SEO seems to change drastically each year, and with Google already making huge announcements for the coming year, these changes are only likely to get larger.
Blogging is a great way for small and large businesses alike to drive valuable and targeted traffic through to their landing pages. Not only does it give you content which you can use for social media marketing, but it can also rank in Google and bring in organic traffic.
Organic traffic is often some of the best traffic out there because it’s targeted and the visitors were already searching for a solution to their problems. But ranking your blog posts isn’t a walk in the park, and the length of your posts still seems to play a prominent role.
Back in the day, some SEOs recommended incredibly short posts, 300 to 500 words, but now the average blog appears to be much longer. But is it helping them to rank? What is the best SEO blog post length in 2018 and why?
Why Does SEO Blog Post Length Matter?
Blog post length matters because it seems to correlate strongly to higher rankings in search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. This correlation has existed for years, but the evidence seems to suggest that longer posts are becoming more important for ranking.
Google always tries to rank the highest quality content at the top of their rankings, after all, they want to give users the best results possible. Therefore, they made the logical conclusion that longer content is more detailed and thus more likely to answer the user’s questions.
Naturally, users might not always be looking for longer posts, especially for simple questions. This is why Rank Brain was invented, to try and decipher the intention of the searcher and to give them better results for their query, rather than more general results.
But it seems that, for now, longer posts perform better despite Rank Brain being integrated into the algorithm. This means that companies wanting to bring in more organic search traffic should be trying to create longer, more detailed posts.
Blog Post Length in Previous Years
This wasn’t always the case, in years gone by the recommended post length was far shorter, 500-words was a length often thrown around, but now that’s near the minimum anyone would consider.
The reason for this is simple; Google was primitive only half a decade ago. Their algorithm wasn’t particularly good at understanding the content on a page, making it incredibly reliant on links.
This meant that SEOs could more easily manipulate the SERPs and there was little need to create content that was long, or that added any value the internet. But times have changed, in 2018 you are going to see far better rankings by creating valuable content that is detailed and answers the questions of your readers.
How 2018 Will Be Different
The main difference in 2018 when compared to 2017 is the Google is planning to swap to a mobile-first index. This change is going to prioritize websites that are responsive because Google knows that over 50% of their users are searching on mobile devices.
The question then becomes, do mobile users want to read thousands of words?
In the past couple years, the best post length for SEO was around 2,000 words. Longer blog posts ranked better, but evidence also seems to suggest that readers don’t typically want to read posts this long.
That shows that Google is still failing to give people the best results, their algorithm is using post length as a factor to decide where pages should rank in their results. But with a move to a mobile index, this might change.
Extrapolating from Basic Data
Two sources are regularly cited when people talk about post length; a case study by Brian Dean and the SERPIQ study on content length. Both of these studies came to the conclusion that posts around 2,000 words rank best and that post length was strongly correlated to first page rankings.
However, we have to be careful about extrapolating from simple data. When you’re looking at single factors in isolation, you ignore the fact that Google uses over 200 ranking factors to decide where each page in their index should rank.
While the data suggests that longer content tends to rank higher, sites which publish more detailed content are likely to be the ones who take the time to promote that content. In this case, it’s hard to remove the impact of links and social shares, to just analyze the effect of content length on rankings.
Overall, it seems intuitive that longer content would rank better, but that doesn’t mean that longer is always better.
The Best Length is Dependent on the Keyword
After all, shouldn’t the ‘best length’ be decided by the keywords that you’re targeting? There are two elements to this; firstly, if the average post for the keyword is only 200-words, there is no need to write 2,000. Secondly, the intent of the searcher should dictate what you create.
Presuming that your goal as a business is to generate profit, you’re not going to waste money by creating blog posts that are longer than they need to be. If the average post is only 200-words, you can probably rank first with a 1,000-word post.
So, just because a study showed that 2,000-word posts ranked well, that doesn’t mean that your posts need to be that length or longer.
Some searchers aren’t looking for long content, and often, it’s just not needed.
If a person searches the keyword ‘when was Jennifer Lawrence born’ they don’t need a 2,000-word blog post, they probably only need a hundred words. Why? Because their question isn’t complicated. More isn’t always better.
The Simple Answer
The simple answer is often the best one, especially when it comes to SEO. The sites which are ranking at the top of the search engines are there for a reason, copying what they are doing is a good idea.
However, you can’t expect to beat them if you are producing the same quality and quantity of content, you need to go above and beyond.
Therefore, your content should have two goals; answer the user’s questions and exceed the competitors content. By doing this, you are providing more value to the users than the other pages, and you will deserve to rank higher.
If the #1 page is 200-words, write more than 200-words, if they have 5,000-words, write more than 5,000-words, presuming that all of those words provide value.
Just because a study showed that most #1 pages are around 2,000-words, that doesn’t mean that writing posts this length will give you rankings. Instead, look at the data more broadly.
The study from Brian Dean shows that longer posts do better, but the word count should be ignored. The key is that the longer posts rank higher because they are more detailed and provide more value.
In conclusion, while there might not be a ‘best’ post length, 2,000-words seems to be most highly correlated with rankings. The most important takeaway is that pages which are longer tended to rank higher. However, those posts still need to bring value to the reader.
Pumping up your pages with more words might work for now, but it’s unlikely that it will be a sustainable method. Google is continuously developing their algorithm, and it’s likely that as Rank Brain becomes more advanced, it will start to prioritize shorter pages for keywords where the user is unlikely to want to read a humongous article.