Updated: Oct 11, 2019
Remember the nightmarish scene from college when after pouring your heart and soul into a term paper, it came up 500 words short of your professor’s mandated word count?
Now that we’re all grown up, no one can tell us how long our memos, emails or Facebook posts have to be, right?
And when it comes to writing for your website, there's nothing wrong with keeping it succinct and to the point.
After all, considering the modern attention span (or lack thereof), less is almost always more.
Well, the operative word in that last statement is almost.
First, a quick reminder: search engines crawl textual content to judge authority and deliver results to users.
Google claims word count is not a ranking factor for website pages.
(Sigh of relief.)
Good news. Google isn’t like that acerbic English lit prof demanding you “go long” for the sake of going long.
That stated, research by trusted sources like HubSpot and Search Engine Land show longer is stronger when it comes to solving for relevance (the reader) and authority (the search bot).
Here are three easy-to-assess signs your website might be suffering from low word counts on key pages.
1. Website Page Content: Strike a Balance
Website textual content is where many businesses come up short. After staring for hours at a blank text box on a content management system, many of us resort to a few lines of copy and fall-back on uploading a video.
Video engagement across channels is through the roof. So, not a bad strategy, there. Neither is posting a slide show of images or a collage of Instagram posts. That is, if these visual stimuli are accompanied by ample … meaningful … words.
A recent survey by SEO gurus ahrefs found pages ranking No. 1 in Google’s search engine results page had between 800 and 1,000 words. Not term paper length by any means. But not exactly a Tweet, either.
What does a good word count look like? I recently spent two weeks diving deep into the websites of 14 elite North American golf resorts while helping write content for GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Golf Resorts.
Rather than throw any of them under the bus for underselling their properties online, I’ll highlight one that strikes a nice balance between text, image and video content.
Cabot Links is in postcard-ready Cape Breton, Nova Scotia Canada. Its two golf courses are among the best to open in the world over the past decade.
The newer one, Cabot Cliffs, features stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. The golf villas feature stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. The Panorama Restaurant features stunning seafood from the Atlantic Ocean.
You get my point. And so does the reader because there’s just enough narrative on these pages sprinkled between images and videos to tell the Cabot Links story in a compelling, convincing manner.
I ran a sampling of its website pages through an online word counter. They ranged from 550 to 750 words. This is a generous amount of solid content. Kudos, Cabot Links.
Treat your website pages like your diet and keep them balanced. One or two videos, four or five images and 500 to 750 words of text should keep you in good SEO shape.
2. Blog Posts: Stretch Your Limit
This next one comes as a shock to people who want to up-level their blogging. Most of their digital lives they’ve associated these "digital postcards" with brevity.
When it comes to blogs, HubSpot dominates for quality and quantity. In evaluating its own blog post “sweet spot,” it determined 2,500 words was the magic bullet for relevance and authority.
HubSpot is a tech company full of professional writers. Back in the real world, we must choose between working in the business or on the business. Client and customer servicing usually win out over blogging.
But next time you sit down at the laptop to craft a post, stretch your limit. It’s no different than banging out an extra rep in the gym or pushing through an another quarter mile on your daily run.
3. Thin Doesn’t Win in the Content World
Seasoned SEOs recall the day when black and grey hat SEO were the rule and not the exception. Shady tactics like keyword stuffing, cloaking and hidden text were all the rage. This basically ended in 2011 with Google’s Panda algorithm update.
Nowadays, most “thin content” isn’t brought into the world via nefarious intent. On the contrary, it is often totally innocent.
Website pages that don’t convey adequate information or value, or are improperly structured, can cause a precipitous drop in search rankings.
The fix? Be an avid, objective consumer of your own material. Take the time and read every page on your website. Are you better educated or closer to making a decision upon reaching the bottom (where, hopefully, you’ve included a call-to-action)?
From a more technical SEO standpoint, are you using your top keywords in the page title, subheads and content?
Also check for internal and external links, as well as anchor text that helps Google understand what your website (and business) are all about.
Create Your Own School (of Thought)
Becoming a rock solid website content or blog writer is a matter of spending a little time every month on SEO research and a few extra hours a week cranking out quality copy.
It won’t help with the nagging college professor nightmares. But in the long run, it will increase your online visibility.