Today, I want to talk about something that I see mentioned by people in my industry of digital marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO) on a regular basis, and it’s the kind of thing that always, without fail, turns into some sort of argument.
The relatively simple question of “what’s the ideal word length for a piece of content on the internet?” is one I get asked a lot by clients, people within our team, writers and everyone else.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m in a marketing group on a social media platform that has a lot of marketing experts, SEO gurus, content editors and copywriters, but also video people, PR representatives and graphic designers. This discussion of the ideal length for a piece of content on the internet popped up in there not so long ago.
Now, whenever somebody who’s well noted within SEO, such as Neil Patel, for example, puts out a blog about a particular word length for a particular type of content, people latch on to that and go “oh that’s the right answer, that’s the definitive answer”. So of course, somebody put into this group that you cannot have any meaningful rankings for any content on a website unless it’s at least 800 words, and that anything less is not going to work for you. They said you may as well not bother with 200- or 300-word pieces because they’re just not going to rank and can’t compete against something that’s a longer piece of content if everything else is equal. If the website, SEO, links and all other factors between two websites are of about the same strength, 800-word content will always rank higher than 300 words, they said, and they were adamant it was true.
It is, in fact, a complete load of b****cks.
Let me stress this, there is no such thing as an ideal length of content, or an ideal word count for a piece of content, and if anyone who tells you there is, they’re wrong. If you’re writing a blog, a guide, an FAQ, a feature article, a press release or whatever it may be for your website, do NOT think “right, this piece of content has to be 800 words, otherwise it’s not going to rank”. That is quite simply untrue, yet there were supposed SEOs experts in this group insisting it was the case.
Now, you know me, I don’t like to get into an argument. Well, OK, I do, but not when it’s in that kind of environment because there are so many people putting comments in at the same time, you just end up with a pile-on. I’d rather just let them get on with it.
But in this better environment of my podcast and blog, I can reveal that we’ve got one client who has a piece of content on his website which is only 300 words about his industry of flooring. In just 300 words, it answers a particular question within his industry and it has generated 10,000 page views over the last two years.
It’s always got a featured snippet on Google. If you don’t know what a featured snippet is, it’s when you search on Google for any sort of question, and Google finds a page on the internet that it deems to be the most important page related to that particular question or query. It will then put it not just at the number one ranking, but above this at the top in a little box, and it will pull through a paragraph or a snippet of information from that page to answer the question. For example, if you Google “how old is the Queen?” you get a feature snippet showing this:
If you explained this to that person in that group, they’d say “that’s impossible, you can’t have any sort of meaningful rankings with a piece of content unless it’s at least 800 words because that’s what Neil Patel said on one of his blogs”.
Yeah, Neil Patel may have said something like that about a particular style of content, but you’re taking it out of context. You’re taking what somebody has said about one thing and you’re just applying it to everything, and then you’re going off around the internet saying this is gospel. The fact is, you’re 100% wrong and you’re telling people incorrect information
And then this discussion moved on to duplicate content, such as copying content and repurposing it for social media, with people saying it’s a good idea to put content from your website straight onto social media.
Well, yes, you can share the link to the content on social media, but do not copy the content from your blog and paste it into a LinkedIn post, for example, because that will create duplicate content. Google doesn’t like that, but you have more “experts” insisting it’s OK.
This is kind of the problem that I’ve got in my industry. This is kind of why I’m doing this podcast in the first place. There is so much rubbish out there told by supposed professionals. Two people that want advice are getting absolute crap back, so let me be clear on these two things:
Number one: there is no such thing as a perfect word count for a piece of content for the internet. I’m not saying you shouldn’t write a longer and more in-depth piece if you see that a competitor has a shorter piece featuring in a snippet, but please don’t sit there thinking you have to pad an article out to 800 words if you can address it in 300.
Number two: duplicate content is bad. Please do not copy content and slap it on different places because you will negatively affect your website. If you want to repurpose something for social media then use a snippet and link to it, or rewrite it, or use it as an image, or use it as a video, or use it as an infographic, that’s fine – there are lots of different ways you can repurpose content, and we’ll do a podcast on repurposing content further down the line so look out for that one – but don’t just copy and paste. Doing that is why so many websites have products that have the same descriptions as other websites but don’t rank for them, because Google doesn’t want to see the same thing over and over again, and neither does the end user.
I hope I’ve got that message across in as succinct a way as physically possible! If you’s like to benefit from more tips and advice on SEO and marketing, why not subscribe to the Engaging Marketeer podcast on iTunes or your favourite podcasting platform?