Let’s start off this blog post with a little word association. I’ll give you a term, and you say the first word that comes to mind.

Salt and…

Peanut butter and…

Cookies and…

Macaroni and…

The birds and the…

The point is, some things in life are just made for each other. In the world of online marketing, SEO and content go together just as naturally as peanut butter and jelly.

Almost everyone agrees that you need content as part of an SEO campaign. The more controversial subject is how much content is necessary for a page.

Some say you need around 5% keyword density in your content (that is, if you want to target the keyword “plumbing company,” the words “plumbing company” need to take up about 5% of all the content). Some will tell you not to worry at all about the length and instead make the website look pretty. Some will tell you to just write for your audience and let the words flow.

If content has become an essential companion to SEO, we must have some general guidelines for the appropriate length. And because I am here to answer all your SEO questions, I have an answer: it depends!

It depends on what? I’ve listed a few tips and tricks below to help you determine the right amount of content to rank in a Google search.

What Is the Competition Doing?

What keyword, service, or product are you trying to rank for? Certain industries (for example, Fat Cats, our local bowling alley) won’t need as much content as more authoritative, technical industries (for example, a website selling health insurance).

Type the keyword, service, or product you are trying to rank for in a Google search. Look at all the results that show up on the first page. These results, your competition, currently take up the real estate where you want to rank. These websites will give you a basic idea of the amount of content Google thinks a website needs for your keyword. Follow suit and replicate strategies your competition is using.

Every once in a while, you will see websites and pages that do not have a ton of content and still rank. Sometimes (and I repeat, sometimes), this tactic works for bigger companies with a ton of authority and traffic. Look at the websites that match your company in size, and write content about the same length as your competition.

Verdict: The right length for your content depends on the industry and your competition.

What Page Are You Writing?

Even within certain industries or keywords, content length should—and will—vary from page to page. For example, a Contact Us page with basic contact information will have less content than a page explaining a specific service or product.

Don’t get caught up on specific word counts. Not every page has to have 300 words of content on it. Likewise, 300 words might not be sufficient for each page.

Think about the page you are writing and why you are writing the content. For example, the purpose of an About Us or a Contact Us page is to provide information about the company, not to sell a product. For “ranking pages” like product pages and services pages, you should follow the first step and look at the content length of the competition.

Verdict: The right length for your content depends on the page you are writing.

Did You Answer All of Your Visitors’ Questions?

You may have a harder time answering this question because business owners are too close to the service or product they offer. You have to imagine yourself as the customer, someone who doesn’t automatically understand what you are offering. What would you need to know?

To be safe, write content that you feel answers your customers’ questions and then some.

For example, say a plumber adds content to his website that reads, “Serving all your plumbing needs.” The plumber understands what this saying means, but it’s not enough for the user. Customers need to know the exact services offered.

Google Analytics has a feature that allows you to track the flow and path a user takes while on your website. If a user looks lost and navigates back and forth between different pages, or if a large part of your visitors leave your website immediately, you need to change or add something to your content. Again, you can always look at your competition to figure out what questions you need to answer.

Verdict: The right length for your content depends on your visitors.

Is It Working?

SEO is like a garden. If you prepare, purchase the best fertilizer, and keep your garden weed-free, the garden will most likely reflect the fruits of your labors.

But a lot of things can kill a garden after you set it up. What if the garden was planted where the sun doesn’t shine? What if no one de-weeded the garden after the initial prep? What if the garden doesn’t get any water? You have to ensure that the garden receives the nutrients it needs to grow.

Like a garden, SEO takes time to yield success, and no matter how much you prepare in the beginning, you need to review your pages to make sure that your visitors receive the information they need. Look at your content every several months to see how well it performs and to help you rank for your desired services.

If your content isn’t performing well, you should also check the quality of your content and make sure you don’t have any duplicate text (content that matches content on another website). However, if you are confident in the authority and quality of your content and you’re still not seeing the results you want, consider adding more specific content or even supplemental information.

Verdict: The right length for your content depends on the results you want and currently receive.

You want to rank in a Google search. I want you to rank in a Google search. Content is necessary to rank in a Google search. How much content? It depends, right?

Look at your competition for appropriate keyword and industry-specific lengths. Consider the page you are writing. Ask yourself and others if you are answering your visitors’ questions on each page. And after all of this, review the work and ask yourself if the content is effective. Is it performing how you want it to?

Feel free to drop a line with your content length suggestions.