Perhaps two of the most commonly asked questions in the world of SEO are
- How many words of content should be on each page? and
- What is the ideal keyword density for a page?
Getting answers and advice on these questions might feel like getting advice on dating; everyone seems to have their own opinion. Truthfully, there’s no right answer for either one of these questions. Just like you shouldn’t believe anyone who says they’ve found the exact secret to dating, you shouldn’t believe anyone who claims to have the magic SEO number for word count or keyword density.
So, while I’m not going to give you any magic numbers, I am going to tell you what to focus on (or not focus on) for each of these questions.
How many words of content should be on each page?
Alright, first of all let’s dispel one common myth right off the bat—there’s no minimum word count in order for a page to be indexed or ranked by search engines. There’s just not. Furthermore, there’s no magical number of words per page either. So how will you know how many words to put on your page? Well, that depends on the user.
The answer to how many words to put on your page is really more a question of user experience than it is of a specific number. Simply put, focus on writing unique and valuable content that thoroughly addresses your topic. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Have I addressed possible questions or concerns my reader might have?
- Have I adequately explained the topic in an engaging way?
- Is my content thorough enough, but still easily understood by my audience?
- Is my content unique and informative or valuable?
If you can answer yes to questions like these, then your content is ready – regardless of word count.
The Trend Between Length and Ranking
Now, at this point you’re probably thinking, “But wait, I’ve seen some fancy graphs before showing that pages ranked higher on Google generally have more text!” You’re right. In fact, here’s one source for you. And if you really want to see some length numbers that various SEO experts have given, you can look at this compilation. The important thing to remember is that there are more factors at play here than length alone. It’s a classic case of correlation not proving causation.
The first thing to consider is that data shows that older websites generally have more text on each page. That’s significant because domain age is a proven ranking factor that can increase page rank. So in part, the domain age—not the length—is helping the ranking.
The second consideration is that longer copy often creates a better user experience. For instance, more text is more likely to answer all of a reader’s questions or thoroughly explain a topic. For these same reasons a longer article might be shared more or linked to more. So again, it’s more about writing comprehensive, unique, and valuable copy than it is about hitting a specific word count.
Don’t Write Fluff
Just as you should make sure you write enough so that your content is complete, you should make sure you don’t make your content longer than necessary either. Don’t write fluff for the sake of hitting a perceived magic word count. The damage this will do to user experience will far outweigh any benefit you receive from having more text. A factor like readability is far more important than how long your article is.
I want to be clear on one thing. I’m not saying that longer content doesn’t benefit factors like thoroughness or an increased number of long-tail keywords. For this reason longer articles often do rank higher. What I am saying is that length doesn’t rank better for the sake of length alone. Focus on writing content designed for your audience and use however many words are necessary to do that—be it few or many.
Let’s just nip this one in the bud too. Keyword density is not a ranking factor. It’s just not. The fact that there are so many SEOs who still think that it is a ranking factor is frankly concerning.
If you’re uncertain as to what keyword density is, it’s the number of times a specific word appears on a page compared to the total number of words on the page. So, if I wrote an article with 100 words, and I used the word “apple” three times, the word “apple” would have a keyword density of 3%. For some reason, there is a myth that having a higher keyword density for a keyword will help you rank higher for that keyword. Well, take it from Matt Cutts, that just isn’t true.
In fact, legitimate SEOs like Rand Fishkin don’t even worry about the number of times they use a keyword and don’t use any kind of density metric. Having it one or two times on a page is enough, and if it naturally fits in more than that, great.
The only thing you should worry about is purposely using a keyword too frequently on a page in order to try to rank higher—known as “keyword stuffing.” This will actually negatively impact your search ranking, and won’t make for a great read for your users anyway. Instead, focus on using that word as you naturally would if keyword density weren’t a factor at all—because it’s not. If you feel like you’ve used the same word a lot, it’s still not a huge concern unless you feel that you did so unnaturally.
To bring it all back to our dating analogy—just be yourself. Be natural. Don’t focus on any magic numbers or formulas, and just do your best to write unique, valuable content that is relevant to your audience.