Content is Still King, and Its Length Matters

  • Content really is (still) king

When you analyze the top 10 search results for over 20,000 keywords you’ll see a definite pattern.

The average content length for a web page that ranks in the top 10 results for any keyword on Google has at least 2,000 words. The higher up you go on the search listings page, the more content each web page has.


Based on the graph above, you can see that the first result typically has 2,416 words and the 10th result has 2,032 words. This shows that Google prefers content rich sites.

The interesting part is that Google doesn’t prefer more content because it feels it is more valuable. It actually prefers content rich sites because data shows you like it, which leads me to my next point.

Content rich sites get more links

If content is short, people question if it’s valuable enough to share, while they feel more comfortable linking to in-depth content.

Back in 2011, SEOmoz analyzed the content on their blog to see if there was a correlation between word count and backlinks.

Here is a breakdown of the number of blog posts they have and the word count for each of them:

The social web prefers content rich pages

Neil Patel took the 327 blog posts he had written on Quick Sprout and broke them down into two buckets. The first bucket contained blog posts that were fewer than 1,500 words, and the second contained posts that were greater than 1,500 words. He then reviewed how many Facebook likes and tweets each post generated.

Posts under 1,500 words, on average garnered 174 tweets and 59 Facebook likes. For posts that were over 1,500 words, these averages skyrocketed on average to 293 tweets and 72 likes.

What follows is that if a post is greater than 1,500 words, on average it receives 68.1% more tweets and 22.6% more Facebook likes than a post that is under 1,500 words. When you take into account that search engines take social signals into account when ranking sites, it reinforces why web pages with lengthier content rank higher.

Another reason why longer content can be beneficial is a shift in the way that Internet users are searching these days.

You are becoming a better searcher

Based on data released by Hitwise, you are starting to use longer search queries when you search. 8-word search queries are up by 34,000%.

  • 1-word searches = 20.29% (previously was 19.02%)
  • 2-word searches = 23.65% (previously was 32.58%)
  • 3-word searches = 21.92% (previously was 25.61%)
  • 4-word searches = 14.89% (previously was 12.83%)
  • 5-word searches = 8.68% (previously was 5.64%)
  • 6-word searches = 4.65% (previously was 2.32%)
  • 7-word searches = 2.49% (previously was 0.98%)
  • 8-word searches = 3.43% (no one did 8-word searches in 2004!)

The general trend is that the percentage of people who are searching for 2 or 3-word phrases is decreasing and the percentage of people who are searching for 4, 5 or even 8-word phrases is increasing.

long tail

I know these long tail keywords aren’t searched for a lot, but when you combine them all and compare them to head terms, there is much more traffic in the long tail. For example, with Quick Sprout, 71.28% of the search traffic comes from long-tail keywords.

The great part about long-tail keywords is that they are far less competitive, which means they are easier to rank for, and they convert better than shorter terms.

Looking at these conversion rates for a moment, ask yourself – which consumer do you think is more likely to buy, the one who searches for “basketball shoes” or “Red Nike Air Jordan ReFlex Basketball Shoes”? On many sites long tail keywords convert well over 100% better than head terms, such as basketball shoes.

If you want to capitalize on this, consider boosting the amount of content on your website as the more words you have on each page, the more likely you are to rank for long tail keywords.

These long tail keywords aren’t searched for a lot, but when you combine them all and compare them to head terms, there is much more traffic in the long tail.

Whether it is sales pages, blog posts or anything else, if you want more traffic and higher conversions, you should consider long form copy.

Before you write long form content, know these things:

You can’t write crappy content – you can’t crank out 1,000 web pages with 2,000 words each and expect your rankings or conversions to shoot up. You have to write great content. Extremely good content gets the tweets, links, conversions, and higher rankings you’re looking for.

Copy doesn’t always boost conversions – for some web products or web pages, shorter copy may convert better. You just have to test things out. And that is the main goal of your content, to have the visitor take some sort of action. SEO must always come second to that, sometimes forgotten by writing professionals in their ultimate quest for higher traffic. If it takes Google AdWords traffic to high-quality landing pages and an overall high quality site that converts, you’ve achieved your goals.

Social media helps – the reason copy does well on expert blogs such as Quick Sprout and SEOmoz is because they have strong social media accounts with lots of followers. Sure, long copy may do better, but in general, almost all of their content does well because of their social presence. Writing lengthy content won’t get you lots of likes and tweets if you haven’t built up your social media accounts first.

Get to the Point

Writers do face a bit of a challenge when it comes to article length however. If you can write a post in 1000 words, you should be able to do so in 500. And then those 500 can usually be condensed down to 250. This runs counter to what we’ve been saying about content length, but the real point is don’t ramble on to reach a certain word count. If your content is naturally long and takes time to lay out, that’s fantastic, and you’ll be rewarded for it. But your customers – and Google too – prefer tight copy that converts and is shared over long-winded content that does neither.

So here’s one last piece of advice there – really spend the time to know your topic, and to formulate your own ideas of what it means to your customers or clients. That should naturally give you something to say which gets your points across but in an in-depth way.

At Best Online Writers we help companies like yours create a stick to your publishing calendars, with well researched content that takes advantage of all the various components which boost your SEO while they also convert your visitors into customers. Give us a call today at (314) 494-3494 or contact us to learn more, or visit our Services page.


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