What's the ideal content length for SEO purposes?

When you're developing a new website, adding content to an existing website or employing a copywriter to build up the content on your website, one of the questions that will inevitably pop up is "how much content is ideal for SEO?"

This is one of those questions that tends to get a lot of personal opinion injected into the argument. I think the main point to remember about writing content is to always have the user in mind. If you ramble and go on and on with your content, the only reason being to get additional keywords in your copy or to try and have loads of different keyword variations, then you're going to lose your readers.

Ultimately the right amount of copy will be how long it takes to describe or outline your product or service in a relevant and timely manner.

Search engine optimisation is so much more about copy and adding keywords to your content. It's all well and good to write a piece of content that ranks well and generates a lot of traffic, however once that traffic gets to your page, you need to offer them something that will entice them to pick up the phone, sign up for a newsletter, fill out a form or make a purchase.

Now in saying all of this there are some simple rules to follow when writing copy for your website from a search engine optimisation viewpoint and these are listed below.

Copy length

As previously mentioned you don't want to drag your content out for the sake of it, but you do want to have a decent amount of copy in your pages. I try to write no less than 500 words for a page as I find that any less than this can impact on ranking well in search engines. I have seen pages with almost no content rank well and I have also seen pages that have thousands and thousands of words on them do well also.

This highlights the fact that SEO has many, many factors to it and focusing on only one aspect of your website doesn't take a rounded approach to SEO, therefore won't do you any good.

The ideal copy length should take these factors into account:-

  • Your target market and their attention span
  • The layout of your page and how difficult or easy it is to read something
  • What your content is about – do your readers really want to read 1500 words on toenail fungus cures or do they just want to read about the cure?
  • The ideal amount of keywords you want to add into the copy (sometimes there are loads of keywords you could use, other times not)

Ultimately what it really comes down to is the relevancy of the copy to the keywords you're trying to match it with. If you compared two pages – one with 200 words and another with 2000 words, the 200 word page could easily outrank it's larger competitor if the content is more relevant and on target.

Remember, it's easy to dilute your message with more copy so don't be fooled into thinking more is better.

Copy relevance

Another point to remember is that search engines are all about relevancy. They like their content to be the most useful and relevant content for a search query, otherwise they're losing the search engine battle. If you take this into account when writing your copy, you will produce great copy that's also useful for your readers.

The way I approach writing copy is I try to write a great article first and foremost and then worry about the SEO part of it from there. I try to write thorough and useful articles based on the readership of a website I'm writing for. The best way to do this is to look at other articles that are ranking well and dissect these and try to figure out the aspects that are helping them to rank.

The things I look for in other successful articles are:-

  • What other off-page factors account for the article’s rankings (things like the amount of back-links they have pointing to the page, internal linking to the page, etc)?
  • Does the article have back-link anchor text keywords within the content or headlines of their pages?
  • How much copy do they have on the page?
  • What pages on their site link to this page and how (are they using anchor text from main pages with pagerank to flow on PR or using images with keyword rich alt text)
  • What sites are they linking out to (are they authoritative sites or very relevant sites for the content... do they link to a home page or to an internal page)?
  • Are they bolding or italicising keywords?
  • Are they using h1 and h2 elements on the site?
  • Are they linking keywords on the site anywhere?

These are just a few of the things I analyse when looking at the content of competitors to gain some inside knowledge about what I have to do to write copy that ranks well.

Remember, keep it useful and relevant for your users and all the other stuff will follow.