Fact: Word Count is Not a Ranking Factor

In August 2019, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller confirmed that word count is not a ranking factor in Google search, adding, “Save yourself the trouble.”

Seems pretty cut and dry, right? So why are so many business owners and content producers obsessed with meeting ultra-high word counts?

It all comes down to a handful of studies done over the last few years that seem to prove a correlation between word count and a content’s ability to rank. But in reality, it’s much more complex than that.

Here is the truth: content ranks well when it perfectly answers the question it’s trying to answer. And it helps to be published on a reputable website (i.e. one that other websites regularly link to because the content is just that excellent).

Rather than think about word count, content creators need to focus on the user and what information and format are going to be most useful to them. For instance, a 2,500-word post on how to reset an iPhone would be an absolute nightmare to wade through. Some of the highest ranking how-to content for simple tasks can be less than 100 words. Because users are looking for something quick and to the point.

On the other side, a deep-dive explanation of how health insurance works deserves more than 100 words. How do I know this? Just think about trying to explain to someone the differences between FSAs and HSAs, in-network and out-of-network, how to find a doctor, etc. in less than 100 words. Obviously, a piece like that is going to be much longer.

How long? As long as it needs to be so that someone can read it and feel like they walked away with a more complete understanding.

When we get too hung up on word count, we run the risk of creating content that is unnaturally wordy and difficult to read. No number of words on the page is going to outweigh the data of how real users interact with your content (i.e. Are they spending time reading it? Are they sharing it?).

Instead of obsessing over word count, obsess over how to best serve your audience with useful content. Don’t make the mistake of handing a writer a list of keywords and asking them to write 3,000 words on a topic that could be fully explained in 300. Save yourself the trouble. Focus on producing content that’s actually helpful and valuable to your audience.

At MBB, we’re all about making it matter—especially when it comes to your content. If you need help developing useful, stand-out content for your website or social channels, give us a shout.

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