Few days back, I saw a question on Quora that goes like this:-
“What is the ideal blog post length for SEO?”
There are more than 25 answers to this question ranging from “the longer the better” to “1000/2000/5000+ words”.
Unfortunately, this is not the right way to approach SEO anymore in 2019.
Before I help you with an answer, let me modify this question a bit:-
“What is the ideal content length for ranking on top in Google”?
My Answer: Forget ideal, become practical. That’s how you should approach SEO.
Enters RankBrain: The new name for practical SEO
RankBrain is Google’s Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithm, which is also an integral part of Google’s search ranking algorithm.
The core concept of RankBrain, as part of Google’s search algorithm, is to decode a search query the way a human does, understand the intent behind the query, relate it to other past queries (if any) and finally bring out meaningful results from Google’s vast database. All this happens automatically and the algorithm keeps on learning itself, without any human intervention.
What it simply means is that Google is now highly biased towards those pages which have a high correlation to what a user is expecting from his query, often called as his intent.
What is intent based content?
Google of the past focused heavily on the search keyword entered by the user. That’s why practices like keyword stuffing blossomed and prospered.
To RankBrain, the intent of the query is more important than the keywords present in the query or in the content.
If the intent of the person is towards taking a specific action, Google wants to show him the results that can help him take that action.
And that is how you need to approach your content creation exercise – not worrying about the word count but focusing more on delivering highly relevant intent-based content.
Let’s understand intent based content through an example
Consider the 2 examples below, where I have changed just one word to alter the meaning of the query.
Example 1: Search for “Buy Nike Shoes” in Google
The results look something as follows:-
The intent behind this query is to buy Nike shoes, therefore you see the top 10 results heavily focused towards e-commerce companies.
It’s a no brainer. If a user wants to buy Nike shoes, what a better place to buy than Nike’s website or from an e-commerce website like Amazon.
No matter what’s the length of your content/blog post, you can never displace these e-commerce companies for the given keyword which has high intent towards making a purchase.
Example 2: Search for “Best Nike Shoes” in Google
The search results have now turned upside down.
There’s no e-commerce company in the top 10 results (except Nike’s website).
It’s because the intent of the user is focused more towards finding the best Nike shoes, hence blog posts from Runner’s World and Gear Hungry rank on the top.
No matter what Amazon does to its listing page: it can never rank for this query. That’s because the intent here is not to buy but to research.
By changing just one word (“buy” with “best”) the intent of the query has completely changed, and so have the search results.
Intent is the reason why Nike ranks right at the top for these queries, even though there are less than 50 words on its homepage. And why blogs from Gear Hungry rank for only one of these 2 queries, even though these are of 1000+ words.
The key takeaway from these examples is to always put the user intent on the top and then create content that satisfies this intent. Word count becomes a distant secondary metric.
Now let’s look at some steps that can help you write better intent based content.
4-step approach to writing intent based content
#1. Understand the intent behind the user query
I am assuming that you have done your keyword research and have filtered out your target keywords based on search volume vs rank difficulty score.
For every keyword that you have selected, ask yourself one question:-
What’s the most likely action that a user would want to take, given that he is searching for this query?
#2. Segregate user queries
Based on the likely action, segregate the user queries as follows:-
Navigational: When the expected user action is to find a specific website/brand/content asset e.g. the latest Nick Jonas album (top results include Google reviews, YouTube videos, Wikipedia page and news websites)
Transactional: When the expected user action is to make a purchase e.g. buy the latest Nick Jonas album (top results include Amazon and Apple Music)
Informational: When the expected user action is to learn more about a product or a service e.g. the best Nick Jonas album (top results include music review sites and blogs)
#3. Check the top Google results before you start writing
Now is the time to do your competitor research and check for the type of content that ranks on the top for each keyword.
Generally, it’s seen that long form content works best for informational keywords, since the intent of the query is to dig deeper. For navigational or transactional intent, there is no such rule.
However, before jumping to any conclusion with the content length, refer to the top search results. Look from the perspective of content coverage rather than content length. Based on that, decide on the ideas that you can write on to target a particular keyword. Focus on adding more value than what is provided by the top results. This can be done through more structured writing, further in depth research or making the content easier to consume.
This is the only way to discover the ideal content length for your target keywords.
May be, the top results average 1000 words, but they are not covering the topic in detail, so you should focus on depth rather than the number of words. Obviously, the number of words will be greater than 1000, but there’s no limit that you need to go till 2000 or 5000. Understand the intent, deliver value and forget about the number of words.
And that’s how you will come up with the ideal content length for your target keyword.
This is a tedious but must do exercise if you are serious about your SEO efforts. You can use SEO tools like OnPage Champ that can help you cut short the time for this research.
#4. Now write content that answers the user intent
Based on the user intent (navigational, transactional or informational), structure and create your content.
As I said above, more than the content length, satisfying the intent should be the focus.
By now, it should be clear that absolute content length doesn’t matter.
What matters is the value your content is delivering other content pieces available online.
Create content with that single purpose in mind, and you would never be bothered with this question of finding the ideal content length for your next blog post.
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