This is an update of a prior post that mostly holds true today in 2021.
Clients ask me all the time how long their content needs to be. More than ever with broad core algorithm updates in June and July of this year (2021), the ranking factors and needs to rank are becoming more nuanced and refined. As a runner, I would often people say “listen to your body” and “run how you feel” and be frustrated by the lack of specifics.
Much like that advice for runners, the answer is simple, but it can be a little bit frustrating. As is the case with everything for SEO, the real answer comes down to the search and the competition. There is no set number that works for everything. This makes sense but makes things a bit complicated. I tend to look at trying to be over a bare minimum of 250 words and suggest business owners aim to get over 400 with descriptions of their services and offerings. This gives them something to aim for, but in actuality, it varies greatly. Though the average first-page result on Google has over 1,500 words, and the top-ranking often even higher, that is an average of all searches, which brings in a lot of news stories and results that require detailed content. Search Engine Journal recently did a nice and detailed post on this. Here, though we are talking about small business, the answer is the same. The reason SEO can be difficult is the common answer to SEO questions is “It depends.” However, if you always think about the needs of your customers, you will be headed in the right direction,
Comprehensive Content Good for Users
Every search has a different intent. Over the years, the Google algorithm has gotten better at two major things. One is catching cheaters or closing up loopholes and the other is better understanding user intent. Google’s job is to provide the best answers to a searcher’s query. They need to take many things into account, which is why there are so many ranking factors. The algorithm has to consider both the content that answers the question as well as the reputation and the user experience of the site that presents that content.
So the best answer is to write for your users and make sure you address anything that they may need addressed to answer their question, which typically leads to more thorough content, and is why many small businesses that were getting by with two sentences of content on their product and service pages a few years back, suddenly saw big ranking drops. This does not necessarily mean you need to aim for 1,500 words either. We have all read content that was clearly too long and written for that generic 2,000 word aim just to add more words. Google is still getting better at figuring that out to some extent. One example is many of us get frustrated on recipe sites when we have to read 500 words of background and story about someone’s recipe before they get to the actual “what do I do” portion. For most of us that is a bad user experience, but many of those writers are aiming for content length that may not necessarily lead to good user experience. Google is getting better at that.
Make Sure You Share What is Important
Do make sure you share the important information, such as the details of your service, how someone would pay for it, and why they should choose you over competitors. Remember with SEO, each page may be the first page a user sees on your site. It is ok to tell them why they should choose you on each page to some degree. You can do a more detailed explanation on an about page, but let them know right on that landing page why you are the best choice for that particular service. You may want to include answers to some frequently asked questions that you know prospects ask and which may be crucial to their decision. Including all of this on the page in a digestible and easy to read format (break it up with headers and an image or two), will typically create a good user experience and get your content to a length that Google and users are looking for. It makes sense.
High Competition Leads to Deconstruction
If you are in a very competitive space, you may choose to hire a pro like me to help deconstruct and shape your content. We have tools that can really dig into the highest-ranking pages and provide key phrases and concepts that should be included, as well as guidance for length and other important metrics. However, the process should always start with you writing what you believe is the most important information for your users based on what I outlined above. You know your customers better than anyone. An SEO can help guide you or give you ideas to expand upon, but it starts with you writing for your customer.