Neil Patel

How to Determine the Best Content Length for SEO

How to determine the best content length for SEO.

What’s the best content length for SEO? That’s probably one of the most asked questions of online marketers and content creators.

As you might expect, the magic number varies quite a bit depending on whom you ask. Don’t worry, though. I’m here to help by sharing some ballpark numbers to aim for.

Let’s start with some research from Hook Agency, which claims the best content length for SEO in 2023 is between 1,760 and 2,400 words:

Let’s face it. That’s a lot of copy. So, here’s another question: Is all that effort you put into writing your awesome posts worthwhile?

For many of us, it takes a solid two or three hours to create a piece of good content that approaches the 2,000-word mark.

Is more content better for SEO? Or are you wasting your time?

Few people can plop in their chairs, bust out a 2,000-word article in an hour, and get on with their day.

Could it be that your 2,000-word articles aren’t even worth the time and effort you put into them? I’ll answer that question for you.

Then, I’ll give you a surefire formula for not wasting your time when you write articles—a powerful method to help your articles rank on top.

If you’re ready to stop wasting time, start ranking high, and optimize your content length for SEO, read on.

Long vs. Short-Form Content: What Works Best?

Here’s a short answer: It depends on your goal.

Every piece of content you publish has a different purpose.

Long-form content (usually over 1,000 words) can be great for in-depth articles, guides, and white papers. This type of content allows you to dive deep into a topic, provide valuable insights, and showcase your knowledge and expertise.

Additionally, long-form content tends to perform better in search engines, but that doesn’t mean Google favors higher word counts.

On the other hand, short-form content (300 to 600 words) can be great for social media posts, certain blog posts, and email newsletters. Short-form content lets you convey a message quickly and succinctly. It’s also more shareable.

Now, if you’re talking about content length and SEO, the answer’s a little more complex.

Ahrefs suggests you should be asking what length best satisfies searchers’ needs.

According to Ahrefs, the best content length for SEO depends on what’s ranking. You also need to look at what format is ranking (for example, guides, listicles, or tutorials). From there, you can create a search-focused outline by identifying content gaps.

Ahrefs has a keyword explorer tool to help with this, but you may prefer to use Ubersuggest.

Aside from SEO, creating content that resonates with your target audience, provides value, and aligns with your goals is essential.

How Long Does It Take to Write a Long-form Article?

Let’s do some calculations.

Let’s say you write an article that’s 2,300 words long. That’s the average length of my articles.

The average typing speed is 40 words per minute.

If you type without stopping, you’ll complete your content writing in just under an hour—57.5 minutes, to be exact.

If only it worked like that.

You’re not writing a bunch of words! You’re writing a well-researched article!

According to Wordstopages.com, 2,300 words amount to about five pages.

A well-researched, five-page article requires exponentially more time.

According to Capitalize My Title, it can take 8.3 hours.

Now, since many workers are at their most productive only two to three hours a day, producing an article like that could take all day Monday, Tuesday, and part of Wednesday!

In my experience, there are some great writers out there who can produce content in way less time.

Their “secret” is using a combination of raw skill, intense focus, and familiarity with the subject matter.

Here’s the question: How long does it take you to write an in-depth article?

Orbit Media’s 2022 State of Blogging Survey shows that it takes an average of four hours and 10 minutes to write a blog post.

However, according to Writesonic, a great long blog post can take six hours to write. Not too long, right?

In contrast, some bloggers, like the mega-successful Jon Morrow, take two to three hours just to write his headline! One of his best articles took him over 50 hours to write!

Seth Godin, marketing god that he is, writes his articles in 15 minutes (they’re really short). But research? That takes him 16 hours!

That leads me to a question.

How do you know if you’re wasting your time with your carefully honed SEO copywriting and perfect prose? Maybe it takes you 10 hours to write a 1,500-word article. Or maybe it takes two hours. It might even take you 100 hours, but who’s counting?

The most important question is not how long does it take.

The real question is: Are you spending your time wisely?

If you are spinning out 2,000 words without the right focus, then you’re probably not spending your time wisely. Let’s explore how to best game-plan your long-form content so you can keep your focus on point.

The Ideal Length for a Long-Form Article

Long-form articles are 1,000 words plus, according to Search Engine Journal.

As for the ideal length, Wordstream’s research shows its best-performing blogs over the last three years have an average of 2,700 to 3,000 words.

To make things (a little bit) easier, Wordstream has these three rules for deciding the best length for long-form articles:

  1. If in doubt, make it long.
  2. Above all, deliver value.
  3. Do your (keyword) research.

What should you take from that? Well, you could always aim for over 2,000 words just to avoid overthinking it. However, that may not be the best approach—particularly if the subject matter doesn’t warrant that many words or you can compete against other top search engine results page (SERP) players by writing much less.

Let’s dig deeper.

Is It a Waste of Time To Write Long Articles?

Wait just a minute. Before you start putting your finger to the keyboard, is all this writing a waste of time?

Answer: Possibly.

I’ll explain why in a minute, but obviously, it depends. After all:

To figure out whether you’re wasting your time, you need to understand the goal of your article.

What is the goal?

Asking how long it takes to write an article or whether more content is better for SEO are great questions. However, we also have to understand the goal to answer them accurately.

So, yes, if you’re cranking out 2,000 words without the right plan in place, you are wasting your time!

You’ve probably heard people like me explain how important it is to write long-form content.

In response, you may write lengthy articles, expecting that’s all it takes to get high rankings.

The problem? It doesn’t work that way.

Let me explain why in the next section.

Google Doesn’t Care About Word Count. It Cares About Three Other Things.

Let me reveal a surprising truth about Google’s algorithm, search results, and content length.

Data does not prove that a large word count produces higher rankings.

Instead, we can show that a large word count is correlated with higher rankings.

That’s why I write, teach, explain, and champion long-form content.

You’ve probably seen this data before, right?

Longer content gets more backlinks.

Longer content gets more social shares.

Longer content generates more traffic.

Longer content sees higher social engagement.

And—this is the kicker—longer content typically nets a higher SERP ranking:

Most SEOs take this information and think, “Oh! I need to write more!

This is where I caution you against wasting your time. While having a longer content length for SEO seems to be promising, there is more to the picture.

You can’t expect to simply write more content and get all the good stuff—higher rankings, more backlinks, social shares, and social engagement.

Instead, you need to write better content. It’s more important than ever in the era of E-E-A-T and generative AI in search.

“Better” content is typically longer, but it’s more than just length.

In fact, the real reason for high-ranking content isn’t the length of the content at all.

For example, let’s look at the top-ranked organic results for “content marketing.”

The top result when I searched this morning was an article titled “What Is Content Marketing?” from the Content Marketing Institute blog.

The second organic result is from MailChimp.

The third organic result is from you know who, and it’s my post called “What Is Content Marketing, and Why Is It Important?

This is a single example of a major search term. According to Ahrefs keyword difficulty tool, “content marketing” has a keyword difficulty level of 84 (or super hard).

This means that you’ll need at least 455 solid backlinks to have a chance to rank in the top 10 on Google.

There is an enormous amount of volume and engagement for this search term.

Let’s try the long-tail keyword “B2B content marketing strategy.”

What do the results look like? Here’s the data from Ahrefs:

For a long-tail informational query like “B2B content marketing strategy,” we’d expect to get information-rich, in-depth articles.

True to form, Google delivers just that.

The first organic result is from StoryChief. It’s a long-form 21-minute read.

The article clocks in at a whopping 4,415 words.

What’s the second organic result?

It’s a 3,288-word article from Semrush.

What’s going on here? Am I simply cherry-picking examples to push my agenda?

No. In fact, I selected “content marketing” keywords to surface results from the content marketing community—writers and content creators who believe content length helps SEO.

That certainly rings true here. All the top organic articles are long-form. Does that tell us anything about the best content length for SEO? Maybe. However, as I’ve said before, there is more to high search rankings than long-form content.

When Is Short-Form Content Best?

Many consider short-form content to be a maximum of 1,200 words. Not Search Engine Journal, though, which contends 1,000 is the max.

Some forms of writing are ideal for this, including:

However, let’s not forget social media posts, newsletter content, and emails. Then there’s the boom in short-form video, which can help put your content on the map.

You can also use short-form content to satisfy search intent and create brand awareness.

Ideal Length For Short-Form Content

For written content, you’re looking at fewer than 1,200 words. It’s hard to find an exact sweet spot because the takes vary on what constitutes the “perfect” length.

However, if your main concern is the impact of content length on your SEO, research indicates articles with fewer than 1,000 words net an average of 3.47 shares and links, while 1,000- to 2,000-word pieces average 6.92 links and shares.

For short-form videos, the benchmark length from Google is shorter than 10 minutes. In contrast, HubSpot says the general consensus among marketers is under 60 seconds for short form, with the ideal length falling within the 31- to 60-second range.

The takeaway from all this?

It’s the same with long-form pieces. Don’t rely on content length purely for SEO purposes. It’s just one factor.

Ultimately, the length of your content should align with your goals and the preferences and behaviors of your audience. Create quality content that’s relevant to your audience, and make it as long as it needs to be.

Additionally, consider the platform you’re posting on, the context of your content, and what you want your audience to take away from it.

3 Characteristics Every Piece of Content You Write Should Have

If content length isn’t the deciding factor in SEO, then what is? There are three clear answers based on data:

1. The content needs to be deep.

First, the content needs to be deep.

What do I mean?

I’ll explain, but first, let me show you why depth matters because that will help us understand what “deep” looks like via a real-world example.

As I tackled this question, I performed some in-depth analysis using MarketMuse.

As an example of my analysis, I’ll show you my investigation of the top-ranked article from StoryChief.

Ready? Let’s dive in. As a refresher, this article currently ranks number one organically for the “B2B content marketing strategy” search query.

It’s super long. It clocks in at around 4,415 words.

My question is, why does it rank so well?!

First, I open up MarketMuse.

Then, I enter the URL for the article.

Second, I add the search query above as the “focus topic.”

Then I click “Run / Fetch.”

MarketMuse scours the web and analyzes hundreds—sometimes even thousands, depending on the subject—of pages of content to create a topic model of the 50 most-relevant topics that the experts address when covering this subject.

It then creates a comparative score of the top 20 ranking pages against the model.

What’s interesting about this data is that the top 20 organic results are all over the board in terms of content length.

More interesting is how the SERP has changed over time. When first published, a 1,500-word post was the norm for this subject.

Not anymore.

However, you’ll notice that the content score has also increased, in addition to the word count going up.

That’s because deep content is often long by necessity. To cover as many relevant topics as possible, you have to write more words.

2. The content should have comprehensive coverage.

Second, really good content that ranks high will have comprehensive coverage not just length for SEO purposes.

Comprehensiveness refers to the variety of related topics that the article discusses. While deep content strives for plentiful mentions of relevant topics, comprehensive content targets more mentions of related topics.

We analyzed this by comparing one piece of content that scored extremely high in the “content score” category.

In this case, the higher-scoring content mentioned topics such as the following:

The original article we analyzed didn’t mention any of those topics.

Covering the term “brand awareness,” as just one example, could make the content more comprehensive, which could contribute to a higher ranking.

Think for a moment, though: How much content do you need to write for your article to be considered highly comprehensive?

Sure, it depends on your niche. However, in this case, the most comprehensive article wasn’t even the longest!

Content doesn’t need to be super long to rank well. Multiple factors contribute to ranking, and word count is not one of them.

But comprehensiveness is one of them, at least according to Hummingbird algorithm research.

And sometimes, to be comprehensive, you have to have a lot of words.

3. Create content around the topic (keyword) you want to rank for.

Keyword stuffing is a thing of the past.

Today, what works is honing in on a single topic and mentioning it repeatedly.

When you analyze the top result for a given keyword, you’ll notice that the selected keyword appears multiple times and in multiple ways within the content.

For example, the keyword in the article we’ve been using as an example is right in the title.

Variations of the keyword are then distributed throughout the article and comments:

When I analyze keyword density, here’s what I see for single keyword frequency.

The top three words are 1) content, 2) marketing, and 3) strategy.

I also analyzed the article for 2-word keyword density:

Notice again how “content marketing,” and “marketing strategy” are the top two.

Finally, look at the article’s 3-word keyword density ratings:

Unsurprisingly, “content marketing strategy” has the highest frequency, with nine occurrences.

Proper planning allows you to avoid keyword stuffing while ensuring you can include long-tail keywords to help drive additional traffic to your site.

Ubersuggest is one of many tools to help you identify the best long-tail keywords for your content. Here’s what you should do:

Step #1: Visit Ubersuggest, enter your seed keyword, and click “search.”

Step #2: Click “keyword ideas” on the left sidebar.

Step #3: Analyze the keyword ideas.

The first keyword on the list is your head keyword, which naturally has the highest search volume. While you’ll use this keyword in your title and throughout your content, the real planning begins as you select long-tail keywords.

When doing so, focus on the following:

As a general rule of thumb, look for keywords with a high search volume and CPC and a low SEO difficulty. This gives you the best opportunity to reach the top of the search rankings, as high search volume positions you to receive a sizeable amount of traffic.

Although keyword stuffing is dead and keyword density ratios are overrated in the post-Hummingbird era, maybe there’s something to be said for frequent and varied usage of the focus topic.

FAQs

How does content length affect SEO?

The relationship between SEO and content length gets plenty of discussion online. Although Google doesn’t use length as a ranking factor, longer content seems to rank better in search results.

There could be several reasons for this. For example, longer content generally offers more value to the reader and is more likely to contain the information the reader seeks. This could mean search engines consider your content more relevant to searchers.

Other factors, like additional keywords, can also help longer articles rank. Also, keep in mind that readers can gain more value from a comprehensive article.

Also be sure not to overlook content depth, or how long and in-depth a web page or article is, as it relates to SEO. In SEO, content depth is one of many factors that can contribute to a page or post’s performance in rankings.

What is the ideal content length for SEO?

HubSpot says the best content length for SEO is 2,100 to 2,400 words, according to its data. However, it also found that some blogs under 1,500 words performed well.

Can shorter content still rank well in SEO?

For sure. Just remember to publish quality content relevant to your audience that follows SEO best practices.

Conclusion

In summary, there is no law that says your content must be a certain length to rank well. However, it’s generally agreed that the best content length for SEO is between 2,000 and 3,000 words.

Many content marketers spend plenty of time creating content, and that’s good!

That said, length isn’t the only thing to target when creating content.

Data suggests that your content should follow these principles:

  1. The content should be deep.
  2. The content should have comprehensive coverage.
  3. The content should be focused on the topic (keyword) you want to rank for.

When you create content with those three characteristics, you might write a 4,000-word article. Or it might be 1,000.

Either way, it’s going to be good, and that’s what Google likes.

What do you find is the best content length for SEO?

Grow your traffic

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