Forcing content to be longer or shorter than it naturally should be is counter-intuitive for both the audience and SEO. When a writer spends time watching the word count number in the content creation tools, they are writing towards a specific, arbitrary goal instead of creating the most valuable content in the fewest words possible. There’s a quote added to the film adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings” that Gandalf the Gray says that applies to this concept: “A wizard is never late…nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.” Quality content should not end before it has covered all the relevant concepts, nor should it go on past its welcome: the best way to approach writing an article is to make it as long as it needs to be, no shorter, no longer.
Finding the Ideal Length
According to a serpIQ study, longer blogs and articles tend to perform better than shorter counterparts in SEO rankings. This relationship does not mean longer is better, but it implies that longer content features more information and thus is more valuable to the audience. Longer articles tend to get shared more on social media and other sites are more likely to link to it. Orbit Media Studios argues that the ideal blog or article length for SEO-efficiency is around 1,500 words whereas Snap Agency argues that number is around 1,700 words. However, this doesn’t mean every blog should come in between 1,500 and 1,700 words, instead it’s actually better for overall site SEO to have a range of different content lengths. Search engines can use rigid content length criteria to filter out site from content farms and devalue it in search results.
Wider Range between Minimum and Maximum
Here’s a little secret from the content creation world: the word count for an article or blog does not necessarily correlate to how long it is going to take to write a project. Writers do not use words as a currency when drafting a project: instead they structure content around concepts and ideas. Sure, a 1,200 word article reliably takes longer to write than a 300 word one, but in many instances an 800 word article takes less time to write than a 500 word article. A good writer is going to give you the best they can regardless of the length of the piece.
Organizations that hire writers to do their content creation can tap in to this by providing wide ranges for article lengths when requesting work. Therefore, wider acceptable ranges like 500-800 words and 1000-1500 will give the writer more versatility and a better ability to create content that is as long as it should be. It’s common for a writer to take on a project that has a 400-500 word count, but will end up writing 600-700 words in the initial draft that they cut down in proofreading to fit within the range. You do not want the writer to spend a half hour trying to figure out which high-quality sections and sentences to remove to fit the article within a tight length goal. This situation creates more work for the writer and can generate lower-quality content, so it’s a lose-lose situation that can be avoided with wider target word counts.
On the flip side, allowing for a slightly shorter article or blog avoids situations where the writer is adding fluff, low-value content to reach a target word count that is beyond the scope of the prompt. On the writer’s side, productivity can be reduced to a crawl. Additionally, search engines are designed to read content like a human would, so the programs can recognize when a writer is forced to pad a blog or article with content that doesn’t add any value to the product. This can actually count against SEO ranks, even though the content is longer. The short of it is, the best length for content is the one that naturally fits it.
Dan S is a former news journalist turned web developer and freelance writer. He has a penchant for all things tech and believes the person using the machine is the most important element.