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Best Article Length for Search Engine Optimization

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Writers often ask about the best article length for search engine optimization. The answer is a common one in website publishing: it depends.

A 2016 study from Backlinko.com of nearly 12 million Google search results found that the average article on the first page (10 results) had 1,447 words.

But it doesn’t mean writers and publishers should make every article that long or even nearly that long. Length matters only when two or more articles compete on the same subject. Quality matters even more.

Quality and Article Length

Think of quality in terms of two audiences: readers and search engines. Quality for readers includes:

  • Good grammar
  • Interesting content
  • Well-organized content
  • Appealing graphics and photos
  • Relevant internal and outgoing external links

Quality for search engines includes:

  • SEO-friendly keywords and synonyms
  • Topics that attract more than a handful of monthly searches
  • The presence of graphics and photos
  • Internal and external backlinks
  • High levels of reader engagement

Reader quality comes first for the simple reason that readers who like what they read are more likely to stay on the page longer. They also will click on more pages or visit more often. Visitors who own or manage other websites are more likely to add backlinks on their sites.

Search engines see these behaviors as indications of quality. Search-friend keywords make their ranking choices even easier.

When Article Length Damages Quality

Too much emphasis on article length can hurt reader engagement and search engine rankings.

Imagine an article that works well at 400 words, but the writer fills it with another 1,000 words of thin, boring and poorly written content. Readers will bail out quickly and signal quality problems to search engines.

So writers should focus on producing the best quality article at the most sensible length, whether it’s 400 words or 4,000 words. When it’s time to analyze rankings, writers and publishers should consider the following questions. Does the article have:

  • Relevant keywords and synonyms without overdoing it?
  • Up to date content?
  • Appealing graphics and photos?
  • A presence on a site with other good content?
  • A length and quality equal to or better than competing articles?

This article is only about 400 words long. There is no need to write 1,400 words about article length or add more photos. Whether or not it needs a little more length will depend on how it ends up ranking. It will depend on whether competing sites have longer articles on the same subject — and many other factors.

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