Communicating Your Message vs. Sticking to an Ideal Word Count
Where do you draw the line between concisely communicating your message while also sticking to SEO best practices?
In general, it’s always better to say what you need to say in fewer words than more even if your writing’s on the prosaic side instead of copywriting: “The toad hopped to the tree” gets the point across in six words while “The large brown amphibian made short repeated leaps to the mossy oak” is double the words without telling the reader anything new or important. Of course, context matters since the color of the toad or type of tree would be important if this is an article for a nature magazine! But if your chief audience is people looking for an answer on Google or browsing your company’s website for a solution to a problem, “less is more” is the preferable approach in most cases.
What is the Ideal Word Count?
In the fight for staying abrupt while catching the reader’s attention, the question that always comes up is “What’s the ideal word count for content?” And it always results in that answer everyone hates: “It depends!”
Search Engine Journal found that most first-page results on Google averaged about 1,900 words. That can be a frightening prospect for site owners and writers alike if the point can be communicated in 200 words. With attention being the hottest currency there is, the 500-700 word “sweet spot” that was commonly taken as gospel has been dispelled in recent years. However, it ultimately depends on how your specific audience reacts, the devices they use, and where traction is coming from. A B2B technology company is more likely to see traction with 4,000-word whitepapers read on desktop computers, while a fashion brand would get the most engagement from visual content on Instagram with posts under 200 words.
If long-form content resonates more with your audience than short-form, don’t get too hung up on sticking to a specific word count. Longer word counts equating to better performance is more indicative of the quality of information being conveyed rather than quantity. If your writer is getting the job done in 800 words, don’t push them towards 1,500 just to rehash the same pain points about semiconductors.
With that said, don’t be afraid to experiment with different word counts to see what produces results!
Focus on Intent
At this year’s Content Marketing Conference, keynote speaker Ron Tite dove into how the line between content and advertising has totally blurred.
Think of those two concepts as windshield wipers on a rainy day. Content and advertising are separate, but they’re essentially accomplishing the same thing: drawing people into your brand the way those wipers are pushing the rain away. What’s your intent? With the wipers, it’s a clear windshield you can actually see through to safely reach your destination. Content and advertising may have the same end goals, but slightly different intent. Rather that focusing on that destination like when you’re driving through rain, focus on the intent to keep SEO-friendly word counts balanced with keeping content brief and digestible.
Is that blog post meant to discuss a specific problem and product that addresses it? To get people to sign up for a mailing list or contact a representative? What’s in the body of the text that will not only get your point across, but also compel the reader to do these things? Telling the writer to include CTA alone isn’t the only piece of the puzzle, why would the reader find signing up for the email list to be a bigger draw than checking out a product listing?
At the end of the day, you can’t control how your website’s visitors behave. But in trying to keep content brief yet lengthy enough to get that top-notch search engine placement, remember to place intent above all else followed by what best resonates with your audience. Getting those top Google results doesn’t matter as much as it used to! If your audience is taking more of the desired actions you’re aiming for with 400-word posts, don’t sweat the 1,900-word statistic.
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Rachel P is an indie game developer, writer, and consultant. She is also a content strategist here at Writer Access and would be happy to help you with keyword maps, customer journey maps, and buyer personas in addition to writing for you. If you would to like to hire Rachel to devise a content strategy for you, please contact your account manager or send a direct message.