry and the kind of content your customers will have time to read. Keep in mind that you have TikTok, Bing Chat, and tons of developments in AI that will change the game completely.
I envision a future where a huge component of SEO will involve providing more concise answers to user questions. There may be more emphasis on FAQ content and featured snippets moving forward. The sky’s the limit to where things can go.
The Harsh Truth: Some Longform Content Doesn’t Rank At All
Another thing: I’ve seen super long bits of content not rank at all. Maybe Google crawled through it, but ultimately, they are deciding whether it’s worth pushing high enough to your audience. If your content is too long, it’s time to trim the fat and resubmit your post. No one wants to read 4000-word articles unless maybe they’re doing PHD level research or something.
Don’t spend all your time trying to write mega-long articles. Even people like Brian Dean moved away from that strategy and found that it was better to write listicles instead with lots of important facts and stats. It seems to be working for him, and I’d encourage people to go more in that direction.
Add new data to what’s already out there, and Google might like your content well enough to rank it better. That’s another thing I picked up from SEO professionals who have adapted their techniques to the current year.
Find the Middle Ground: Be Informative While Getting to the Point!
This was a lesson I had to learn too when I was starting out.
People liked my writing but always told me to keep it more concise. I’m glad I listened to them. This is a communication skill you pick up as you work with more people in this space.
If you’re droning on and on, people aren’t going to care. It’s common sense that I see sorely lacking in this field for whatever reason. SEO is part art, part science, and data, so it frustrates me when professionals cling to outdated ideas and techniques. Don’t take my word for it. Someone beat me to the punch over at Search Engine Land with many of these points.
Even so, I have my angle on this topic and wanted to share it regardless.
What Should You Do Instead?
Look at content and SEO on a case-by-case basis. It’s not just about making your articles longer. Think about looking for unique angles that haven’t been discussed before in other pieces you see.
Add your unique spin and takes on ideas and don’t be afraid to innovate and break the mold.
Other SEOs in this space have similar sentiments to mine, arguing that even shorter AI-generated content that’s clear and easy to read would rank better than a long, convoluted mess of an article.
Focus more on delivering a great website experience for your customers, and all the benefits of SEO will come with it. That’s been my personal experience over the years.
Key Takeaways to Remember
1. Word count is only a guide to help you understand how much to write.
2. How much to write depends on the user intent you’re going after.
3. Think about other factors like fast page speeds, an easily accessible site, and clearly organized pages in addition to SEO and content creation.
4. Always run your content through tools like Grammarly to keep it as readable as possible. I used Grammarly all the time in my earlier jobs, but didn’t have it for a while, so I was using Microsoft Editor, and it’s nowhere near as good in my opinion.
5. There are no hard and fast rules in SEO, just following best practices and then getting creative with the process.
6. Try experimenting with more images and video content when warranted.
I hope this has cleared up many misconceptions about word count in search engine optimization. It’s not that it’s a bad metric to focus on, but the overreliance on it to make data-driven SEO decisions. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful day!