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Does Word Count Really Matter For SEO Content?

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Does Word Count Really Matter For SEO Content?


In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), the top strategies for copywriting are continually shifting as we adjust to Google’s algorithm updates.

You may have come across digital marketing experts who offer guidance on how to improve your place in the search rankings by following their recommendations for word count range.

There have been multiple debates around whether word count matters in SEO, and it’s time to get to the bottom of it.

Is Word Count A Ranking Factor?

Google’s John Mueller has confirmed that word count is not a ranking factor for the search algorithm.

Specifically, he states that “just blindly adding text to a page doesn’t make it better.”

Rather than looking at the number of words on a page, Google’s algorithms look for relevant, original, and high-quality content.

Why Long-Form Content Tends To Rank Higher

Despite Google’s confirmation that word count doesn’t directly affect rank, you can still find plenty of articles and keyword tools that suggest longer word counts.

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So, why do tools like Yoast and Clearscope provide recommended word counts if the numbers on the page don’t directly impact rank?

There are a few reasons a higher word count may improve your ranking indirectly.

Some of these tools are basing word count recommendations on competitive analysis.

Writing longer content makes it easier for Google’s algorithm to figure out what your page is about.

Well-written comprehensive pieces also position you as an authority on the topic and enable you to rank for long-tail keyword variants.

How To Determine The Right Word Count For Your Content

There’s no rule of thumb to follow in terms of the word limit for SEO.

Instead, you can look at your keyword research, competition, and past performance to determine your content’s best word count range.

Start With Your Keyword Strategy

You may create a new piece of content with a single target keyword in mind.

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But a study by Ahrefs found longer content is more likely to rank in the top 10 for multiple keywords.

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By increasing the length of your article, you can cover your primary topic from various angles, which means you can rank for more keywords.

In particular, longer articles have a higher chance of ranking for long-tail variations of your primary keyword, with lower competition and higher conversion rates.

For example, long-tail variants of “Microsoft Word” might include “Microsoft Word for Mac” and “Microsoft Word resume template.”

Screenshot from search for [Microsoft Word], Google, March 2022

So if you’ve identified long-tail keywords that you want to target, consider increasing your word count to address those more specific queries.

Check Out The Competition

You can also use word count as a benchmark metric when comparing your content to the competition.

Many keyword research and content optimization tools provide the word count of the top-performing articles for any given keyword.

Clearscope grade summary graph with content grade, word count, and readabilityScreenshot from Clearscope.io, March 2022

If you don’t know how long an article should be, looking at the word count of the current top performers is a good place to start.

Pay Attention To Search Intent

In addition to looking at what the competition is doing, you should always pay attention to the search intent associated with your target keyword.

Intent will help define what makes content useful and relevant to the user.

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In other words, think about what your target audience wants when they type a keyword into the search bar.

If they want comprehensive information, you might aim to meet or exceed your competitors’ word count.

Conversely, you might choose to create shorter content that gets to the point faster for keywords where the audience wants quick answers.

As it relates to word count, search intent can help you decide whether you want to follow the competition’s lead or differentiate your content through length.

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Review Your Performance

Finally, you can look at your past performance to discover what content length works best for you.

Review your SEO performance regularly and see if trends arise.

Is there a word count sweet spot where you tend to rank higher?

Or maybe you have some shorter articles that aren’t ranking as high as you’d like.

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In that case, try going back to your keyword research and figuring out how you can lengthen the content with more useful and relevant information.

Additional Factors That Affect Your Ranking

You can use word count to enhance your keyword research and competitive strategy, but it’s not going to be the ultimate deciding factor for search algorithms.

If you want to improve your SEO performance, here are some additional writing tips to consider:

Content Structure

Google looks at structural elements, such as heading tags, as a way to better understand your content and send the right users to your page.

Formatting your content with a clear, logical structure to your content also improves readability and usefulness for the people searching on Google.

table of contentsImage created by author, March 2022

Instead of just stuffing your heading tags with keywords, think about the best experience for your reader.

Use headings to break up large chunks of text and make it easy for someone to find the information they want.

Quality Of Information

Information quality remains a top determining factor for search engine results page (SERP) rankings.

In other words, adding a bunch of fluff to increase your total word count won’t help you.

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According to Google, the search algorithm prioritizes reliable information and pages that “demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness on a given topic.”

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Back up statements and claims with links to relevant external data sources to improve your content quality.

You should also ensure your content is original by doing plagiarism checks and avoiding duplicate content on your domain.

Visual Support And Imagery

Images and other visual support can help you demonstrate relevance to your target keyword, another primary factor the algorithm uses.

For example, if you’re targeting the keyword “Harry Potter,” Google will look for relevance signals such as pictures of the character or video clips related to the books or movies.

Adding media can improve the user experience by breaking up large blocks of text and catering to visual learners.

High-quality original images also enable you to rank in Google Images.

Optimize For Special Content Blocks

Google continues to make its SERP pages more intuitive and browseable through special content types and featured snippets.

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These content resource blocks appear at the top of SERP pages and often give users a quick answer to their queries.

SERP results for “best places to live in the US.Screenshot from search for [best places to live in the us], Google, March 2022

Optimizing your content for featured snippets can elevate your content to position zero, above all other results.

Around 70% of all featured snippets are paragraph types, which could be an excellent place to start experimenting.

Aim to answer the keyword question using 50-250 characters.

Final Thoughts: Why Is Word Count Important For SEO Strategy?

Optimizing content for SEO isn’t as simple as running through a checklist of keyword mentions and article length.

Ultimately, you have to understand the audience of each keyword and publish the content that best serves their needs.

Word count won’t be the factor that pushes your content to the top, but it can help you define what’s “relevant and useful” for a particular keyword.

Use the writing advice and questions above to find your optimal word count starting point, but keep in mind that all your words should provide value to your readers.

More resources:

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Featured Image: Wall to wall/Shutterstock





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SEO

How To Use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper

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How To Use Google's Structured Data Markup Helper

If you drill down to the very core, every search engine optimization (SEO) strategy has the same aim: convincing Google your webpage is the best answer to a user’s query.

There are a lot of tactics you can and should employ to achieve this, but that’s the goal.

And, as the Google brain has grown more complex, it’s able to display increasingly more detailed and helpful answers.

For example, if you’re looking to book a flight from Chicago O’Hare to LAX, Google can now show you options in rich snippets on search results pages.

Likewise, if you run a concert venue, you can add code known as structured data to your website that will encourage Google to display your events when they’re relevant to web searchers.

If you’re not familiar with the term “structured data,” don’t fret – there are a lot of SEO professionals and web marketers who aren’t.

In this article, we’ll set that right, plus give you tips on using the Structured Data Markup Helper to easily add it to your site.

What Is Structured Data?

As defined in this post, structured data is information (data) that is organized (structured). Organized information is basically what structured data is.

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For SEO purposes, structured data is a specific type of formatting that gives Google information about the meaning of a page.

Following a standardized vocabulary outlined by Schema.org, it is used across several search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex.

Structured data can use syntax like JSON-LD, RDFa, and Microdata, among others.

Why Is Structured Data Important?

There are several reasons why webpages use structured data.

For one thing, it makes navigation easier for both search engine crawlers and human users.

This is because it provides the information that can then be displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs) in the form of rich snippets, video carousels, and other special search result features and enhancements.

This leads to faster indexing by search spiders and enhances your site’s search visibility. This can also help improve your click-through rate, increase conversions, and grab more voice search traffic.

In an article for Search Engine Journal, Winston Burton, Senior Vice President of SEO at global search and marketing agency Acronym, detailed the results of adding structured data to the client’s website.

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With no other optimization strategies employed, the client saw a 400% net growth in rich result organic traffic and a 140% growth in impressions for the company’s answer center.

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Even if this is a statistical outlier, it still highlights the massive potential of using structured data.

What Is Structured Data Used For?

Now that we’ve covered what structured data is and why it’s important, let’s look into some of the ways it can be used.

In an April 2022 Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout, Google Search Advocate John Mueller dove into structured data and its uses.

If you have 30 minutes to spare, it’s well worth the watch. If you’re in a hurry, the part that’s relevant to the current topic begins at 27:19. Or better yet, read Roger Montti’s coverage of it here.

In this hangout, Mueller was asked a question about how to choose the best format for structured data.

His answer was that it’s not so much about what format a page uses, but rather what kind of rich result is available for the page.

Structured data is very versatile and provides a lot of opportunities for businesses to use it to drive clicks. Some of these you may wish to take advantage of include:

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Knowledge Panels

Used for things that are part of the Google Knowledge Graph, they provide a quick overview of information about a topic.

Screenshot from search, Google, June 2022

As a business, you can use knowledge panels to give users at-a-glance information about your brand name, logo, and phone number, among other things.

Rich Snippets

Sometimes referred to as rich results, this is the additional data Google shows users in addition to normal search results. This may include things like music, events, or recipes.

Rich Snippets ExampleScreenshot from search, Google, June 2022

For commercial purposes, this is where reviews can be shown. It can also highlight things like products, addresses, and special offers.

Hosted Carousels

Common on mobile devices, this shows multiple “cards” from the same site.

Not to be confused with ordinary carousels, which can include images, video, and other data pulled from multiple sites, hosted carousels use content from only one “host” site.

Google currently supports the following types of hosted carousels:

  • Educational Course.
  • Movie.
  • Recipe.
  • Restaurant.
Carousel exampleScreenshot from search, Google, June 2022

AdWords

If you’re using Google’s automated ads as part of your PPC strategy, you can use structured snippets to give more information to customers.

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For example, you could use them to provide information about a line of products, included features or services offered.

AdWords exampleScreenshot from search, Google, June 2022

But, before you go inserting structured snippets into your webpages willy-nilly, you should know these are subject to standard Google Ads policies and must meet a number of requirements, a full list of which can be found here.

Getting Started With Structured Data

By now you should see the benefits structured data can offer, so let’s look at how to add it to your website.

The simplest way to add structured data to your webpage is by using Google’s Data Highlighter tool.

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To use this, simply open the tool and highlight data like name, date, location, etc. with your mouse.

Google will note this information the next time it crawls your site and present the data in rich snippets on search results pages.

You can also manually markup elements on HTML webpages. Sound intimidating? It’s not. You just have to have a small working knowledge of coding.

For your convenience, we’ve provided a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:

  1.   Open Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
  2.   Click the “Website” tab.
  3.   Select the type of page you’re marking up (e.g., job postings, restaurants, Q&A page, local businesses, etc.)
  4.   Enter the URL of an existing page or raw page HTML.
  5.   Click “Start Tagging.”
  6.   Highlight the parts of the page you want to be included in rich snippets and identify them in the dropdown that appears.
  7.   Fill in the required information. For an event, this includes the event name, location, and date.
  8.   After you have finished tagging, click the “Create HTML” button and choose an output format. JSON-LD is Google’s preferred format, though you can also choose Microdata.
  9.   Copy the code or download it. If you are using JSON-LD, paste the generated code into the body of the existing page. If you choose Microdata, replace your page with the generated HTML.
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Some other things to note:

  • To test the generated code, copy and paste it into the Rich Result test, which will show you any missing fields you need to fill in.
  • You can have multiple items on one page, but Google recommends that they are all the same type, e.g., all movies or all job postings.
  • All pages you want to display rich snippets for should be available to the public and not hidden behind login screens.
  • It may take a few weeks for Google to crawl your new page, but once it does it can be shown in rich snippets.

Is Structured Data A Ranking Signal?

Now for the $10,000 question: Will structured data markup help your site appear higher in search rankings?

Unfortunately, no.

In a deep dive into the topic, Search Engine Journal found that while it offers many benefits, there is no direct evidence schema markup is used by Google to determine search ranking.

That said, because it helps search engines more easily understand the content of your website, it can help you show up in relevant queries you may have been excluded from in the past.

Key Takeaways

Traffic is always the name of the game in digital marketing. And leveraging structured data on your website is a great way to help attract visitors.

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Not only does it enhance the appearance of your content in search results, but it can help your site get indexed faster.

Rich results (particularly positive product reviews) can also significantly improve your click-through rate and average time on the page.

If your page is used in a featured snippet, it will show at the top of SERPs.

In addition to the increase in visibility that provides, featured snippets are used to answer voice search queries. That means you’ll be the only result for anyone who uses Siri or Alexa for a query.

The final reason you should use structured data on your website is that it gives you more control over your information.

You determine how Google understands your brand and allows you to control how your information is defined.

Structured data is a useful tool in your toolbox. It doesn’t work for every site and every type of content, but if you’re in a field where it is useful, it’s something you need to be using.


Featured Image: NicoElNino/Shutterstock

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