Some content creators believe that readers don’t have the time and patience to read lengthy posts, so they focus on short pieces. Less is more, they say.
Well, I agree with that, but what about the other side of the story? Every day, people produce tons of new content, and a short piece will quickly disappear in the sea of other articles and blog posts. A long piece, on the other hand, has a better chance of survival and allows demonstrating the author’s authority.
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In this article, we’ll see who wins the battle of longer and shorter content by investigating their performance on Google.
How Much Content is Better?
When it comes to content length, people have different opinions as to what is “good” for ranking high on Google. Indeed, you won’t find any hard rules on that anywhere. However, some interesting patterns have emerged from studies reviewing the performance of web content. The most cited study was completed by SerpIQ.
They examined the average content length of Google’s top ten results and found that longer content performed better. Take a look at this:
Image Source: SerpIQ blog
Okay, it’s clear from the chart that the highest-performing pages contained slightly over 2,500 words. On the other hand, shorter pieces, e.g. 1000 words, performed much worse because of incredibly high competition in that length segment.
But is length really that impactful? SerpIQ took their investigation a step further by breaking the content length data above by domain age and dividing the results into three categories: less than one-year-old, between 1 and 10 years old, and over 10 years old. Here’s what they found.
Image Source: SerpIQ blog
As you can see from the chart, fresh content had around 1,800 words on one page while the other categories had over 2,000 words. The data from both charts leads us to assume that higher ranked pages had more content because they were also older. Also, this suggests that longer content can survive the test of time and perform great for years after it was published.
These results are supported by another study completed by Brian Dean from Backlinko. It analyzed 1 million Google search results and found that content length was one of the important characteristics that defined search engine ranking. Here’s a graph which Dean used to illustrate his findings:
Image Source: Backlinko
The bottom line here is also clear: Google ranking drops along with word count. So does it mean that you should start producing articles over 2,000 words to rank higher?
Wait. Let’s not take this too far.
Although length is critical, it’s also imperative to remember that quality is just as important. For example, if you write a 2,500-article stuffed with nothing but fluff, you’ll not be going to rank high.
That leads us to possible reasons why longer content ranks better on Google.
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Possible Reason #1: Large, Popular Sites Publish Longer Content
Well-known sites like Mashable, Entrepreneur, and Inc tend to publish longer content than lesser-known ones. They are trying to deliver the most comprehensive coverage of a topic or news, so they produce longer articles. Besides, they can do it because they have resources and time.
As the result, people visit such authority sites to get the most informative and useful tips.
Possible Reason #2: Experts Write More
This one is actually connected to the previous explanation. Authority sites tend to hire expert writers who have a vast knowledge of the area they are responsible for covering. Clearly, 500 words are not enough to deliver a well-thought-out, reliable piece on something. If one tries to stuff all this information into a 500-word article, it won’t be as near as informative and useful as, say, 2,000 article that covers every aspect in-depth.
Possible Reason #3: Longer Content is Better Optimized
Longer content allows for more opportunities in terms of optimization, such as keywords. Clearly, it is much easier to cover a topic more comprehensively with longer content, so the writer has a lot of room for creativity when it comes to inserting keywords organically.
Possible Reason #4: Google Loves Longer Content
Google loves what Internet users love, and its states it clearly on the Support page. For example, if searchers are looking for quality content written by a professional from a reputable site, chance are high they will land on authority sites. Given that experts tend to write longer content to provide an in-depth coverage, Google notices it and ranks their articles higher.
Quality, unique, and useful content always perform better than useless content. Given that a lot of quality content is longer, it will rank higher.
Length is an important aspect that may define how your content ranks on Google. However, you shouldn’t produce long articles just for the sake of it. Quality is equally important here. So, avoid “longer is always better” approach and create your content strategically.
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