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31 Jul

Word Count Effect on the SERPs and Social Shares

               "When You Work With Words, Words Are Your Work" :
                               Word Count Effect on the SERPs and Social Shares


Don Knotts as Luther Heggs in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken


When One Web Company asked me to write a blog article about content, I thought of all the approaches I could take to address the subject. I decided to tackle word count as it has been an aspect of SEO that has grown since 2011 in discussion and scrutiny.


Content Length is one of Google's ranking factors. This means topic-specific content with a higher word count offers a wider breadth of factors for the search bots to choose from to answer a query, therefore are preferable in the algorithm compared to shorter, broad topic articles.

In 2016 BackLinko analyzed one million Google Search results to find out which factors correlate with first page search engine rankings. Among other factors, they discovered in the data review that the average Google first page results contained 1,890 words.

Now that we are halfway through 2018, what do we need to consider regarding word count as a ranking factor?

To bring us up to date, let's take a step back.

Before the February 2011 Google Panda update, content farms, or mills, paid writers to generate content based on popular search queries. The thin textual content was created as social spam or, as we now call it, "click bait". It generated traffic because it satisfied the search engine algorithms so was guaranteed to rank high in the results pages. This was achieved with keyword stuffing, title tags, and backlinks. The content was duplicated across multiple pages and the reader page view data presented to marketers to entice them to purchase ad space. The content did not even have to be factual, it just had to satisfy the search queries. There's your fake news.

Google Panda came along and penalized pages with thin, duplicate, poor quality content.

Between 2011 and 2018, data analysis has shown that longer word count results in better ranking.

Ryan Purtill wrote an article about his data analysis discoveries as SEO manager for Healthline.

He reported that word count reaching 1,125 resulted in a 57% increase in traffic and a 10% increase in average visit duration. For every 125 words added, a 10-second increase in average session duration (ASD) occurred, a trend consistent across platforms (desktop/mobile/tablet). This result included evergreen content that was extended to 1,125 words. A 10% increase in session duration occurred for those pages that contained extended and updated content.


                 Some considerations for updating evergreen content are:



  • Prevalence Data: In the case of Healthline, it was a perfect fit to add disease statistics. This update resulted in a 3% increase in ASD. Think about what type of shared characteristics might be appropriate to your industry for addition to your site content.


  • Q&A: Beyond your FAQ page, consider real-life user questions about your industry with your answers. In the case of Healthline, pages with question and answer additions saw a 2.5% increase in dwell time (user engagement, session duration, and search engine result page click-through-rates).


Many websites use the question and answer format to maximum effectiveness. Because content is in the form of a question, search engines will access the answer content in response to a query, particularly a voice query in the form of a question.

Among these sites are Amazon, Quora, Yahoo! Answers, Blurt It, Answers, Fun Advice, Ask Me Help Desk, AskDeb, and Able To Know.


                                          More Ways To Use Question and Answer Sites:


  • VISIT the sites regularly to scan for content relative to your industry. This is a great way to find material to add to your FAQ page and extend articles and blog posts. 


  • CREATE accounts where required. This is another way to market your brand to the public and to indicate a business citation to the search engines. 


  • PARTICIPATE by answering questions that pertain to your area of expertise. This gains trust and establishes you as an authority. Remember to link to content on your site if it can answer a query!


                                          How to Get Content Ideas:


When creating a writing and publishing plan for your site, make a list of article ideas. You can find inspiration at the bottom of the SERPs. Just enter a subject in the search query box. When the results are loaded, scroll to the bottom of the page to related searches. Make note of those and continue to search those queries to expand the results. Try this with different search engines.

Be sure to also look over the organic results. I am sure you will find inspiration to cover the same content from a new perspective, updated and extended. You may also find an aspect of a subject that you have not covered yet, or have not covered extensively enough.

Scan social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram) for discussions pertaining to your field of expertise. Search with the same intent mentioned above. Participate in the conversations and link to your content if appropriate.

If you are still at a loss, invite a guest writer to create something for you. Choose an influencer or expert in your industry.

Maximize coverage of an event by creating a build up to the event. Report on new additions as they are announced. Write about the venue and amenities in the area. Cover the event itself then write a summation with tips for the next event.

Create a case study. For inspiration, start with the types listed at the Colorado State University Writing Guides.

Start a partnership with an individual or business. Work together on content creation, marketing, and backlinks.

             What is it that Algorithms Like About Lengthy, In-Depth Content?


Google has access to more consistent keywords to determine what your content is about. If the content is comprehensive, keywords are integrated naturally, rather than stuffed. Lengthy offerings allow space for more links, headings, and graphics, giving a rich user experience. This also enables the bots to retrieve multiple content displays so you may be found in organic search, image search, video search, etc.

                                  Going Below and Beyond 1,125 Words


We have shown evidence that an average word count satisfies the SERPs, but what if your content organically goes higher or lower?

If your content is written well and has a natural flow at 300 to 900 words, that's okay. If your topics are broad and popular, less can be more. Your content will still be displayed in the SERPs if it:


  • Answers the query
  • Informs your audience
  • Contains content consistent with the keywords


If you do not have the word count, think about expanding your content volume instead with the addition of graphics, images, charts, videos, Q&As, and links. Over time you may find new information with which to update the article.

              What if your content naturally requires a longer word count?


Noah Kagan offers insights on his OKDork blog from a BuzzSumo analysis of 100 million online articles.

The break down of average shares by content length shows that articles with a word count of 3,000 to 10,000 received approximately a 50% increase in social media shares over articles that contained less than 2,000 words.

The jump in interest is partially due to the fact that there are 16 times (85% of online content) more blog posts with a word count below 1,000 than content with a word count above 2,000, so the lengthier articles stand out.

At the beginning of this article I referred to the BackLinko analysis where they found that the average word count of Google's first page search results is 1,890 words. This reinforces that long-form content ranks significantly better than short-form articles.

In 2012, SERPIQ found that the average number of words for content ranking in the #1 spot on Google was about 2,416 words.

CoSchedule's research found that posts that were shared the most and have a top-3 Google ranking have a word count on average of 4,066 with the minimum being 2,000+.

HubSpot analyzed their content and found articles with a word count of 2,250 to 2,500 earn the most organic traffic and articles with a word count over 2,500 get shared the most on social media and earn the most backlinks.

Long-form content (over 2,000 words) is perfect for research-backed, topic-specific, and opinion pieces, but keep in mind that share and search jumps may be short term the longer the article is because reader engagement starts to decline after 7 minutes, or 1600 words, according to a study conducted by Medium's Data Lab.

To discover the "sweet spot" for your industry coverage, read Neil Patel's piece where he shares blog post word count standards.


                                      How Can SEO Boost My Content?


As with any updates to your site, SEO is a must for visibility in the SERPs. SEO covers:


  •  Submitting the sitemap to Google and Bing
  •  Social media posts
  •  Building backlinks and internal links
  •  Device compatibility and load time
  • Subscriptions and sign-ups
  • Calls to action (what you would like the reader to do next)
  • Conduct keyword research and apply long-tail keywords on the back end
  • Construct schema or other code so the bots know what is on the page
  • Add meta tags and meta descriptions
  • Create rich snippet and data markups
  • Track your analytics so you can get excited about your climbing traffic!


     Here is a tip list to keep in mind when creating and marketing your content:


  •  Be relevant
  •  Think quality over quantity
  •  Write as much as is necessary to make your point
  •  Use long-form content for research-based, topic-specific, and opinion pieces
  •  Use short-form content for broad topics
  • Apply content volume over word count for short-form pieces
  •  Use SEO best practices
  •  Feature original content
  •  Consider your industry

This article is 1598 words.

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