google rankings and word counts

05 Feb 2018

The Correlation Between Word Count And Google Rankings

There are two important SEO factors – authority & relevance.

On-site optimization is important in terms of on-page content, title tags, etc. Links still matter, of course, and the quality of them, matters more so than ever.

There is one question that flies around all the time: “How much does the volume of content (I.E. word count) on a specific page impact everything?” This discussion pops up all time amongst AdInfusion team members.

I took it upon myself to do some research on the matter. I have determined that indeed, a higher word count will improve your rankings. I also determined, though, that it can have a negative impact as well. So, it is not advisable to just slap a bunch of text on a page to boost your word count.

Conclusion: Create high-quality, relevant copy and content.

Click here to read our post on composing quality content.

Evidence In Support Of Word Count Improving Rankings

Firstly, let me present evidence that word count plays a positive role in achieving rankings. In 2017, Backlinko looked into 1 million search results to see what factors go into first-page rankings.

Here’s what Backlinko’s Brian Dean had to say:

“Based on SERP data from SEMRush, we found that longer content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results. The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.”

That is pretty conclusive evidence that word count does indeed play a role. So, certainly, having more copy on your website can boost your website’s search engine rankings.

It is better to have a bigger word count and more copy on your site, then, right? Yes. And no.

Studies, in addition to Backlinko’s, have determined that pages with higher word counts tend to rank higher. Back in 2012, SerpIQ posted a study that showed the average word count for the top 10 Google results was over 2,000 words. The study also showed that the average word count for a page in the first position is roughly 2,450 words. The average count for pages in position 10 was a little over 2,000. Backlinko’s results said that the average first page result contained 1,890 words.

This all makes it pretty clear that Google does value pages with a high word count. That being said, when you’re writing content for your website, or publishing an article on your blog, try to write it without focusing on the word count.

Ultimately, concern yourself with publishing high quality content, relevant information about your products or services on your landing pages. Reach out to clients and make sure your product pages have testimonials. For blogs, fact-check, get good data to rely on and get quotes from sources if you are able to. All of these things increase your credibility and build trust in the eyes of potential customers.

Publish high-quality content that’s engaging to readers, where a reader is going to be captivated and want to linger on your website. It is important too, to make sure you have relevant images on your website. Backlinko’s study said that pages with at least one image significantly outperformed pages without any images. Break up your content and blog posts into sections to improve the user’s experience.

If you are just posting a random lot of words on a web page, it can actually hurt your rankings, because Google uses more factors than just word count to rank web pages.

Don’t Sacrifice User Experience

It’s important to publish interesting content, relevant to your business or industry. Don’t cram words into a post that do not need to be there, and don’t pump out blog articles, “just because.” There are a myriad of reasons not to do this. Make sure the content you’re posting is interesting content.

One of the biggest factors in SEO ranking is links to a website, and even more so, the quality of links. If you are publishing substandard content, then no one will want to link to it. High-quality content, of any length, has a much better chance of earning high-authority links, and so a better chance of climbing the rankings.

There’s also the issues of bounce rate and time on site.

Let’s say you have a page with 2,500 words on it. However, let’s say it’s a page that doesn’t particularly need 2,500 words, since not every web page needs that type of volume, whether it’s a product page, informational page or a blog post.

If a visitor gets to your web page and find that it’s just not helpful for them, it is likely they will just leave your site and find another one that is more beneficial to them.

Another commonality among high-ranking pages in Backlinko’s study? Low bounce rate. Never compromise a good bounce rate and user experience in order to fit more words on a web page.

A 2016 Moz study showed that average time on site, in addition to bounce rate, played a factor in sites that rank high. Sure, longer content will may have a higher average session duration, but more importantly, good long content will have higher average session durations.

One note I have to mention on bounce rate is that while Google has said in the past it’s not part of the algorithm, people in the SEO community believe it is. The correlation between low bounce rates and high Google ranks could be just a reflection of these pages providing a good user experience.

Either way, your websites’ bounce rate is certainly something you need to be mindful of.

So, what’s the big takeaway?

I think the valuable message here is that Google values high-quality content that is going to facilitate a positive user experience. Every single thing that I’ve discussed deals with the user experience, and I believe that these aspects are all inherently related, and cannot be stressed enough.

Bottom line – if you’re content is high-quality, it will look good to Google. An informative, relevant, well-written blog post with helpful images is going to engage the user.

It’s going to keep the user on your website longer, and it’s going to make want to check out other pages on your website instead of leaving right away.

Superior content will also have users link to your site as well. If a person likes an article, they’re going to keep coming back to your site in the future and possibly linking to other articles as well.

If you’re able to come up with good, interesting topics and write with potential client’s needs in mind, or if a page on your site has good information, or if you have a quality product, the word count will take care of itself.

Google isn’t just randomly ranking pages with a lot of words. They’re ranking pages that have quality content, and the word count is just a reflection of that.

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