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When I first got into blogging, like most people, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I didn’t know how to pick a niche, how to find keywords, or how to structure a post.
One tip I remember coming across early on was to write really long posts for the best chance of ranking in Google. There were different schools of thought regarding the necessary length, but the general consensus was that longer is better.
I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but when you think about it, it seems somewhat logical that a longer post would rank better than a shorter one in organic search results, but is that actually the case? Does Google actually care about post length?
In this post, I’m going to tell you why you oftentimes should write long posts and how long those posts should be to improve your chances of succeeding. I’m also going to tell you why they should be a certain length, which might not be the reason that you think.
The Word Count Isn’t What’s Important
On the surface, it makes sense that writing a longer post than all of your competitors would give you a leg up in the search results. However, this isn’t necessarily the case.
Google has stated many times that word count isn’t a ranking factor. Yet, people still write long posts thinking that it will help them rank. Why is that?
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Aside from the general thought that longer posts will perform better, most of the time that does seem to be the case. After posting over 2,000 articles across our sites, I could easily come to the same conclusion that word count does indeed matter and helps you rank higher.
However, when looking more closely at our posts, there are plenty of really long ones that haven’t performed well. I’ve also seen plenty of instances where short posts outrank long posts, and it’s not always due to the authority of the site with the shorter posts.
So what’s going on here? Why do longer post typically outrank shorter posts, but not always? If you look at it from a user’s perspective, it makes a bit more sense.
It’s not the word count that matters. Instead, it’s the content within your posts that determine the success of your articles.
Think about it this way. If there are two articles about the topic “how to ride a bike” with one at 500 words and another at 3,000 words, which one do you think will cover the topic more thoroughly?
Learning how to ride a bike is a pretty big subject. I can’t imagine you could cram everything there is to know inside a tiny, 500 word post. Even a 3,000 word post might not do it justice, but it would hit on a lot more points.
The reason a higher word count succeeds in this example is that the longer article simply covers the topic better. It does a better job of providing the answer that the searcher was looking for when they typed “how to ride a bike” into Google Search.
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If you take another example like “how much does a bar of gold weigh,” a short, 100 word post might do justice to the topic. Writing a 3,000 word post in this case makes no sense and is unlikely to propel you up the search rankings.
Again, it’s not the word count that matters, it’s the content itself that matters. A longer article written for a search query that needs a thorough answer will perform better than a short article. That doesn’t hold true when the search query has a concise answer.
How Long to Make Your Articles
By now, you should know that you don’t simply need to write longer articles than your competitors. Instead, you should focus on providing the most thorough article about the topic in question.
So, how long should your articles be then? They should be as long as required to completely and thoroughly cover the topic of the search query. This could be anywhere from a few hundred words to a few thousand words.
The key is to make sure that all the content within your articles is on point. That means you shouldn’t go on too many tangents within your article, and definitely don’t just add fluff simply to increase the word count.
With that being said, my team and I do still make it a point to write articles that are at least as long as our competitors most of the time. If we’re targeting a keyword and there are a few articles that are about 1,500 words long, we’ll try to make our article 1,500 – 2,000 words long.
Again though, you need to keep your article on point, so if you need to cover several unrelated topics in your post to hit 1,500 words, you’re probably better off simply writing a shorter article.
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In fact, there are plenty of times where we don’t write as much or more than our competitors, because when you actually glance through their article, it’s clear that they were simply chasing a word count target.
For example, let’s say I see five articles covering a keyword that I’m targeting, and four articles are within 500 – 1,500 words, while one article is 4,000 words. If that 4,000 word post is just full of fluff, I don’t worry about the length of their article and target 1,500 or more words instead.
The Added Benefit of Writing Long Articles
As I’ve pointed out several times now, the proper word count of an article should be determined by the amount of content required to thoroughly cover a topic. With that being said, there is one big benefit of writing long posts, ones that dive into some related topics.
By writing long posts, whether that’s longer or shorter than your competitors, you will likely rank for quite a few keywords that you weren’t targeting. In fact, many times you will only rank for keywords that you weren’t targeting.
Going back to our “how to ride a bike” example, if you were to write an article on this topic, you’d have almost zero chance of landing on page 1. The topic is simply too competitive.
However, if you wrote a really thorough article that covered the topic from various angles, you’d likely rank for a bunch of long-tail keywords that you weren’t even targeting in the first place.
For example, if you covered riding a bike at night or riding a bike with a dog, you might rank for variations of those keywords. Because long-tail phrases don’t have as much competition, you have a realistic shot at ranking for them.
This is one of the biggest benefits of writing long articles and one of the reasons why I don’t completely discount writing articles that are a bit longer than they need to be. Just make sure to stay on topic as much as possible, as that’s important to both your visitors and Google.
While it’s often been thought that longer articles perform better than shorter articles, it’s not simply due to the higher word count. Instead, posts that are detailed and cover every angle on a subject have the best chance of outranking the competition, and in many cases, those articles will happen to be long as well.
Writing longer articles also provides the added benefit of ranking for long-tail keywords that you weren’t even targeting. This can help to ensure that even the posts that don’t succeed in ranking for the target keyword still bring in at least some traffic to your site.
At the end of the day, don’t get too hung up on the word count of your posts. Instead, simply create the most thorough resource on each topic to give your articles the best chance of outranking the competition.