SEO Question: When writing content for our websites what is the optimal copy length? Is page length important for search engine optimization?
Answer: Every page and every site is unique. There is no universal correct or incorrect answer to how much content is right.
Optimize For User Experience:
A page should not just be optimized for search. It should also be optimized for user experience. If you optimize just for search it could be to the detriment of your business.
One of my friends has most of their content on their home page. Because their homepage has most of the content and the most link equity it gets most of their traffic. They are afraid to move the content because they do not want to lose traffic, but if they moved the content they would probably maintain about the same amount of traffic, drastically improve their conversion rates, and do a better job of filtering the prospective clients.
Structure Your Ideas:
The content needs to be structured so that it is easy to consume. Use subheaders to make the content easy to consume. Also break pages into logical chunks that are easy to site or link at...don't write endless stream of mind random copy if you want people to read it.
Avoid creating low value near duplicate pages, as duplicate content filters are getting more aggressive.
Variation is Good:
Make sure there is variation amongst your pages so as not to set an unnatural pattern or give your writing arbitrary constraints. Some ideas take many words to express. Some take less. Real content sites do not have exactly 500 +/- 5 words on each page. Use as many words as necessary to express your ideas.
If you are trying to market a piece of content over-invest in ensuring it is of high quality. If you want your content to act as your marketing by being linkworthy make it appear comprehensive and well researched. If you are the first person with an idea make sure you do it well enough to spread your message far enough that you become synonymous with that idea.
Emphasize Your Style:
You also need to consider your personal style. Instapundit can write short snappy posts because Glenn Reynolds is a great writer who needs few words to convey his meaning, and tries to be first with the news. Some pages may have more credibility with less words on them. If a currency converter was given an obtuse name and had many keywords separated by commas in the footer it might make the tool look less credible and less trustworthy.
Good writing does not add extra words for the sake of word count. Each word carries purpose and meaning. I can tell when I haven't read books in a while because I notice my writing gets looser.
General Search Indexing Trends:
Getting content indexed is becoming a major hurdle. If you have forums and other noisy parts to your site it would be a good idea to have them segregated on a subdomain away from your higher quality and more in depth editorial quality content.
There are three general trends going on that make me think longer copy is better than shorter
- Since Google's relevancy algorithms are looking more for natural writing, the value of having small hyper-focused pages is not as good as it once was...good copy gets just as much traffic for long tail keywords you didn't intend on optimizing for.
- Google is getting stingier with how they crawl and what they are willing to index. If they will only index 100 pages for x units of PageRank then having nearly 100% of a 100 page site indexed is far better than having 40 or 50% of a 200 page site indexed.
- The line between pure PPC ad pages and content is blurring. With domainers increasing the uniqueness and content weight of their domains it is going to be harder for search engines to filter out their sites, and thus search engines are going to get even more stingy with what they will let in the index.
On a philosophical level it also makes sense that search engines want to index richer content. The web is a series of incomplete thoughts. The more search engines can make people write in depth high quality content that provides complete answers the more they improve the value of Google. Search engines will try to push people toward writing more well thought out essays rather than empty me too cut and paste posts.
Content Suggestions Based on Publishing Formats:
A page which has 500 words on it will overlap many more keyphrases than two different pages that have 300 words each. As long as you can put your AdSense ads in a prominent position that gets a decent clickthrough rate without sacrificing your linkability I would recommend going with 500 to 600 word articles.
If you write naturally and your site gains a decent amount of authority you will end up accidentally ranking for many great keyword phrases that never showed up on keyword tools.
Site Selling CPM Ads:
If you are selling CPM ads that may favor breaking longer articles into many shorter pages so each read article gets more page views. This is especially true if you have a strong brand, great mindshare, great link equity, and many direct readers, like Wired.com.
Lead Generation Sites:
Focus your content on conversion, perhaps even using brief pages with little content, but ensure your content is unique. Get what legitimate links you can and add linkbait to your site to build up the authority of your site.
Do whatever you need to in order to keep your social currency. Use your market influence to push other profitable business ventures (perhaps indirectly). Only mention a few commercial offers, or place ads in a non-intrusive manner if you are in a competitive vertical and do not enjoy a large self reinforcing market position.
Site Selling Products and Services:
If you sell a commodity add some value to the transaction (consumer feedback, free shipping, brand, etc.) to make your shopping experience a non commodity.
In your content actively guide the user to do the desired goal. Home pages and other high profile pages should be targeted toward navigating users to the desired actions. Even your interior pages which are well integrated into a commercial site should be focused on conversion, building credibility, and filtering bad leads.
Get what legitimate links you can and add linkbait to your site to build up the authority of your site. If possible add consumer feedback.
How to Be Different:
Benefits of Consumer Feedback:
As noted in this study [PDF] consumer feedback adds credibility and trust which help make the online shopping experience feel more like the offline experience. Consumers also add content which makes your content unique relative to similar content from other merchants selling the same products. We tend to use language in similar patterns. Many consumers also misspell words, which helps you target many longtail keyword phrases.
Be First or Be Different:
Sometimes the easiest way to be first is to put a different spin on an idea. If you are the first with an idea push spreading it until you have enough market leverage for your ideas to spread themselves. On your best ideas do not rely on the market spreading it, use email, instant message, advertising, and other other tool at your disposal. Push your ideas to spread quickly because it is much harder to get people to link at your news when it is a couple days old. Put few or no ads on the ideas you want to spread until AFTER they have spread.
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