Is Longer Content Still Critical for SEO?

For years now, both B2B and B2C content writers have been striving to hit the word limits dictated by SEO professionals to ensure their website has the best chance of success on the SERPs. The theory has long been that the longer the word count of your page, the more chance it has to rank well with search engines. This was certainly true 2 or 3 years ago, and businesses that managed to master long-form content in this time reaped the rewards. However, with the digital landscape constantly changing, is this still an effective tactic today?

Google has rolled out a number of algorithm updates in the last few years, each of them targeting a variety of factors. The key takeaway from these updates is that expertise, authority, and trustworthiness are the best way forward for websites aiming to rank on Google. Why? Because Google doesn’t just care about delivering the most relevant information — they also want to deliver the correct information so that users remain confident in its services.

While having more words in your blog post and website pages may mean that you can have more information on there, users may struggle to find the correct answer to their specific search query if they have to wade through a vast amount of content.

Why SEO Has Been So Focused on Long Form Content

In 2016, Backlinko and Clickstream conducted thorough analysis into the most effective SEO tactics by looking at 1 million Google search results. In terms of content length, the article stated the average Google first page result contained 1,890 words. Studies by Ahrefs also back up these findings that longer content ranks better. As a result, SEO specialists all over the world have started using longer content with higher word count to try to increase the chance of their websites tanking on the first page of search results.

However, is it specifically the word count that matters?

Backlinks are key to a successful SEO strategy, and long form content has been proven to get more backlinks. According to research from BuzzSumo and Backlinko, long form content results in 56% more social shares than content shorter than 1,000 words, and posts with more than 3,000 words receive an average of 77.2% more referring domain links than short articles and blog posts.

Regardless the reason behind it, whether word count or backlinks, it’s a safe conclusion that having longer content will help with your business’ rankings.

That being said, long form content that is irrelevant and unimaginative won’t get you far either. It’s important to ensure your content is engaging and relevant to the searchers that find it. This can be done by fully understanding the search intent behind the keywords that searchers are using.

How to Incorporate Keywords with Search Intent to Your Content Strategy

Business owners know the importance of being visible on the SERPs, and many are investing significant portions of their marketing budget to do so. However, simply being present won’t get your very far. You need to ensure that your website is ranking for the right terms that will improve brand awareness and generate leads and conversions. In short, your SEO strategy needs to get tangible results.

This is where user intent comes into play. We need to ensure that the keywords we are targeting are right for our target audience at the stage of the buyer journey that they are at. All of our content should then be framed around targeting that intent. There are 4 types of keyword intent that your SEO strategy may incorporate:

  1. Commercial “high intent” Intent: This signifies a strong intention from the searcher to act. Key phrases will include terms like ‘Buy’, ‘Join’ and ‘Subscribe’.
  2. Informative Intent: These terms are used when the searcher wants to find out more about a product or service. You may not be able to directly sell to this segment, but they are ideal for generating leads through “gated” content. Keywords such as ‘How to’, ‘Why’ and ‘Compare’ fall into this category.
  3. Transactional Intent: Transactional intent lies somewhere in the middle of commercial and informational intent. Simply put, these queries can represent both the purpose to buy and to find out more about the concept. For example, keywords such as ‘Reviews’, ‘Vs’, ‘Top 10’ would fall into this category.
  4. Navigational intent: This refers to keywords that contain brand names as the searcher knows exactly what they are looking for and just needs to navigate there.

In order to be successful with SEO, you have to know the intent behind the keywords your target audience are using. You can then structure content in a way that answers their questions.

As answering user intent has become such an important factor for ranking on SERPs, position 1 may not necessarily be taken by the website with the longest content. Rather, position 1 will go to the site that best answers the needs of the searcher.

So, is longer content still critical for SEO?

Simply put, yes. But remember that word count alone is not enough to make you rank well. It’s more important that your content is valuable to searchers. This means that rather than focusing on hitting a specific word count, think more about how to answer user queries. If you can answer a user’s query using 500 words, then there’s no point wasting your time writing a 2000 word article.

For more information on this article, or wider b2b digital marketing advice, get in touch with the Lead Agency. We’re B2B marketing specialists with wide-reaching experience in a number of on and offline channels, including both SEO & Content Writing.