Determining the optimal content length for SEO is a riddle that has long perplexed online marketers and content creators. The question of whether more is better or if you’re simply wasting your time haunts us all. In this article, we aim to shed light on this matter and provide you with valuable insights and a winning formula to optimize your content length for SEO success in 2023.
Long vs. Short-Form Content: It’s All About Goals
The first step is to admit that there is no solution to this problem. Your material’s optimal duration is decided by its goals and purpose. Over 1000 words is often more appropriate for in-depth articles, manuals, and research documents, since it allows you to analyze the subject more fully, offer essential facts, and demonstrate your experience. Although long-form content performs well in search engines, the length alone is not a guarantee of success.
When looking at the length of content for SEO purposes, consider the purpose behind the search. Ahrefs recommends tailoring your content length to meet the needs of searchers and analyzing the format that ranks best for your target keyword, such as guides, listicles, or tutorials.
Moreover, creating content that resonates with your target audience, offers value, and aligns with your objectives is crucial, regardless of length.
The Time Investment in Long-Form Content
Producing long-form content is a labor-intensive process that demands careful consideration. Let’s crunch some numbers to highlight the time investment required.
Assume you want to create a 2,300-word essay, which is around the length of most articles. Typing speed is usually approximately 40 words per minute, therefore if you kept typing without stopping, it would take 57.5 minutes to create a five-page article. However, given the requirement for research and other circumstances, producing a quality essay in this time range is not feasible.
According to Wordstopages.com, 2,300 words translate to roughly five pages. Crafting a well-researched five-page article, according to Capitalize My Title, can take around 8.3 hours. Considering that most individuals are highly productive for only two to three hours a day, completing such an article might occupy a substantial part of your workweek.
Exceptional writers may produce content more efficiently by leveraging raw skill, intense focus, and familiarity with the subject matter. However, it’s essential to ask yourself how long it takes you to create in-depth articles, rather than fixating solely on the time it consumes.
The Best Length for Long-Form Content
It has been noted by Search Engine Journal that articles of a longer form usually surpass 1,000 words. Wordstream’s research has determined that blog posts with the most successful performance over a span of three years generally had word counts between 2,700 and 3,000.
To simplify the decision-making process, Wordstream offers three rules for determining long-form content length:
- When in doubt, opt for a longer article.
- Prioritize delivering substantial value to your readers.
- Conduct thorough keyword research to inform your content.
It is recommended to aim for more than 2,000 words, however it is essential to evaluate whether the topic needs this amount or if a more concise piece of content could outshine the competition.
Is Long-Form Content a Time Sink?
Before you start, consider whether creating content is the best use of your time. The solution will vary depending on your objectives. The major goal is likely to be greater money, but other objectives, such as attracting the right type of audience, which may result in higher positions for certain keywords, should also be addressed.
However, scribbling 2,000 words without a goal is a waste of time. Length alone doesn’t guarantee success in the realm of SEO. It’s a common misconception that merely producing long-form content will lead to higher rankings and increased engagement.
Google’s Algorithm Cares About Depth, Not Word Count
Contrary to popular belief, Google’s algorithm doesn’t prioritize word count when determining rankings. Rather, it looks at depth, comprehensiveness, and relevance. While longer content often covers more ground, it’s not the only ingredient for SEO success.
Longer content does offer some advantages, such as more backlinks, social shares, and traffic.It is vital to recognize that value is found not just in the quantity of information produced, but also in its quality. To be effective in today’s digital environment, content must demonstrate Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T), which is being challenged by the growth of AI-based search engines. High-ranking content is frequently lengthy, but it is not only the length that is significant. Consider the following case study to demonstrate this idea.
Imagine searching for “content marketing.” The top result is an article titled “What Is Content Marketing?” from the Content Marketing Institute blog. The second result is from MailChimp, and the third is from the same author as this article.
This example illustrates a highly competitive keyword, with a keyword difficulty level of 84 according to Ahrefs. Achieving a top 10 ranking for such keywords requires a significant number of backlinks.
Now, consider the long-tail keyword “B2B content marketing strategy.” Google serves information-rich, in-depth articles for this query. For instance, the first result from StoryChief is a lengthy 4,415-word article, while the second from Semrush is 3,288 words long.
The evidence from this data suggests that long-form content can result in higher search ranks. However, it is critical to realize that content length is not the only aspect that influences SEO performance.
When Does Short-Form Content Shine?
Short-form content, typically under 1,200 words, serves specific purposes and can be highly effective in the right context. It’s perfect for fast tutorials, opinion articles, short reviews, summaries, news updates, social media posts, newsletter material, and short-form films.
Identifying the appropriate duration for short-form material can be difficult owing to differing perspectives on what constitutes the “perfect” length. Nonetheless, studies reveal that pieces of less than 1,000 words often receive 3.47 links and shares, whereas articles of 1,000-2,000 words typically receive 6.92 links and shares, which has ramifications for SEO.
For short-form videos, Google suggests videos shorter than 10 minutes, while HubSpot indicates that marketers often aim for content between 31 and 60 seconds. As with long-form content, the key is not to rely solely on length for SEO success; it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
Three Key Characteristics of Successful Content
If content length isn’t the primary factor for SEO, what should you focus on? Based on data, three critical characteristics can make or break your content’s SEO performance:
- Depth: Your content needs to dive deep into the subject matter. This means providing thorough and detailed coverage of the topic, addressing related subtopics, and offering valuable insights.
- Comprehensive Coverage: Exceptional content should cover a wide range of related topics within the same subject area. The goal is to provide comprehensive information that caters to a broad audience.
- Keyword Focus: Rather than keyword stuffing, concentrate on a specific keyword or topic and mention it consistently throughout your content. This ensures your content remains relevant and aligned with the user’s search intent.
Examining the highest ranked material for a particular keyword will show that the chosen keyword is used multiple times and in various ways within the content. Proper preparation and keyword research are required to achieve the proper balance without keywords overwhelming your material.
Overall, it is widely agreed that the best length for SEO-focused content is between 2,000 and 3,000 words. However, this shouldn’t overshadow the importance of depth, comprehensiveness, and keyword focus. Quality content that meets these criteria will always outperform lengthy but shallow content. So, when crafting your next piece of content, remember that it’s not just about quantity; it’s about delivering value and relevance to your audience while aligning with your SEO goals.