How Long Should a Webpage Be?
Exploring page length in 2022
"How long should a webpage be?"
That question is a well known one to content writers and SEOs all over the world. It is a question we get asked both frequently and regularly as we go about our day-to-day tasks. What is more, it is a question with seemingly no answer. Some marketers out there recommend pages of 200 words, and others recommend pages of 2000 words. The question is, what is the reality? If you are asking the question of "how long should a webpage be?" then what is the real answer?
Today, throughout the course of this article, we are going to look at that question in some detail. What is it that the studies say and what is Google's advice?
Is page length a ranking factor?
Before we begin properly analysing how long a webpage needs to be, let's first cover a core question. Is page length a ranking factor?
The simple answer is "no". Page length is not a ranking factor in the world of SEO. In theory, an incredibly well written 200 word page has the same ranking chance as a well written 2000 word page. In theory. That said, there is a massive caveat to that and reality does tend to get in the way.
Page length may not be a ranking factor; however, there are a large number of aspects that are related to a page of content that are ranking factors. These include:
- Use of keywords
- Use of contextual and relevancy signals like proof terms
- Website/webpage authority
- Page structure
- Use of data mark up
Where not directly impacted by page length, longer pages often find it easier to appeal to certain criteria that shorter pages struggle with. This means that, statistically speaking, longer pages tend to perform better in the SERP.
How long should a webpage be?
Within the world of SEO, there have been a number of core studies around ranking position and the length of pages in the SERP. The two you are likely to come across on the web are Ahrefs and SERP IQ - both of which show results like this:
As you can see, both of the graphs show a pretty clear result. Despite word count not being a ranking factor, and despite page length not being something that Google specifically looks at, there are clear correlations between page length and rankings. No matter the source you find online, it is usually the same story. Longer pages tend to rank better.
So, if Google doesn't take page length as a core ranking factor, the question becomes why are we seeing graphs like the above? What is it about longer pages that, generally speaking, means they tend to rank better?
Why do longer webpages tend to rank better?
To understand why longer form web content tends to rank better, we need to first understand what Search Engines try to do.
The job of the search engine is to deliver the most relevant search result for your query. The role of the SEO or the content writer is to ensure that their content is deemed the most relevant to the search engine and (something that is all too often forgotten) the end user.
Where it is possible for a 200 word article to have all the information that it needs to have, and for it to be deemed as the most relevant, it is more likely that an equally well written 2000 word article will be seen as more relevant.
Of course, it is important to emphasise that phrase "well written". A badly written article that shows little expertise, authority or trustworthiness won't rank well no matter what. Expertise, authority and trustworthiness are known as EAT and we will explore them in more detail later on.
Search Engines and Context
One of the core reasons longer content tends to perform better in the SERP comes down to the question of search engines and context.
It used to be, in the old days of SEO, that keyword mentions were the core things that search engines looked at. In fact, this is one of the main aspects that caused Google to develop the way that it did, as Google sought to take authority into account as well as keyword usage (unlike a lot of the contemporary search engines back in the day). Nowadays, Google looks at context as well as authority and keyword usage (and around 50,000 other ranking factors).
Contextual terms are, in the SEO world, considered proof terms. Proof terms are terms that are often mentioned in context with the core keyphrase, helping add additional relevance to the phrase.
Take this sentence as an example:
"Armadillos (meaning "little armored ones" in Spanish) are New World placental mammals in the order Cingulata. The Chlamyphoridae and Dasypodidae are the only surviving families in the order, which is part of the superorder Xenarthra, along with the anteaters and sloths."
Those two sentences are the first two lines of the armadillos Wikipedia page, and they are packed with contextual terms to the keyword "Armadillo". We have phrases like "little armored ones", "placental", "mammals", "Cigulata", "anteater", "sloths" [etc.] are all terms that help add context to the core keyword of "Armadillo".
Wikipedia is a bit of a strange example, because it is an online encyclopedia, meaning it contains a lot of contextual phrases in a very small space; however, the same concept applies to any web page. A webpage needs to have contextual signals to help search engines fully understand how relevant the page is.
By inserting contextual signals, like those above, articles not only tend to rank better but, through fully exploring the topic, they tend to be longer. This doesn't mean longer articles naturally rank better, but rather that articles being long is a byproduct of a topic being fully and thoroughly explored in the way that it needs to be to be relevant and useful to the user.
Like with keywords, proof terms (or semantic terms, as they are also known) need to be used naturally, and often are done so when naturally exploring a topic.
Longer Articles and Authority
A general number of increased contextual signals is not the only reason longer content tends to rank better than shorter content - but authority also plays a part. According to a study by Ahrefs looking into the length of content, there is a correlation between the length of a page and the number of links it gets.
Links form a large part of SEO, as links help denote authority to search engines. If you have relevant, high quality, authoritative links then Google (and other search engines) are likely to see you as more authoritative. According to the study by Ahrefs, longer content tends to attract more links. This can help longer content rank better.
So how long does a webpage need to be to rank well?
With all this in mind then, how long does a webpage need to be to rank well? Well - despite the above - the answer isn't necessarily "long". Instead, and this is where the response gets a little bit irritating, a page should be as long as it needs to be to explain the subject in the detail it needs to be for it to be useful for the end user.
Okay - so that is a flakey answer, and one that needs a bit of context.
Let's say you have a blog you are writing and that blog is on "Vitamin B9 vs Vitamin B12" as a topic. Vitamin B9 vs Vitamin B12 is a complex topic (one that is actually considered YMYL content), and one that requires a good amount of explanation. Where it is possible to describe the difference between Vitamins B9 and B12 in 300 words, the odds are that, in order to explain it properly, you need to write a good 1500 words on the topic. That way it is possible to explore the pros and cons of both vitamin supplements in some detail, as well as explore a few areas where you may consider taking one supplement over another.
That being said, not all pages need to be long. Not all pages need to be 1500 words. Let's say that, instead, you are talking about a specific hose attachment for a specific type of hose, or a type of wheelie bin compared to other types of bin. For more prosaic topics, and especially on ecommerce based product pages, there don't need to be as many words per page. For a page like that, maybe you only need 300 words to work well.
This is due to the Google acronym known as EAT.
What is EAT?
EAT, in the world of search engines, stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Those three words are the core concepts that Google judges page content on and so, no matter how long your page is and what your topic is on, you need to demonstrate that you have those three aspects in regards to the topic you are talking about.
- Are you clearly demonstrating that you have expertise in the topic you are talking about?
- Are you showing that you are an authority on the subject?
- Are you a trustworthy source for the topic you are talking about?
There are a number of different aspects that input towards each one of those different aspects, a large portion of which are off-page; however, EAT provides clear guidelines for writing strong content. If you are not an expert in the topic, if you are not demonstrating that you are an authority, and if you are not trustworthy - then the odds are the article won't rank well.
So - how long does content need to be? It ultimately depends on what you are trying to write, but it needs to be long enough to show that you are an expert, have authority, and are trustworthy in the eyes of the search engines.
Experts in Content Writing
If you would like help with the creation of content, or the development of a content strategy, then you can contact us today and we are more than happy to discuss your needs in more detail.