by Neil Patel
I write long articles. Most of the time, I’m in the 1k-2k range. I’ve written a few humdingers that clock in at over 4k words.
That’s a lot of writing. I do it for a reason. My number-crunching, data-loving self has come to the conclusion that search engines and people are really into long content. It converts better, shares better, looks better, and just is better.
But only to a point. I don’t want you to grovel in guilt or give up on blogging, just because you can’t write 2k-word articles. In an ideal world, we’d all be churning out 2k-word masterpieces.
But in the real world, you don’t have to write 2,000-word articles.
1. Because quality is more important than quantity.
More than it loves quantity, the search engines love quality.
Don’t believe it? Then check out Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines. In the latest leaked document, we found out that Google hasn’t backed down from its insistence on quality. Google employs real people to ensure that the algorithm is accurately selecting only results that demonstrate impeccable quality.
So, that much is clear — quality is killer.
But what happens when a writer pushes himself to produce 2k words at all costs? Quality might drop. Instead of focusing on great content, the writer is focusing on a number of words.
That’s not good. Quality is always more important than quantity in Google’s algorithmic analysis. If you produce 2k words that lack quality, you will lose whatever rank ability you gained by having 2k words in the first place.
2. Because quantity without quality is counterproductive, both for users and search engines.
Let me show you another angle to this.
Data shows that users like and share longer content. But with a decline in writing quality comes a commensurate decline in just about everything else. Dwell time goes down, bounce rate goes up, and clickthroughs decline. The result is a loss of rank.
Search engines stop liking you, and users do, too. If you let length be your guiding star, you’re going to lose the very two things that you want — readers and rank.
3. Because the goal is to help the user, regardless of length.
I’m a huge believer in helping the user. If I think it’s going to help a user to have a 4,000 word article, then I’m going to bust out 4k words. No prob.
If I think that 20 words could do the trick, then I’m going to write 20. My personal page, Neilpatel.com, for example, is really important to me. But it only has 26 words. By rigorous A/B testing and analysis, I’ve found that 26 is just the right amount of content for that page. For now.
An article at Copyblogger brought some perspective to the discussion. The headline was, “How to Write the In-Depth Articles that Google Loves.” That’s the point right there — in-depth articles. I could really care less about Google loving them or not, because if users love them, then I’m happy. And Google’s going to love it if the users love it.
Users first. Always. Whatever the word count.
4. Because there is no “standard” length that is conclusively proven to have higher ranking.
I’ve run the numbers, performed the analysis, and counted word beans like a nerd. To be totally honest, the data does show a nice little uptick in many metrics right around 2k words.
But most analysis ends up at conjecture. We don’t know exactly the algorithm responds based on content length alone. There are a ton of factors in the mix beyond raw word count. Furthermore, even if we’re aiming for the satisfaction of users, we can’t say beyond any doubt that a certain length of article is the clear mark of excellence and appeal.
There is no single, standard length threshold that shows a consistent and conclusive correlation with better ranking, higher ratings, more shares, longer dwell time, lower bounce rates, etc.
That’s why I’m not stressing about 2k words, and why you shouldn’t either.
My most popular Quicksprout article of all time has 1,091 words. Go figure that out.
5. Because “depth” and “quality” don’t correlate with a specific length.
I want you to walk away from this article with this fact firmly planted in your mind: Write quality articles. If you can write a deep, authoritative, and high-quality article in 500, 600, or 1,000 words, then do it. And don’t feel bad about it.
Great articles don’t have a length requirement.
If you write 2k-word articles of high quality, then I applaud you. If you can’t write 2k-words articles, then I also applaud you. Just keep the quality up.
But what does that word quality mean?
The article should be thorough. Don’t skimp on details, and don’t be afraid of going deep. Your goal is to cover a topic as thoroughly as possible.
The article should be authoritative. Write from a position of knowledge and mastery.
The article should be free of mistakes. We all commit the occasional grammatical uh-oh, and we don’t lose sleep over it. But don’t be sloppy. Check your work.
You can write a 2,000 word article every couple of weeks, and then you can sprinkle in an article or two of 500 words. Do your own tests. Find out which ones are more popular, have higher share rates, and gain more conversions.
Keep in mind that there’s always more to it than just length. Focus on quality, and you probably won’t have a problem with rank.
And in less than 1,000 words, I’ve made my point, sustained my quality, and am satisfied with this article. Hope you are, too.