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What Is the Ideal Word Count for Articles and Other Pieces of Content?

By January 23, 2023January 30th, 2023No Comments

The best word count for your web page depends on the type of piece, your audience, and many other factors.

Ask three different marketers what the best word count is for an article, blog post, or web page and you may get three different answers. Ask Google and you will get 245 million results. With so much ambiguity, how can content writers, media publishers, and other content professionals know the best number of words to use in their content?

Well, it turns out, Google results do have helpful advice. Consider these stats from various sources:

  • The average first result on Google has a length of 1,500 words. Ok, so 1,500 words should be my target. Good.
  • Longer posts, 2,000 words or more, tend to rank higher and are more likely to appear in the top 10. Ok, ranking higher on Google is definitely a goal… 2,000 words it is…
  • Content longer than 7,000 words gets more than three times the number of shares and links. Oh wow, that’s beastly… ok, I’ll go for 10,000 just to be safe…
  • Content longer than 10,000 words can actually hurt your rankings, especially if it’s not on point and doesn’t nail search intent for users. Wait… huh?
  • To rank within the first five positions in Google, i.e, on page one, shorter content length appears to be the key. I quit.

We know. It all seems overwhelming, but don’t give up just yet.

The best-selling manuscript of all time had a word count of more than 700,000 words. On the other hand, one of Time Magazine’s best-ranked blogs was under 200 words. The lesson here is that there is no one-length-fits-all answer. But what is clear is that word count matters and depends on your objective for a particular piece of content. 

Different objectives call for different word counts

If backlinks and shares are your focus, consider writing no less than 7,000 words.

If Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are more your speed, don’t stop writing until you’ve written at least 2,000 words. 

If reaching the masses is important to you, well, maybe you should get started on those 700,000 words.

With your objectives in mind, you’re ready to follow general rules of thumb for deciding the ideal word count for different types of content. But first, let’s consider a few best practices. 

How to determine the best word count for your web content

Whether you’re writing a new manuscript, academic journal, or a set of blog articles, there are best practices to follow to ensure you’re creating content that meets your objectives and gives your audience the right answers to their problems and search queries. 

  1. Consider your audience
  2. Prioritize quality over quantity
  3. Focus on on-page elements besides copy
  4. Provide different value with different lengths

Consider your audience

What you write isn’t nearly as important as whom you’re writing it for. Different audiences respond to different types of content. For example, technical buyers want in-depth pieces to  help them make purchasing decisions, while a busy parent may want quick information about a new bottle for their child. Everything begins and ends with your audience. Keeping a pulse on what they’re doing and where they’re spending their time will produce better outcomes than guessing or relying on gut instinct.

Begin by asking yourself questions like: 

  • Which of our content pieces are they already most engaged with?
  • What is the average length of those posts? 
  • What type of content are our competitors producing and how is it performing?

Answer these by team brainstorming sessions and using analytics tools to examine how your content is performing. 

Also consider emerging technology such as voice search that rely on more natural queries for online search. For example, ask, “What is the best word count for articles” vs. “What is the required length for articles?” Or, “number of words for a blog post” vs. “optimal word count for blog posts.”

Prioritize quality over quantity

A Google search of “what is the best word count for a blog” might yield a quarter billion results or more but the actual humans who work there suggest only eight questions to evaluate the quality of your content. They help you answer the following questions:

  1. Does the content provide insightful analysis or helpful information? Readers want content that tells them something new, whether it’s a perspective or solution to a problem. 
  2. If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid copying or rewriting those sources and instead offer added value and originality? Readers recognize thoughtful, carefully researched content vs. content stocked with keyphrases in a cheap effort to rank higher in Google listings. Keeping your audience and their concerns top of mind will help make your content relevant and useful.
  3. Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?

After self-assessing, ask those outside your organization how they think your content measures up. Even better, survey your target market. Answers from each will help you optimize your content across platforms.

Focus on on-page elements besides copy

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” 

This phrase–originally, one look is worth a thousand words–is no less true today than when it was first coined by advertising exec Frederick R. Bernard more than a century ago. Now, marketers have more ways than ever to engage audiences with imaging, beyond photos and video. Think GIFs, static or animated memes, and infographics. 

Perhaps the best definition of memes comes from Saint Hoax via the New York Times: “[They] are basically editorial cartoons for the Internet age.” These often take on a life of their own due to high shares and engagement. 

Infographics are more visually striking, updated versions of charts, diagrams, or illustrations—a visual way of representing a lot of information in a shareable format. 

Other ideas include making your content searchable within an article or blog post, adding a table of contents with links to sections, and offering a downloadable version of the article in .pdf format. 

Consider adopting one or more of these elements to complement your copy. 

Provide different value with different lengths

Some lengths resonate with specific audiences more than others. Consider a study by Neil Patel and his team about 10,000+ articles on the Internet. They found there are nuances to word count based on type of industry, type of content, and social media platform. To rank in the top 10% of traffic, backlinks, and social media shares in your industry, the report concluded that average word count for articles should be between 500 and 1,500 words.  

Keeping in mind that word count will vary depending on your specific industry and objectives, here are rules of thumb for different types of content. 

Blog posts | 2,100 to 2,400 words

Blog posts between 2,100 and 2,400 words tend to perform the best for SEO ranking, according to a study by SEO Journal. This word count further varies depending on your objective. For example, if you’re aiming to increase social media shares, your article can run between 300 and 10,000 words. Introductory posts tend to perform better at 300 to 500 words. Learn more about word count for SEO.

Whitepapers | 1,250 to 3,000 words

Whitepaper expert Gordon Graham defines whitepapes as persuasive essays that help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or perform better at their jobs. To develop an argument and enough supporting detail, Graham suggests writing at least five pages, about 1,250 words. 

Social posts | 5 to 2,000 words 

Word count for social posts varies by platform. For example, the ideal LinkedIn post performs best at 1,900 to 2,000 words. Paid posts on Facebook are best at five to 19 words. Some users have found clever workarounds to expand their posts by using images with text, posting longer content in comments, or including external links to a continuation of the post. 

Core web pages | 300 to 500 words

Your About Us, Contact, and other core web pages are usually the first pages seen by your target audience. Word count matters here. To improve your search engine ranking, the optimal word count for a web page is about 500 words. SEOptimizer’s website word count tool can tell you if you need to boost (or decrease) your word count to start ranking higher in Google search results. 

Final words of advice

Length does matter. But arriving at the ideal word count for your content starts with a clear understanding of your industry, target audience, channels, and marketing objectives—and the value that quality, on-point content brings to readers. Here everything from brainstorming and adoption of analytics tools to doing self-assessments based on answering those eight questions from Google examples can help. 

Word count is relative and will create different value for readers on different channels. A light, easy read for social is likely to have a much different length than a detailed, technical thought leadership piece meant to increase your search rankings on Google. 

Finally, consider breaking out of the “words-only” mindset—experiment with adding video, GIFs, memes, and infographics to your existing content to see if that drives higher engagement. 

And always prioritize quality of quantity. 

Get clarity on ideal word count for your content with Parse.ly Analytics

Parse.ly, part of the WordPress VIP platform, has a feature that filters content by word count, which lets you compare the performance of longer- to shorter-length pieces through various metric, channel, author, and tag lenses (see image below). 

This is critical feedback that will help you plan and optimize your content strategy. For example, find out  what word count works best for search or the sweet spot for bringing readers to your site from a newsletter.

Unlike other analytics solutions, Parse.ly makes working with data easy for writers, editors, and content marketers, giving them the insights they need to focus their content strategy and prove ROI. Want to learn more about Parse.ly’s platform and word count filtering?

Talk to a content analytics expert today