Should SEO Copywriters Worry About Word Count?

by Mandy Boyle September 15th, 2010 

We've seen the studies. People tend to read less on the web. Instead of diving right into a great piece of content, they skim the waters and pick up tidbits of information here and there. Does this mean that all SEO copywriters should craft content that's short, sweet, and to the point?

Well, kind of. Sort of. Maybe. Let's talk about it more.

The Trouble with Length

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You see, most SEO copywriters are tasked with creating content that's both valuable and friendly to search engines. It's a tough job, but it's not impossible. In terms of length, many SEO copywriters get nervous about crafting something that's too long or dragging. They have to keep up the pace with internet readers without being redundant. Sometimes, that can take 100 words. Other times, it can take a thousand. There's really no hard and fast rule when it comes to length of an article, blog post, or section page. It all depends on three huge factors:

1.) The Audience: What do they want? Do they really have time to read this? Do they tend to like more explanation? Will they actually get what I'm writing about? Be familiar with your audience, their traits, and the language they prefer.
2.) The Subject: Does the copy speak to the subject? Does it provide enough detail? Am I providing information that's useful? Am I avoiding being redundant? Know your subject and know what information to convey.
3.) The Purpose: Do you want to inform? Convince? Convert? Decide on a goal before you start writing.

These three factors (and all of these questions) can be great indicators when it comes time to think about length in a piece of SEO content. So, to answer the initial question: SEO copywriters shouldn't be so concerned with length, as long as they're communicating clearly.

But What About Best Practices?

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Now, there are also a few schools of thought when it comes to SEO copywriting best practices concerning length. You want to serve your purpose and be creative, but what about space? Do you have too much space to fill? Too little? What can you do to actually streamline the copywriting process so that you have a length that's good for web readers? Well, here are a few tips that I use when it comes time to write some SEO-friendly copy.

Make it Easy to Read
Internet readers, as I mentioned, tend to skim, so it's important to write content that's easy to read. One way to break up text so that it's reader-friendly is to use lists, bullet points, and different headers (or categories, sub-categories,etc.) You'll see that I did it with this post. Remember – white space is your friend!

Use Common Sense
Web readers
don't
abide by
the same rules
Suit the length to the medium. If you're working on a section page, use common sense. You want to have enough text to inform the visitor without pushing products or other valuable information below the fold. Consider the space you're given to work with and then go from there. If you have a blog post to write, think about the reader. Will they have to scroll to keep reading? Can they click to read more? Think about these things when you get concerned with length.

Short and Sweet

Remember all of that stuff you learned in grammar school about the meaty, 3 paragraph essay structure? You know, having a neat and tidy introduction, body, and conclusion all constructed out of thick sentences? Toss it out. Web readers don't abide by the same rules. Instead, they look for pieces that look easy to read and *gasp* interesting. Keep your paragraphs and sentences trim.

…And To The Point

Avoid redundancy. If you feel you have to repeat yourself over and over, you're probably not communicating your idea clearly. Go back and edit. Proofread. Make sure everything fits and get to the point. Internet readers are short on both time and patience. Tell them what they need to know and do it quickly. Just make it interesting.

Feel Free to Play
Speaking of interesting, it's paramount that you utilize your space wisely. Get the reader wanting more with an attention-grabbing headline and shorter paragraphs. Then, make things visually appealing by adding an image or graphic. Work with the medium; it's so much more fun that that lined piece of notebook paper your teacher gave you to work with!

Don't Sweat the Word Count

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When it comes to word count, don't focus in on a number. Instead, think about what your purpose is and what information you have to convey. Then, consider the language and length that would be most appropriate to your audience. If you can say it in fewer words, go for it. If you can't, don't stress.

Breaking Up Isn't Always Hard to Do

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Worried about being long-winded or lengthy? Don't be afraid to break up a large piece of text or article into several shorter pieces that are easier for a reader to digest and better yet, remember. Just think, that huge blog post you've been working on can now be stretched across several days!

These are just a few suggestions on how you can work with length in SEO copy. The truth is that there really is no official rulebook when it comes to crafting content. As long as it provides value, is interesting, and incorporates SEO best practices, consider yourself on top of your game – and in the good graces of internet readers.

Mandy Boyle

Mandy Boyle gets her daily fix of copywriting as the SEO Team Leader at Solid Cactus. She is also a published freelance writer , co-founder of NEPA BlogCon and was probably a baker in another life. Cupcakes, anyone?

Mandy Boyle

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9 Responses to “Should SEO Copywriters Worry About Word Count?”

  1. Aaron says:

    Hi Mandy. I don't think word count is a huge issue unless you have been given a specific requirement. The main thing to remember is who you are writing to and if your content gets the point across.
    .-= Aaron recently posted: Sharp AQUOS LC46LE700UN 46-Inch LED HDTV Review =-.

  2. Patrick says:

    Hi Mandy,
    Interesting topic since many seem to agree that keyword density does not exist. Is there a minimum that the engines want to see? Using multiple keywords in an article can get you over the minimum, it is exists, without writing more. Just make sure all keywords fit neatly together in the title and url as well.

  3. Mandy says:

    Hi Patrick,

    Great points!

    I don't think there's necessarily a minimum because in one website, you may find a variety of content sizes and lengths. I think the length should suit the area that you're writing for. For example, in an e-commerce site, product descriptions should be shorter than a dedicated article in a resources section since most buyers want item descriptions to very direct and easy to digest. I think it has to be enough to get the point across to the searcher while establishing context.

    Search engines aren't just looking at keywords you're targeting. They're also considering other words and variations in the text to make sure that the content, no matter what its size, makes sense and is valuable. Plus, keywords that establish context tend to occur naturally anyway, so there's no worrying about trying to squeeze tons of keywords into one piece of content.

  4. Jason Acidre says:

    Hi Mandy,

    I think word count doesn't really matter to search engines these days, and it's always best to keep your readers interested with the content you are offering to them. In my opinion, what's best for both your audience and to search engines is to keep the quality of the content in a manner that it will look natural, whether it's a 350 or 2,000 word entry. The only real "trick" is to make it relevant and must contain valuable information. As a reader myself, I do bookmark those over-delivered posts that I found for future readings. So I guess, there are no standards for post's word count. It really depends on the topic sometimes.

    Regards,
    Jason
    .-= Jason Acidre recently posted: Edu and Gov Sites Advanced Link Building =-.

  5. Copywriters says:

    I think the problem is that many people (particularly those in the online marketing community) operate on the premise that the more words a page contains, the higher the chance of ranking. On a similar note, many feel the need to stuff a page with content, in order to improve 'keyword density' a factor which is becoming less and less important in SERPS.

    • Mandy says:

      I definitely agree. More content does not mean better rankings. You can have a site that has thousands upon thousands of words on it but that doesn't mean that it'll do well in the SERPs. Keyword density isn't a focus anymore. It's now more important to create content that's well written and relevant. In most cases, the keywords and necessary variations will occur naturally, but it never hurts to do a little extra research. I think the key is understanding that content can't just have keyword phrases and length to it. It has to offer value.

  6. Ali Short says:

    Hey there , I am a beginner so I took point of almost everything , the thing I am most interested in learning is , how to chose a good title , so It would be attractive , promising , yet when people come to read the content , they wont feel betrayed by a "Advertisement heading" … ? I am up for any suggestion.

  7. Lee Ka Hoong says:

    I always worry about the word count of a post, what bother me is that I think a short post, says 300-400 words post wouldn't be able to brand a blog. I'll stick to at least 500 words a post even I'm out of idea. But what I found out from the readers is that they only read the points of the article, usually they just read the title and point, they don't even bother to read the introduction, that's what I observed.

    I agree with you Mandy, as long as the post tells the main point, the length of post isn't important.