The Long and the Short of It: Does Longer Content Rank Better on Google?

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As business owners, we look for ways to have our content rank higher on Google as one method of driving more potential business to our websites. When we hire blog content writers to create excellent content for us, we should be able to give our writers parameters for creating the content we need. Google has already indicated through filter and algorithm changes that spun and spam content is bad. Quality content is being rewarded, but what defines quality content? How long does an article or blog post need to be in order to be ranked highly on Google and give us an edge over our competitors?

How Google Ranks in 2014

As many SEO questions go, this one does not have a definitive answer. Google has signaled that certain factors will help promote content. A study by Searchmetrics in 2013 showed a list of factors that influence ranking. The top five factors are:

  1. Google+
  2. Facebook shares, likes, and interactions
  3. Number of backlinks
  4. Pinterest
  5. Tweets

However, this data does not tell the entire story.

Quality Content

It is clear that Google is looking for high-quality content over mediocre content. As with many quality issues, part of the answer as to the length of a blog post comes down to how long it takes to comprehensively discuss the topic. As Darren Rowse posted in 2006, a blog post needs to include enough content to cover the topic and then stop. This advice is still valid. While a long post is needed for some subjects, it is not needed to answer a simple question.

What Do the Statistics Say?

Although advice from SEO gurus varies, let’s take a look at some actual statistics. Data published by SerpIQ is enlightening. In observation of content length over a period of time, SerpIQ found the following:

  • There is a drop in content length over the first ten positions in Google rank. On average, tenth position pages have 400 less words on the page than first position pages.
  • Older domains that rank have longer content per page. Newer domains that rank have less content per page.
  • 55 percent of pages ranking in the top three positions were over 10 years old.
  • Pages ranking for highly-competitive keywords are doing so through backlinks, social signals and other reasons, not length of content.
  • A fully-developed site with a lot of high-quality content is favored by Google.

From their research, SerpIQ recommends that content pages average 1500 words, but that not all content is equal and that focusing on branding, quality link-building, and social engagement will pay off more in the long run, especially if you are targeting highly-competitive terms.

So Where Does That Leave Us?

It is obvious that not all content pages can be 1500 words. Additionally, studies have shown that visitors to a site read about 20 to 28 percent of any post. However, one thing to consider about longer posts is that they provide more meat for the Google spiders to consume as they crawl across the page. While the page may not rank in the top five for every keyword, it will appear in the rankings for a larger range of keywords included in the content. And that, in itself, may be the best reason for longer posts.

Paula A is the owner of an online gallery, freelance writer specializing in marketing and business, and is an avid promoter of Cleveland, Ohio.


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