Blog posts are a fundamental part of every content marketing strategy as they are affordable, perfect for SEO, and can be tailored for your target audience.
Whether you want to deliver a concise on-brand message or explore a topic in depth, blogging can get the job done and drive traffic, leads and conversions at the same time. There is no better tool for increasing visibility in organic search and amplifying the power of your brand.
While blogs are arguably the most accessible content marketing format, there are many factors that can change how they are presented and perceived.
New research suggests that having several headers within the content is better for increasing traffic, links and social shares, for example. Images and videos can also be used to make them more compelling and engaging.
One aspect of blogs that you will have to decide on quickly when greenlighting a campaign is word count. This will dictate how in depth you cover a topic and what you will include, but are there any specific best practices that can help you to succeed?
There is a growing body of evidence that more comprehensive content is better, both for ranking in search engines and providing value to the end users. If you want to provide insights, which is what content marketing is all about, then longer blogs are usually a better tool for achieving that aim.
A new study by SEMrush found that articles with 7,000 words are the “absolute leaders” in search performance, but this sort of output is a colossal undertaking. Does everything have to be that long to drive important metrics?
Google does prefer to rank content that covers something in depth. This is because it can present that link in search and be safe in the knowledge that it will answer most of the questions that a searcher may have within a single piece.
The research found that longer blogs are more widely shared and can lead to a four times uptick in traffic compared to shorter ones. However, content with less than 1,000 words can still deliver ample returns across the board.
HubSpot has also weighed in on this dilemma, stating that its data shows that 2,100 to 2,400 words is the sweet spot for blog posts. However, it also found that around a third of its top 50 most-read posts actually had less than 1,500 words.
This shows that shorter pieces can still lead to a large number of page views if the actual copy is high quality and everything is optimised for SEO.
Rather than focusing on word count, HubSpot recommended following best practices such as using proper backlinking, targeting the right mix of keywords, adding alt text where appropriate, and sprinkling in social media imbeds and images.
The content type is also a factor that should be considered when crafting content. The most popular listicles are generally longer as readers prefer authoritative and complete lists as opposed to shorter lists. How-to blogs, on the other hand, should be concise and clear as they are designed to instruct rather than inspire.
While research from HubSpot and SEMrush highlights the need to publish “long reads” with more than 1,000 words, the data is tempered by Google’s own assertion that word count is not a hard ranking factor.
The search giant’s SEO expert John Mueller recently stated that word count is not viewed as a quality factor. This means that merely fleshing out a blog to hit 2,000 or 3,000 words just because this is the length that generally dominates SERPs does not mean that this particular piece will hit the right notes.
In a recent Webmaster Hangout, Mueller was asked whether adding more words to a webpage can help it to shoot up the rankings if it has perhaps struggled to make an impact in its current form.
Mueller noted that updating content is more nuanced than simply bumping the word count and hoping to see an upturn in rankings. He went on to say that “blindly” adding more text does not mean that a blog is necessarily better afterwards. Word count does not equal quality.
Instead, marketers should consider search intent and what someone would actually want from content. Mueller said that if a client walked into a meeting, a single-page brochure may be just as useful as a large book with lots of information. It depends on what you are trying to achieve.
Mueller said that this is similar to search as Google is always considering the relevance and context of content to meet the needs of users.
He added: “If you have the information that you need for indexing for …kind of making it so that users and Googlebot understands what this page is about, what you’re trying to achieve with it uh… in a short version then fine, keep a short version, you don’t need to make it longer.”
This line of thinking suggests that the myth that ‘thin’ content performs poorly due to it being short is not true. Mueller’s explanation is evidence that thin content is often lacklustre due to it lacking utility for the reader. Thin content is therefore anything that does not provide value. Word count does not come into it.
In order to create content with SEO in mind, marketers should prioritise relevance and search intent. It should also fulfil a mission statement. You should look at a particular webpage, whether it’s a blog or an ‘About Us’ section, and try to outline what the content needs to do to communicate information to people who navigate to that page.
Google is always looking to put content that gives the best answer or info for a particular query front and centre. This can change over time, so it is also important to keep auditing and updating content so that it remains relevant, which will in turn drive traffic.
By focusing on quality and relevance rather than the length of the content from the outset, you will be able to deliver content marketing campaigns that can really transform your business.