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Word Count Audit Uncovers Weak Articles

Words and letters

A periodic word count audit is a simple way to identify articles on a website that need help with search engine optimization.

SEO experts commonly recommend that articles should have at least 300 words to get some respect from search engines. That belief has evidence to back it up. But in my experience, the longer the article, the better the response from search engines.

On a busy day, a website writer may produce, for example, an article that is 301 words long and stop there. It reached the recommended minimum length.

That same article may have potential for more content. So it benefits the site writers to go back into the article and look for ways to expand it beyond 301 words.

The process of going back and adding content — or even changing the title — may lead to more SEO keywords and synonyms that may lead to higher rankings.

If done correctly, the update should result in a revised date for the article publication. The new date sends an important signal to search engines about page freshness.

Identifying the article, even if it is years old, is simply a matter of conducting a word count audit.

How to Conduct a Word Count Audit

Decent word processing software such as OpenOffice of course can count the words in an individual article. But randomly calling up an article on a desktop (if it has been saved) is not an efficient way to conduct an audit.

Publishers who use WordPress can use a plugin such as Word Count to display a list of every article on the website along with the number of words in each article.

The plugin will rank articles according to their total word count. A writer or publisher can scroll to the bottom of the list to see which ones have the fewest words and decide if they are worth extra content.

Other content management systems may not have a word count plugin available. In that case, the next option is a custom plugin for any sites with staff who can build one.

One of my sites is built on ExpressionEngine, which does not have a word count plugin but is easy to use for creating custom fields and templates. I created a simple custom field that allows me to check a box next to options for article length: 500+ words, 700+ words or 1,000+ words.

I then created a custom template to display all of the articles along with their minimum word length. If an article doesn’t have a check next to any of the above boxes, I know the article has fewer than 500 words and has potential for expansion.

When I finish writing the article in word processing, I look at the word count and check the box for the length after pasting the article into the CMS. This approach takes only a few seconds and is now an automatic habit on my part.

Writers and publishers with a CMS that doesn’t have a plugin or can’t build a simple template will have to do the audit manually. They either have to call up individual articles or use an online “word count tool” using that search term to check the length.

Whatever way it is done, a word count audit can guide writers and publishers into addressing a critical SEO need. Writing quantity does matter just as much as writing quality.

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