Yes, this is going to be one of my rant-filled newsletters.
You have been warned.
Why am I ranting? Because last week, a prospect contacted me because she needed a 2,500-word blog post on “what is latex-based paint.”
When I questioned why she needed a 2,500-word guide when a quick, 500-word definition would do, she informed me that her “SEO told her to do it for Google.”
(And this is where the rant come into play.)
Friends, there is no “best word count for Google.” Google does not expect site owners to continually publish long-form content to showcase their authority. In fact, Google has said that word count is not indicative of content quality.
Do long-form blog posts have their purpose? Yes. Do they tend to see more search positions and backlinks? Yes.
But, writing 2,500 words on a topic that could be handled by just 300 words won’t help you. In fact, it may even hurt you.
Why? Just think about it. If your topic is [how to boil an egg] — and your guide discusses the different types of eggs, the history of egg-boiling, the various uses of boiled eggs, and boiled egg recipes — your writing will veer off-topic, fast.
That means Google may position your page for something you don’t want — when all you wanted to do is tell your readers how to boil an egg.
Plus, think about this from Google’s standpoint. Google wants to provide readers with the best answers to their queries. If readers are forced to wade through long-form content to find the information they need, it’s not a good experience. At all.
Which is why you’ll see short copy position — even copy as short as 300 words. The copy may not be comprehensive, but it doesn’t need to be.
It just needs to answer the reader’s query.
But, what if the reader really does want all that information?
Um, you sure about that?
Have you ever asked someone what you thought was a simple question — and you were forced to sit through their highly-detailed five minute response. By the time you start silently screaming inside, the person says, “Oh yeah, the answer to your question is X.”
Painful, isn’t it? For me, it’s physically painful. When it happens to me, I have been known to interrupt people and tell them to get to the point (if my dentist is reading this, I apologize again for saying that — and thank you for laughing at me and not withholding my novocaine.)
But, do you see? Long-form content doesn’t work in every situation.
But hey, what about those sweet, sweet long-form rankings?
It’s not all sweetness and light.
Roger Montti, one of the original SEOs, wrote a great post for Search Engine Journal about the downside of comprehensive content. Here’s a great quote:
“A common mistake made with content is understanding greatness as being comprehensive. Comprehensive means covering a topic from beginning to end.
However, not every topic needs to be comprehensive. The reason why short content sometimes beats comprehensive content is because sometimes a search query is satisfied by a 400 word answer.
This is particularly true in “how to” type search queries that are highly specific. If those kinds of queries can be expressed in short steps (step 1, step 2, etc.), then your users may be happier to see it answered that way.“
(I know I’d be happier. How about you?)
He goes on to say:
“Every time Google tightens its association between content and search queries, web pages with off topic content starts to lose rankings.“
Yup. Longer content isn’t always the winner.
So baby, don’t fear shorter content. And, question any SEO or content expert who tells you that it’s THE way to go. Long-form content has its place. But not every time, and not for every query.
What do you think?
Do people who don’t get to the point drive you nuts, too? Do you have your own long-form content horror story? Hit “reply” and let me know!
Have a spectacular week and thanks for reading. I’ll talk to you next week!
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