The Relationship Between Word Count and Google Rankings

We know the main factors in terms of SEO – relevancy + authority.

Links to your site obviously still matter. As does the quality of those links. On-page optimization is important in terms of title tags, on-page content, etc.

One question many SEOs have is, how much does the amount of content on a certain page, i.e. word count – play into everything? This discussion happens among the SEO team members at the Ocean office all the time.

After digging into some data myself, I’ve come to the conclusion that having a higher word count will help you improve rankings. However, at the same time, it can hurt you as well. Therefore, don’t just scrape a ton of words on a page in order to improve word count.

The bottom line: Create good, quality copy and content.

Evidence in support of word count improving rankings

First off, let’s start with some evidence of word count playing a positive factor in rankings. Last year, Backlinko looked into 1 million search results to see what factors go into first-page rankings.

Here’s what Backlinko’s Brian Dean had to write:

“Based on SERP data from SEMRush, we found that longer content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results. The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.”

That’s extensive research that says word count does play a factor. So yes, having more copy can certainly help your site along the way.

So, is it better to have a bigger word count and more copy on your site? Well, yes and no.

Studies, including Backlinko’s, have concluded that pages with higher word counts tend to rank better. Back in 2012, SerpIQ posted a study that showed the average word count for the top 10 Google results was over 2,000 words. The study also showed that the average word count for a page in the first position is roughly 2,450 words. The average count for pages in position 10 was a little over 2,000. Backlinko’s results said that the average first page result contained 1,890 words.

Therefore, it’s pretty obvious Google does value pages with a high word count. However, when you’re writing content for your page, or putting an article on your site, you shouldn’t be checking your word count constantly.

The bottom line is, just worry about posting quality content. Get great info about your product on your landing pages. Reach out to clients and make sure your product pages have testimonials. For blogs, get good data to rely on and get quotes from sources if you can.

Post quality content that’s engaging to readers, where a reader is going to be interested and want to stay on your site. Also, make sure your page has images. Backlinko’s study said that pages with at least one image significantly outperformed pages without any images. Break out your content and blog posts into sections to improve the user’s experience.

If you’re just posting a lot of words on a page, it can come back to bite you in a number of ways because word count is just one of many factors in SEO.

Don’t sacrifice user experience

Make sure the content you’re posting is interesting content. Don’t publish a blog just because, and don’t cram out 2,500 words on a page that doesn’t need 2,500 words. There are a number of reasons not to do this.

Obviously, one of the biggest factors in SEO ranking is links to a site, and more importantly quality links. If you post content that isn’t good, nobody is going to want to link to it. Any type of good content, no matter how long it is, has a better chance of earning links and therefore a better chance of improving your site’s ranking in Google and other search engines.

There’s also the issue of bounce rate and time on site.

Let’s say you have a page with 2,500 words on it. However, let’s say it’s a page that doesn’t necessarily need 2,500 words, as not every page needs that type of treatment, whether it’s a product page, informational page or a blog post.

If a user gets to your page and they find that it’s just not helpful for them, there’s a good chance they just may leave your site.

One other thing that high-ranking pages in Backlinko’s study had in common? Low bounce rate. Don’t sacrifice good bounce rate and user experience in order to get more words on a page.

A 2016 Moz study showed that average time on site, in addition to bounce rate, played a factor in sites that rank high. Sure, longer content will may have a higher average session duration, but more importantly, good long content will have higher average session durations.

One note I have to mention on bounce rate is that while Google has said in the past it’s not part of the algorithm, people in the SEO community believe it is. The correlation between low bounce rates and high Google ranks could be just a reflection of these pages providing a good user experience.

Either way, bounce rate is certainly something you should be paying attention to.

So, what’s the big takeaway?

I think the be all, end all in terms of word content and SEO is the fact that Google values content that’s going to provide a good user experience. Every single thing that I’ve mentioned deals with user experience, and I believe that these aspects are all inherently related.

Bottom line – if you’re content is good, it will look good to Google. A good, well-written blog post with good, helpful images is going to engage the user.

It’s going to keep the user on your website longer, and it’s going to make them visit other pages on your site instead of leaving right away.

Good content will also have users link to your site as well. If a person likes an article, they’re going to keep coming back to your site in the future and possibly linking to other articles as well.

If you’re able to come up with good, interesting topics, or if a page on your site has good information, or if you have a quality product, the word count will take care of itself.

Google isn’t just randomly taking pages that have a lot of words. They’re taking pages that have good content, and the word count is just a reflection of that.