How Word Count Affects Conversions and SEO

How many of you or your clients still worry about webpage content being “above the fold”? If you’ve never heard this expression, let me enlighten you real quick.

Being “above the fold” refers to content on a web page that is visible at the top of the window pane without the user having to scroll at all. The thinking in the 90s was that all of your important content had to be above the scroll line or else it wouldn’t be seen.

Calls-to-action, marketing messages, menus, contact info, etc. are very important elements for any website (don’t get me wrong). But this concept of “above the fold” is rapidly becoming a nonissue. People, in general, are becoming more comfortable with scrolling and studies have shown it’s as comfortable as clicking, if not more. According a ClickTale report, of 80,000 pageviews analyzed, 76% of users scrolled to some content and 22% scrolled all the way to the bottom of the page.

If you think about it, scrolling has always made more sense than clicking. Although a minuscule action, clicking is one more thing users have to do to find what they’re looking for (plus a page load on top of that!). Scrolling combined with anchor links on a page offers a much more fluid experience. (Note: anchor links on a page are still a great idea for users that are used to having a main navigation on a website, much like how FrisMedia does it with their side navigation.)

What does this mean for sales?

I could sit here all day and tell you how scrolling is no longer a problem but what does it matter? You’re sitting there with money on the brain and a site that still isn’t ranking on page 1 of Google. You’re probably saying, “Hey Scott, I don’t really give two hoots if users want to click or scroll. How do I get them to buy my stuff?”

A valid question and one that shall be answered. Let ‘s take a look at how longer pages affect conversion and SEO.

Why do longer pages convert better?

There’s a popular A/B test that conversion guru Neil Patel ran on his own site. The original version of this homepage on NeilPatel.com had 1,292 words and his contact form was way below the fold. The second version of the homepage had only 488 words with the form much higher on the page. Neil found that the original, longer page not only converted 7.6% better but also yielded higher quality leads.

This test led to an experiment on the correlation of number of words and rankings. What he found was pretty astounding. Based on the top ten results in Google for 20,000 different keywords he found the following results (graph):

It shows consistently that pages with greater word count rank higher in Google and the top 10 results, on average, have greater than 2,000 words.

There are a couple reasons why Neil Patel’s and other long form homepages convert better than shorter ones.

More calls to action

Perhaps a little obvious, but if your page is longer there is more room for more calls-to-action which are basically little reminders to buy or contact as the user journeys to the bottom of the page. We set up our homepage on The Ocean Agency like this pretty recently and we’ve noticed a significant increase in leads and even rankings (we jumped from page 3 to page 1 after publishing twice as much content on our homepage.)

As your users scroll through your long-form page, they are reading your copy, watching your videos or studying your infographics. Somewhere along the way (if you’ve done your job convincing them) they’ll be sold! What better way to supplement that a-ha moment for them than to offer a contact button or a sign-up form right there so they don’t have to go digging for it. The goal is to capitalize on every possible corner of conversion on your site. If you place these conversion points strategically and with respect to good design, users will notice them when they need to.

Invested Users

Nail Patel most likely saw higher quality leads when his form was at the bottom of a long page because his visitors were more invested in the content. By the time they reached the form, they most likely understood what he was selling, read a little bit about it and made a decision about if they need his service or not. If you write convincing copy, you should most likely see more conversions by the time people reach the form.

Even if you don’t see an increase in leads or conversions, I would tend to opt for the 5 high-quality leads over 20 low quality ones because chances are those 5 will bring you more profit in the end.

Why do longer pages rank better?

More Shares

Currently our homepage for The Ocean Agency has only 400 words, but imagine if we increased content to 1,000 or even 1,500 words. That would be a page worth calling home about.

This brings up the point of whether it is word count or actual web page length that influences rankings. Neil Patel made the point that “Google doesn’t prefer more content because they feel it is more valuable, they actually prefer content rich sites because data shows you like it“. Pages with 2,000 words or more are shared more often, which is what causes better rankings.

More Keywords

In general, more content is always better for SEO. Whether it be a blog post or a sales page, the more words the better. (Note: that does not mean more spammy copy. High quality, non-repetitive content is always the best for SEO.)

When you are optimizing a page for a targeted key phrase it helps to incorporate as many variations of that key phrase as possible. For example, if I’m optimizing for “Chicago pizza delivery” I may want to throw in “Chicago pizza delivery companies”, “pizza delivery in Chicago” and others. The more variations, the more chances I have to bring in traffic and more content (words) allows you to plug in more versions of your targeted keywords.

Conclusion

I used to live and die by the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress and all I know is that the little dot would go from auburn to green no problem when my posts were at least 600 words (even if my post weren’t fully optimized). It’s yet to be stated by Google if word count affects rankings but really it’s not the word count that matters.

Look at this way. Higher word count leads to:

Increased average page visit time
More links, therefore more links clicked
More calls-to-action, therefore more conversions
More for visitors to share
All of these things affect rankings so word count indirectly affects them as well.

After all is said and done, what really matters is making your content readable and optimized for users. If you create content without rankings in mind, your page will be shared and linked to naturally and that’s the best way to increase your rankings.

What experience do you have with long-form pages versus keeping things above the fold? What has worked and what hasn’t? Please share…

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