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Does Word Count Affect SEO Content Quality?

This is a question which comes up over and over again in the world of SEO and even more so with Google focusing more and more on content quality.

In short, no, word count does not affect content quality. But…

Write for people, not computers.

These two questions may merit two totally different answers:

  • “What is the distance between the earth and the moon?”
  • “How do mammals reproduce?”

Of course, one answer is going to be much longer than the other.

As a general rule of thumb, content should cover the topic at hand.

Back in 2016 I published an article saying just this. Don’t count words, cover topics.

Official Google statements:

If you’d rather hear it from Google instead of me:

Google’s John Mueller explained:

Word count is not a ranking factor. Save yourself the trouble.

Google’s John Mueller said:

No need to count words…

Eric from Google’s Search Quality Team clearly says in this video:

It’s not about a specific number that we’re looking at. It’s in general just looking at your user experience. … In general, I wouldn’t be focusing too much on a hard number.

John Mueller, a webmaster analyst at Google, when discussing E-A-T for medical content in 2019 said:

I would try to find an approach that works well for users and focus on that.

He later elaborated on Twitter and said:

There is no technical trick to any of this … there’s no word count limit, no keyword-ratio, no magic keywords that need to be included. Some things are binary, true / false, but showing “E-A-T” is not one of them.

John Mueller tweeted:

Nobody at Google counts the words on a page. Write for your users.

John Mueller in a webmaster hangout:

There’s no specific word count that we’re looking at … Sometimes pages have very few words on them and are useful, sometimes pages have lots of words and are useful… I wouldn’t blindly focus on word count.

John Mueller tweeted word count doesn’t matter, nor has it ever:

I don’t think word count was ever indicative of quality on Google’s side. That wouldn’t make any sense.

John Mueller tweeted:

Word count is not indicative of quality. Some pages have a lot of words that say nothing. Some pages have very few words that are very important & relevant to queries. You know your content best (hopefully) and can decide whether it needs the details.

I could go on……

Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines on Content Quality:

Google’s September 2019 Quality Rater Guidelines discuss quality pages as having a “satisfying amount” of main content:

screenshot of Google's quality rater guidelinesLater, the guidelines specifically address content amounts:

The amount of content necessary for the page to be satisfying depends on the topic and purpose of the page. A High quality page on a broad topic with a lot of available information will have more content than a High quality page on a narrower topic. Here are some examples of pages with a satisfying amount of high quality MC.

What started this SEO myth?

Four reasons.

1. Thin content misunderstandings.
First, it’s a misunderstanding of what “thin content is”.

2. Frivolous SEO studies.
But more importantly…. There are some studies out there that took a sample of webpages, let’s say 1,000 top ranking webpages out of Google’s search results, then they looked for correlations. In some of these studies they saw that the pages with higher word counts were ranking well. Then they drew conclusions. This is absolutely ridiculous for 1,000 separate reasons.

3. SEO tools which measure word count.
Some SEO tools offer you ways to compare your content to your competitor’s content. That can be useful, but it’s a double edged sword. The same goes for word counting tools in one of my favorite tools, DeepCrawl. The tool is wonderful for identifying pages which *could* be considered thin content. However, someone needs to go through said pages and manually review them.

4. SEO echo chambers.
Anyone with access to a keyboard and an Internet connection can start cranking out articles citing studies which offer up the correlations of word count and front page rankings. I call these echo chambers.

What is thin content?

Thin content is perhaps one of the most misunderstood parts of SEO (in the future I’ll link here to an article dedicated to thin content).

In short, a thin content page is a page which provides no value to the user. That said, search engines can mis-identify pages with little content as thin content.

eCommerce platforms are notorious for having thin content. For example, a website selling T shirts may have an entire page dedicated to a T shirt called “XL”. Or, a site selling sneakers could have a page for the Brand “Nike”, and there may be nothing on that page. I once worked with a site selling BBQ sauce that had several flavors of their sauce. While these pages weren’t necessarily bad for the user, Google actually de-indexed the pages and sent a message out in Search Console for a Soft 404. I wrote about soft 404s and thin content here. In general 300+ words of unique product page may be enough. However, you may be able to generate much more content than that, depending on the product being sold.

Another problem here can be duplicate content, which is also widely misunderstood. This also frequently affects eCommerce websites.

Too much content can be a quality problem.

Here’s something which is rarely discussed. If you’re grinding away, attempting to fluff up articles to meet a certain word count, you’re inevitably going to end up covering the same topics over and over on a website. This is a terrible idea and I’ve seen it haunt websites. This type of content quality issue can be very difficult to track down.

Final thoughts on Word Counts and Content Quality.

This is one of those times where you can relax and forget search engines exist. As search engines mature, they’re going to get better at discovering what content is best for people. Therefore, we can just create content for people, not computers.

Len

President at Telapost
I create content and do SEO for law firms, small businesses and companies worldwide. I have been generating traffic online since 1992. I have owned multiple successful companies. I'm an organic eater, nature lover and German Shepherd owner. Feel free to contact me here.

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