Does Word Count Matter? Prepare to Read (and possibly learn?)

21 replies
Lately, I’ve been seeing several threads pop up wondering why traffic has decreased in the WF. In one such thread, my response included, “too many takers and not enough givers”. Meaning, very few Warriors give away trade "secrets" like they used to.

Then I realized that I have a wealth of knowledge in certain areas that I haven’t shared. Am I part of the problem? I’d rather be the solution.

So, in order to rectify this, I’ve decided to offer some much additional value (hopefully) to this forum as recompense for all that I’ve learned lurking over the years.

I’d like to cover blog word count and how it may influence the amount of traffic a site receives. Obviously, this will differ depending on the particular niche, but one thing is abundantly clear; people prefer content that is entertaining and full of info. Longer blog posts tend to deliver while shorter posts leave readers less than satisfied.

As a content provider, I often get requests for 500-700 word blog posts (some even as low as 300). Why? What thoughts can you possibly convey in such a short amount of writing?

I dare you to look at your favorite blog (whatever niche it may be in). Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

I guarantee that you will not find a post under 1,000 words. We’ll even take it a step further. Plug the url of your favorite blog into Buzzsumo to see the most popular posts via social signals (I love this app).

Take a look at the most popular posts over the last 6 months and copy / paste the content into a Word Doc. Now, I have no idea what your favorite blog is or what niche it is in, but I can all but promise that the most popular post is 1,200 words or more.

Popular marketers like Pat Flynn, Mathew Woordward, Neil Patel, (insert anyone else) have all made their name from content.

Based on Pat Flynn’s income reports (which he posts monthly), the majority of his income comes from affiliate referrals from links located throughout his content. Obviously, people come to his site for the content. They’re actively reading it and purchasing through his affiliate links.

Mathew Woodward creates some of the most in depth free guides you’ll find. In the post that outlines his journey to becoming a Top 100 Blog, he explicitly states that his popularity skyrocketed dramatically after creating guest posts for sites like Search Engine Journal and other influential blogs. Oh yeah, his posts are always over 1,400 words in length.

Believe it or not, there is a direct correlation between the length of a post and the overall rankings within the SERP’s and the amount of links that point to that piece. Don’t believe me?

The two graphs below were originally posted by Moz, but guys like Neil Patel and Brian Dean have also featured them on their sites.



Moz analyzed all of the content on their site to find out whether there was a relationship between the overall length of their posts and the amount of backlinks they received. The graph shows the amount of posts vs the amount of content. As you can see, Moz creates some insanely long posts (one apparently is 35k!).

Now take a look at the graph below. It shows the amount of links that point to those posts in graph 1. Notice any similarities? There’s clearly a trend between the amount of backlinks posts receive and the overall length of the post





So what does all of this mean? People are more likely to read, share, and link to longer, comprehensive blog posts. This is not only how you establish yourself as an authority amongst your audience, but it’s also favorable to Google as well.

Quick experiment:

Google ANY relevant keyword phrase in your niche. I’d be willing to bet my weight in gold that the majority of the pages returned in the top 10 are longer than 1.000 words in length. This isn’t always true, but from my experience of having done a ridiculous amount of research on countless topics for clients, I can confidently say that it probably is not a fluke.

Longer, more in depth posts do extremely well. This doesn’t mean that you should take a topic and drag it out. You’ll need to find your sweet spot that allows you to provide the valuable information your audience desires without going overboard. I want to make it crystal clear that word count alone will not help your business grow. More importantly is the substance, style, frequency format, purpose, audience, and medium you choose. Without these, the words you write will not resonate.

What do you guys think? What niche do you operate in and what seems to be your word count “sweet spot”?
#count #learn #matter #possibly #prepare #read #word
  • Profile picture of the author danieldesai
    I've always said that content in general (not just written text) should only be as long as it needs to be.

    The thing is, that often means that the content can easily total to thousands of words if you're trying to provide in-depth information.

    Short content can still work well if you do it right but Google usually favors longer, in-depth content because this is exactly the kind that most often satisfies user experience.

    By and large, in-depth and authoritative content outperforms everything else - and there are lots of real world content marketing examples to back this up.

    Regards,
    Daniel
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10637790].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Write Now
    Thanks Daniel. That's exactly what I believe as well. I don't think there's anything magical about longer content, it allows bloggers to convey their message more clearly...usually.

    I know there are certain niches that prefer shorter content. For instance, tech bloggers often tend to keep material short and concise. That may be because their audience is more analytical? Who knows.

    Do you have a certain "sweet spot" that works in your niche?
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10637794].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author danieldesai
      Originally Posted by Write Now View Post

      Do you have a certain "sweet spot" that works in your niche?
      I do mostly videos, so I keep my content to 2 to 4 minutes in length on average.

      What's interesting is that I find shorter videos do better (at least for me) - I strongly suspect it's because more viewers watch the entirety of a video if it's short, and that tells YouTube that viewers are engaged with my content.

      As for all the blogs I follow, their content is at least a few thousands words per post.

      Daniel
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10637809].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author Write Now
        Originally Posted by danieldesai View Post

        I do mostly videos, so I keep my content to 2 to 4 minutes in length on average.

        What's interesting is that I find shorter videos do better (at least for me) - I strongly suspect it's because more viewers watch the entirety of a video if it's short, and that tells YouTube that viewers are engaged with my content.

        As for all the blogs I follow, their content is at least a few thousands words per post.

        Daniel
        That's pretty cool. Do you think attention span (or lack thereof) could be a reason as to why shorter videos do well?

        I know recent studies have shown that attention spans have decreased in the last 15-20 years.
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10637846].message }}
        • Profile picture of the author danieldesai
          Originally Posted by Write Now View Post

          That's pretty cool. Do you think attention span (or lack thereof) could be a reason as to why shorter videos do well?

          I know recent studies have shown that attention spans have decreased in the last 15-20 years.
          I certainly think it plays a strong factor but there are other important variables such as the niche (as you pointed out), the content topic, and the personal style of the content creator.

          For example, there are some popular WordPress tutorials on YouTube that are pretty damn long, like this one:



          On the other hand, there are lots of other short videos that also do well because the purpose of the content is NOT to be in-depth, but to just point people in the right direction (which can be as simple as listing some things), as opposed to teaching them everything right there.

          Just like this one:



          Ultimately, there isn't any clear-cut answer but hey... if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

          Daniel
          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10637876].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author BatManSEO
    Long content is very often in-depth and well researched. Google often associates longer content with a better result because of this, making it better for SEO.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10637815].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author agmccall
    But was the quality of the content taken into consideration for these studies, or just word count

    al
    Signature
    "Theater, sports, movies, and church are all driven primarily by an ancient desire to be in each other’s proximity." ~David Marcus~
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10637859].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author Write Now
      Originally Posted by agmccall View Post

      But was the quality of the content taken into consideration for these studies, or just word count

      al
      the quality is somewhat subjective. It would be impossible to gauge, especially since they were testing thousands of blog posts.

      Often times, the two (length and quality) go hand in hand. A more informative blog post will tend to be longer as it has more information to convey. Obviously, this isn't always the case, but it's definitely common.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10637885].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author onSubie
    Another good thing beside length, is to break the content up with headings, subheadings, images and graphics. Much like you did with the graphs in you post here.

    Breaking up the text with visually engaging content makes it easier to visually digest.

    Great post. Especially when taking these ideas to create engaging guest posts that will get published on other blogs.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10637867].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Mark Singletary
    Good post.

    However, it may be good to disclose the fact that you are biased because you sell words. The more words you can sell the more money you make.

    Second, while word count may be important it isn't everything.

    Compare Seth Godin's blog and Pat Flynn's blog.

    Seth does short blog posts while as you mentioned Pat does in depth. I think, by far, more people have heard of Seth compared to Pat. I think he has much more "weight" than Pat in the "real world." But for sure Pat is successful in the MMO market.

    Both are in the marketing arena but with totally different content formats. Both are successful. So either way will work.

    Also consider that one of the most popular "blogs" with millions of active followers is the Twitter account of one of the current US presidential candidates (name starts with "the"). Every "post" is short as tweets need to be. But most importantly almost every post is followed, shared, printed, retweeted, commented on, criticized, glorified, etc.

    So while maybe long has its place, it's certainly not the only way to go.

    Mark
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10637940].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author Write Now
      Originally Posted by Mark Singletary View Post

      Good post.

      However, it may be good to disclose the fact that you are biased because you sell words. The more words you can sell the more money you make.

      Second, while word count may be important it isn't everything.

      Compare Seth Godin's blog and Pat Flynn's blog.

      Seth does short blog posts while as you mentioned Pat does in depth. I think, by far, more people have heard of Seth compared to Pat. I think he has much more "weight" than Pat in the "real world." But for sure Pat is successful in the MMO market.

      Both are in the marketing arena but with totally different content formats. Both are successful. So either way will work.

      Also consider that one of the most popular "blogs" with millions of active followers is the Twitter account of one of the current US presidential candidates (name starts with "the"). Every "post" is short as tweets need to be. But most importantly almost every post is followed, shared, printed, retweeted, commented on, criticized, glorified, etc.

      So while maybe long has its place, it's certainly not the only way to go.

      Mark
      Oh you're right, I have a predilection towards longer content because I do sell content. That is absolutely true. I'm not trying to use this part of the forum to drum up business, but instead, get some fresh, creative conversation in here. In my opinion, it beats reading the latest "How do I make $1,000 a month" post.

      Having said that, being part of a content creation company (say that 5 times fast!), has given me unique insight into the world of content marketing, which is something I'd like to share.

      You're also right about Seth Godin (and the presidential candidate). Godin's latest blog post is 214 words and still has several hundred shares on social media.

      However, Godin didn't become famous because of his blogging, He gained notoriety through his business ventures and the numerous books he had written prior. The Presidential candidate you mentioned didn't become famous because of his short Twitter posts, he had been in the spotlight for decades prior.

      Would you agree that these are outliers though?

      No one is saying that longer posts are always better than shorter. That would be an absolute, and only a sith deals in absolutes (Star Wars reference). In general though, longer posts do tend to outperform shorter, less informative posts, wouldn't you agree?
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10637960].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author writeaway
    At the end of the day, it isn't the length of the content that counts...

    What matters is whether the content leads to building a solid brand

    Considering what's up ahead (as far as Google and Facebook algo changes go), serious online entrepreneurs should focus on one thing: building a solid and credible brand.

    Whether short, curated, long, or interview/'assembled' content, serious players need to get going.

    Expect the online content horizon to experience a 'black swan' event soon.
    Signature

    Want To Make More Money Online? Invest in BETTER CONTENT!
    Articles - Blogs - Authority sites - Ecommerce descriptions - Emails - Youtube video scripts - AFFORDABLE RATES!
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10637942].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author jazbo
    Interesting but I'm not sure it's down to the length alone (Oo err missus).

    Those sites are all authority sites. If they all now started publishing 300 word pieces, they would still rank.

    It's about the authority and the links that content generates.

    It's also about writing enough to get your point made, while also hitting the "sweet spot" that gets it most read and shared.

    It's about creating a blend. Some longer pieces of evergreen, cornerstone content, mixed with shorter updates and individual pieces so that people of any reading level can consume.

    I'm also a writer. I just use less words than the OP.
    Signature
    CONTENT WRITER. Reliable, UK-Based, 6 Years Experience - ANY NICHE
    Click Here For Writing Samples & Online Ordering
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10638289].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author Write Now
      Originally Posted by jazbo View Post

      Interesting but I'm not sure it's down to the length alone (Oo err missus).

      Those sites are all authority sites. If they all now started publishing 300 word pieces, they would still rank.

      It's about the authority and the links that content generates.

      It's also about writing enough to get your point made, while also hitting the "sweet spot" that gets it most read and shared.

      It's about creating a blend. Some longer pieces of evergreen, cornerstone content, mixed with shorter updates and individual pieces so that people of any reading level can consume.

      I'm also a writer. I just use less words than the OP.
      I think some people are missing the point. No one is suggesting that the length of content alone is the sole factor of success. Far from it.

      However, when comparing the metrics used to gauge the success of their articles (link backs, social shares, views, etc) longer content tends to out do shorter content.

      They became an authority within their niche BECAUSE they provided quality content. It just so happens, that their audience gravitated towards the longer pieces. Why is this? I think it's because in their longer posts, they provided more value.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10639220].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author discrat
    I think both have their places as Mark said. Especially in the instant gratification World we live in. People want quality but relatively a quick easy read.

    I'll read long Posts that are good but I prefer straight to the point and concise Posts that are an easy read.

    You write a 2,000 word post there is no room for complacency. If you are going to retain your readers til the end you have better make it engaging. And it is important to emphasis that this engagement has to be all the way through the length of the Post with no hiccups or burps otherwise people will exit to the nearest door !

    That can be a lot of pressure for some writers


    - Robert Andrew
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10638730].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Janice Sperry
    Good thread WN and I agree with everything you have posted.

    Yes, there are dozens of factors that affect rankings but it is hard to ignore the evidence that longer content is generally doing better right now. Sure there are exceptions but that is not the point.

    There is some truth that people want concise and to-the-point material but that can be handled on a per paragraph basis. Write a meaningful, valuable, engaging paragraph and the reader is going to want to read the next one and then the next one.

    Write a great 300-word article but if Google or Bing never show it to people it won't work for you anyway. This is especially true for newer sites that don't have a lot of Google love yet.

    Quick Sprout analyzed over 300 articles in their archives and the posts that were over 1500 words had 68% more tweets and 23% more Facebook likes. SerpIQ analyzed content and the "most liked" averaged 2416 to 2494 words.

    Higher word count will usually (intentionally or unintentionally) get more LSI and varied keyword phrases into your content. Search engines love this. Hitwise contends that 8-word (yes, 8!) search queries are used now more than 34,000% then in the past. People are entering more long-tail keywords than ever before to be more specific in their searches.

    A few other thoughts...

    I also think another reason lower word count content is not ranking as well is that is what the bottom feeders are trying to get away with. I don't mean everyone of course but think about it. People that want to pay nothing for content what do they want? They want shorter articles because they are cheaper and they don't want to pay much per word so they get poor quality. Why should we ever think that all that garbage will ever rank well? This is also true for the lazy or those too preoccupied with trying to game the search engines. They don't take the time to research, write and edit to provide superior content that gets noticed and shared.

    Write for people first. If you can "wow" your audience you will "wow" Google. A bad 3000-word article/post is still bad and will not rank any higher than a bad 500-word article. Writing a great 500-word post and then stretching it out with filler just to get a higher word count is not what is being recommended.

    People don't want to have to go to 5 different sites to find what they are searching for. Give it to them with YOUR site. I like the way Seth Godin put it, "Please, give me something long (but make it worth my time.)"
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10639358].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author kindsvater
    Sorry to burst a bubble here, and I hope you aren't betting your weight in gold, but this is an incomplete analysis and not quite accurate.

    A recent study found longer content does tend to rank better, as you indicated, on desktop searches.

    But for mobile searches the result is the opposite. Much shorter content ranks better.

    I'd give the study link but, frankly, am too lazy to search for it. But it is on searchengineland and/or seoroundtable.

    Since most searches are now on mobile (even Ebay just announced most of its listings are now viewed on mobile devices and as a result it will be using shorter product snippets and eliminating certain content such as Javascript) from listings), you could be killing your profits, and the mobile rankings you're not paying attention to, by blinding increasing the word count on your pages.

    .
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10639458].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author Kurt
      Originally Posted by kindsvater View Post

      Sorry to burst a bubble here, and I hope you aren't betting your weight in gold, but this is an incomplete analysis and not quite accurate.

      A recent study found longer content does tend to rank better, as you indicated, on desktop searches.

      But for mobile searches the result is the opposite. Much shorter content ranks better.

      I'd give the study link but, frankly, am too lazy to search for it. But it is on searchengineland and/or seoroundtable.

      Since most searches are now on mobile (even Ebay just announced most of its listings are now viewed on mobile devices and as a result it will be using shorter product snippets and eliminating certain content such as Javascript) from listings), you could be killing your profits, and the mobile rankings you're not paying attention to, by blinding increasing the word count on your pages.

      .
      Actually, using only search is also an incomplete analysis as it doesn't include social shares. Virtually every study I've read supports the theory that longer content gets more social shares. And since a decent percentage of social users are probably using mobile devices, I think it's safe to assume their numbers are included in the theory that longer content is shared more often.

      However, my personal theory on search engine ranking is to mix things up and cover every reasonable possibility. Whatever the SEs prefer today may change tomorrow. And since it's reasonable to think that both longer and shorter content pages have unique benefits, I suggest using a combination of longer and shorter content pages for maximum potential in the SEs.

      I'm doing both. Right now, I'm working on a number of very long content pages. After they are completed, I will do some shorter content pages. Longer pages create more keyword combos, linking and social opportunities, while shorter pages create more total SEO opportunities, as each page can rank and be listed in the SERPs.

      One problem with more shorter pages is they take more linking, as you have to build links to each page. However, they take less time to create.

      And, SEs aren't the only source of traffic, so I believe any and all reasonable alternatives in addition to, not in place of, SE traffic should also be considered.

      Repurposing content is a good strategy for this. Often, the same or similar content can be used for YT videos, Slideshare presentations, podcasts, infographic marketing, pdf sharing sites, web content, etc. To do all of this, all you really need is Audacity, a decent mic and PowerPoint/Office. Not only is each a potential direct traffic stream, using links from each can aid in SE ranking.
      Signature
      Discover the fastest and easiest ways to create your own valuable products.
      Tons of FREE Public Domain content you can use to make your own content, PLR, digital and POD products.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10639472].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
    I think that, in general, longer content offers more value when the intention is to convey information, authority or expertise. If one is building a brand, providing longer in-depth content tends to have more "gravitas".

    On the other hand, if the objective is simply drawing eyeballs to content that exists to hang ads on, fluffy clickbait posts are probably more effective. To me, this jives with the idea of mobile users preferring short content.

    If I want a solid meal, I'll take time to cook a perfect ribeye, bake a potato, make a salad and find something really good to drink with it. Sometimes, though, I just want a freakin' doughnut and a cup of coffee...
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10639475].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author ryanbiddulph
    Hi WN,

    This is good stuff.

    My take; whatever your audience values, go with that.

    Like, my readers at BFP dig long posts and short posts. I got mad props thru 7,000 words and through 1,200. Because ultimately, delivering on your title inspires your readers to trust you. If they trust, your traffic and income tends to rise.

    One warning though; some bloggers feel anything under 2000 or 3000 words isn't valuable. Not so. Any post answering a question, solving problems or inspiring readers to live their dreams works. All depends on the blogger, their style, and what their audiences prefer.

    Each reader has different needs. They may want travel tips or blogging tips if they visit my blog, but some want 1 tip, others, maybe 3 or 4. They want not a bite-sized eBook each time they read a post. I already have 124 of those on Amazon. So since I built my brand this way, 1300 words or so in a post works awesome, solves their probs, and if they dig something more in depth they buy the 7,000 word bite-sized eBook.

    Works for my brand because minus a few months, I stuck with this strategy Programming going on here.

    Neil and Matthew built brands on kick butt long form posts. I did the pillar style for a while but felt like an energy drag after a minute. So I went shorter, felt better, and readers found my blog with greater ease.

    400 or 4,000 or 14,000, words, if readers get a simple solution, you will rock it out.

    Kudos to ya on the first few paragraphs; I'm with you on that.

    Been busy promoting my many eBooks and traveling and such, but I'll stop in regularly to jam pack some value onto the forum.

    Thanks for raising the bar.

    Signing off from sunny NYC.

    Ryan
    Signature
    Ryan Biddulph inspires you to be a successful blogger with his courses, 100 plus eBooks, audio books and blog at Blogging From Paradise
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10639486].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Dylan Wilfred
    thank Daniel
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10639627].message }}

Trending Topics