How Long Should My Content Be To Get Top Search Engine Placement?

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As of writing this article, there have been mixed opinions as to how much content a page should have to get top search engine placement. Several articles have appeared that state a page should have a certain number of words to rank on the first page. These types of statements are usually based on a report from Backlinko that stated

The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.

This was a great article with tons of correlative data on first page SERP listings that were published in September of 2016. There are only two potential problems with this report. First, it was reported in regards to correlations and SERP listings over a broad spectrum. Second, the article is from two years ago. So, with the ever-changing search engines, what content length will give the best SEO bang to your website?

Don’t put all your eggs in the correlation basket

Let me first state that I am an absolute fan of aHrefs, Moz, and Backlinko (among many other useful tools and services). I eat up the studies that they release and am an avid reader of their blogs. One thing that gets under my skin is that correlative data becomes either widely misquoted or taken in as fact. Correlation should be one of many steps in researching SEO techniques to put in your bag of tricks.

So, does correlation equal causation in this case? There is no clear-cut answer to this. The best answer is: It depends.

I know, not the answer that you want to read. Let’s take a step back and really think this through and then you’ll see why I say this.

User Intent

Is someone who is looking for red shoes interested in or have the intent to read a 1,890-word product description or blog? Highly doubtful. They want pictures, a short description, probably bullet points to highlight the advantages of the products, social proof, and trust signals. That’s about it. Oh, and any coupon, offer, shipping info, etc.

Does a person who wants to find the best car accident attorney want to wade through your 1,890 words of unoriginal spun content because instead of delivering on the quality you’re more concerned with reaching that magical number?

Can you say “TL, DR” (too long, didn’t read).

Now, there are sometimes when details and delivering a good amount of info is appreciated and smiled upon. Blogs, product reviews pages, technical docs., and online publications would be a few that would fall into this category. Even touching back on the “car accident attorney” example. It could provide useful information if written properly.

Why would you want to optimize away from a user’s intent? Well, if it did get you that top placement then I could see why. But does it?

Whatever your industry is, go to google and do some searches for where people will most likely want to find you. Look at the top 20 results. Do they have over 1,800 words in the content of the page? Not the footer, header, or sidebar. Check the words in the content area. It’s doubtful that you’ll find it to be the case unless you’re dealing with a search intent to gather information. This would most likely affect long-tailed keywords the most and voice search.

This is why competitive SEO analysis is important. Part of that process will uncover the correlations within your industry. There’s that word again: correlation. This doesn’t mean that just because there is a correlation that it is a ranking factor. What it does mean is that a closer look and more analysis should be conducted.

Bottom line: Correlative data should be a step towards discovery and not the conclusion of your research.

Article age

A pet peeve of mine is the circulation of information without checking sources, including the age of the source. The article that is often quoted is about 2 years old. This is an Internet generation ago. Things change.

So, does the information in the article still hold true?

Reread the intent section. With information gathering intent, longer blogs and article do “generally” get a higher ranking. This could very easily be due to the longer article answering the user’s question better. This doesn’t mean that you need to write insanely long-winded blogs to rank. This means that you should answer the user’s question and then offer up more information as to why the answer is what it is.

Be better, not longer

Don’t strive to drain every word you can out of a blog. I would rather create a 700 word or 1,000 word article that answers a user’s question and brings them value than to find out I have a high time-on-page because users are falling asleep mid-read. If you keep the user’s intent in mind and go for quality over quantity then you will be doing the Internet a favor. In the long-run, search engines will smile upon you for it too.

How can I be better and longer?

Okay, so you want the best of both worlds? Who doesn’t! lol. Yes, this can be achieved and this is how:

Take a primary topic, answer the user’s intent, and explain the topic in further detail. Now, list out a few related topics and/or questions and do the same. Append those topics to the primary article. This way you can stay on topic, quickly fulfill the user’s intent, and offer up more useful information. Best of all is that you won’t be struggling to just chase some metric.



Matthew Post

Beginning his career as a website developer and SEO in the late 90s, Matthew Post takes a data-driven approach in SEO and CRO. In 2018, he co-founded SEM Dynamics to focus on his passion for assisting local businesses increase their reach.

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