It's an age old question that some still can't agree on. "Does size matter?" I'm here to tell you that yes, in the case of content, character count matters. Not only does size matter, but there's a sweet spot for length. Go to big and users will get bored, too small and Google won't see value in promoting your content.
Let’s first look at User Retention. Our CEO Francisco Jones always says, “Whether it’s Web Design, Content Creation, or Sales, User Experience is your first thought”. Meaning how a user interacts with your content should always be the first thing you consider. While yes, it’s true that today we, as a society, have much shorter attention spans than we used to, that doesn’t mean everything needs to be as short as possible to please users. You need to consider that this isn’t content you’re forcing someone to read. You aren’t using the entire article as an ad. The people who find this content are specifically searching for it. Users actually prefer longer content when the content is something they specifically seek out. While you want longer content you don’t want articles that are so long people require an hour to read. It’s about finding that sweet spot, the happy medium. And that’s exactly what the good people at Medium did.
Mike Sall, Head of Data Science at Medium, published a comprehensive study back in 2013. They found that 7 Minutes of read time is the ideal post length. They based on Google rankings and site session lengths of their entire library of content, taking out outlier cases of 20+ minute posts and anything that went spontaneously viral. At first glance they noticed that their blog posts with the highest number of views get an average site session length of only 3 minutes. But the blog posts that show up on the first page of Google are closer to 10 minutes. Only after factoring in the number visits per post did they see that 7 minutes is the peak. After that user retention slowly dips down, sharply dropping after 10 minutes of content. This is just one website, but they have a large pool of content. Anyone is allowed to publish on Medium so their range is enough to give us a good impression of average posts. That’s how they got 7 minutes of content, now what does that break down to in words. According to ScholarWithin.com the Average Reading Speed for an Adult is 238 wpm (words per minute). So from a user retention perspective the sweet spot is 1,666 words per post or a range of 714-2,380 words. While user retention is the first thing you want to consider, it isn’t the only thing you should consider. We have 3 additional factors to consider when deciding the right amount of words you need in each blog post. Using all 4 factors is how we determined that 2,000 words is the optimal blog or article post length. Next let’s look at SEO or Search Engine Optimization.
After user retention, Search Engine Optimization is the second most important factor. SEO is what is going to get your post in front of the right people. SEO means organic users, these are the users that are the most engaged with your content because you have what they want, the knowledge. They’ve been searching for an answer, and you have that answer. To look at a more recent study of SEO done by Backlinko. Backlinko is a company that trains people in SEO and develops link building strategies for businesses and individuals. Back in April of 2020, “Backlinko” published a study that had a large amount of SEO insight and how things have changed since the 2013 Medium study. They found that 1,447 words is the new median for blog posts showing up in the top 10 Google results or first page of Google. They saw that although results were pretty even among word counts, it was significantly lower for posts under 1,000 words. This is because blog posts at 1,000 words and below aren’t able to acquire the backlinks needed to rank high enough on Google. Always remember that half of SEO is content, and the other half is backlinks. That’s why backlinks are the third factor to consider.
In a different Backlinko study done 1 year prior in 2019, they actually found that long form content is 77.2% more likely to acquire backlinks than short form content. Now by long form we’re talking 3,000 words or more. As you can see in the graph above, there’s a consistent downward trend in the number of referring domains a post gets the lower the word count is. So, while 3,000-10,000 word posts get the most amount of backlinks, that isn’t the only factor nor is it our main concern. Keep in mind that our research found a steep drop in user retention after 10 minutes of content or about 2,400 words. So, 3,000 words would definitely be the cap. Going any higher than that isn’t likely to increase your referring domains and is incredibly likely to lower user retention. That being said, in that same 2019 study they found that user return drops off once you start to go below 2,000 words on a post. That could also be due to the fact that users need to return to long form content more often just to finish reading, so it isn’t really something to seriously take into account when looking at the word count. If users don’t finish reading your content, 9 times out of 10 they’ll leave your site feeling like you’ve wasted their time and won’t feel any desire to share your content. Getting users to share your content on social media platforms is an actual factor to consider.
Before we talk about what can increase the odds that your blog post is shared, let’s get into how social media affects SEO. Typically, we just use social media as an instant boost that dies out as soon as the advertising budget is spent. But it can actually be used to improve SEO. Look at a 2015 case when CognotiveSEO.com saw what social media vitality can do to SEO. On January 5th, 2015, CongnitiveSEO.com had a blog post of theirs shared on the subreddit r/futurology. Their post was in reference to predicting Google trends and that subreddit is geared toward tech predictions. In 1 day, they saw 20,000 users come from Reddit. Unfortunately like all social media virality it was short lived. The visitors quickly dropped to an all-time low before shooting back up to where they were before the Reddit post. All that’s to be expected so what does it have to do with SEO? Well, if you look at their keywords they drastically improved in rankings. The largest increase was going from page 8 of Google’s search results, all the way up to the 8th result on the first page of Google results. Cases like this are how we know that social media can have a great impact on SEO. Let’s head back to that 2019 Backlinko study to see what exactly you can do to improve your social shares and how that helped us determine our blog post word goal of 2,000 words.
Backlinko had two findings in reference to social share odds that we found useful when determining our word goal. First finding is that the ideal length for maximizing social shares is 1,000-2,000 words. looking at the graph above you’ll notice a 56.1% increase in social shares when going from 0-1,000 words up to 1,000-2,000 words. Followed by a slow dip the higher you go in word count. The only logical conclusion is that social media truly is geared towards short form content. So, while 2,000 words is a lot, you see it dip as the word count increases. Users get less and less interested in sharing content as the word count goes up. The other finding Backlinko found was that long titles result in higher social shares. To be specific, headlines with 14-17 words have a 76.7% high chance of getting social shares over shorter headlines. So not only is king form content better, but longer titles do better as well. The graph below shows that there’s a direct correlation between the number of words and the number of shares on social media. Longer titles give off a more professional vibe, not to mention longer titles also increases SEO. The more words in that title, the more keywords you’re able to pick up. Longer titles, like longer content, is always the way to go.
In conclusion, we looked at 4 factors, User Retention, Search Engine Optimization, Backlinks, and Social Media. From a user retention standpoint, you want between 714-2,380 words per blog post. From an SEO perspective you want around 1,447 words in every blog post. In order to get the most backlinks on a post it needs between 3,000-10,000 words. Finally, in order to maximize social shares your blog posts need 1,000-2,000 words and your titles need to be 14-17 words in length. All of this research left us with a goal of 2,000 words. That’s my opinion based on my research. Some say that word count doesn’t matter at all, but most SEO Specialists agree the word goal is somewhere between 1,400 and 2,400 words. Reaffirming out belief that it’s somewhere in the middle. For more information and tips for improving your SEO head over to that section of our blog. To talk to an SEO Specialist directly go to bigpicturecreatives.com/schedule-a-consultation, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at 844-441-1221.
Hi, my name is Connor, I’ve been working here at Big Picture Creatives for the last 3 years. My career focus has always been technology, but writing is my real passion. I grew up in the West Bronx and graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor of Information Technology from NYU. After that I did a lot of freelance SEO work. I worked remote at a failed start up for a year before I joined Big Picture Creatives. I met Francisco at a poetry reading at this place in Bushwick. He’s the one who brought me into the company. Since then, I’ve been advising on the SEO for every client we get and writing content for the SEO category of our blog. This has been an amazing opportunity, such a fun ride thus far. Never have I felt more cared for or part of a team than I do here. Joining Big Picture Creatives was the best decision I’ve ever made. I do what I love and love the people I work with. Every project is a new journey that allows for new opportunities. This position has allowed me to be creative in ways I never thought possible.