People who follow me know one thing whenever they drop in on my blog. I write long articles. Is it because I find pleasure in tormenting the poor wandering souls with infinite words? Hell, no. Of course, there is a reason for this madness. Would you like to know the ideal blog post length to pound the almighty Google into submission?
As far as SEO goes, keywords come to the mind of most bloggers and content writers. While it is important, it is not the only thing Google takes into consideration. Keywords are only a part of the top three ranking signals in Google’s search algorithm.
Even so, other studies have shown that focusing on those three does not guarantee a high ranking. Out there on the web, there are the real SEO experts, and then there are the so-called experts. While the former never commits, the others guarantee top 10 rankings.
Is it possible to ensure a high ranking on Google SERP (search engine results page)?
SEO Deceptions and Misperceptions
Before I tell you how to beat Google to a pulp, if that is possible at all, we need to look at some misperceptions.
After working hard in coming up with a keyword rich article, the result is a high ranking page.
Out of the billions of pages on the web, one finally came out ranking high. As time passes by, though, a new question comes to mind.
Where is the organic traffic?
All thoughts of the benefits of raking in a huge audience remain wishful thinking.
I suppose the brand new house and car will have to wait a while longer. Oh yeah, that new iPhone X will have to wait for another owner to come and pick it up. Damn, the kids will have to do with this school.
Browsing History and Cache
So, what happened?
Google tracks our past activities on the web. It also takes the browser cache into consideration when showing us search results. For that reason, the search engine is so good at predicting our search terms. As a result, it shows us websites that are more or less relevant to what we need.
Because we do tend to stay longer times on our blog, Google thinks that is important to us. Hence, the pages there are likely bumped up. As for other people, their preferences are not the same as ours. In essence, the same search term will likely show different results.
Still on relevancy, the country or territory where people live also plays a role. As such, using the same keywords will produce different results in different localities.
About the only way to be sure of how valid rankings are is to use a paid service. A cheap way is to sign-out of Google and clearing the browser cache before searching. Keep in mind, too, that the search engine defaults to individual user’s country. While we can change the country, it is too time-consuming and tedious.
In essence, our past activities affect the search results. Hence, some of us may mistakenly think we have achieved high rankings.
Sneaky SEO Snakes
Besides history and browser cache, there is another reason for non-existent organic visitors.
SEO wannabes like me use Google Keyword Planner to find relevant keywords. The real experts, though, use paid services to do a comprehensive keyword research. Either way, keywords are a hit or miss, depending on its popularity.
Of course, the goal of finding suitable keywords is to target the ones with less competition.
If a keyword appears in only 9 pages, that means there are only 9 other competition. As a result, using that particular keyword guarantees a top 10 Google ranking. On the contrary, if a keyword is used in a million pages or more, then good luck. Unless one already has an authoritative site, the only way to show up is through AdWords.
All over the web, there are the so-called SEO experts taking advantage of that. Using keywords with less competition is a good strategy because that increases the chances of placing higher in the results. Even if fewer people are using those search terms, it helps increase organic traffic.
Beware of the sneaky SEO snakes, though. Using the same tactic, they mislead people into thinking that their pages are ranking. Sure, it does, but if no one is using those search terms, then who is coming to visit the website?
Finding Commonality in the Top 10 Search Results
Dale Carnegie, John Maxwell, and Stephen Covey are among the authors I admire the most. They are the recognized authorities in their fields on personal development. For them to come up with their principles for success, they looked into commonality.
These authors interviewed and made extensive research on leaders and successful people. Once they found common traits, it became the foundation of their teachings.
Can I find anything common between the top ranking pages?
Using ten search terms, I took a look at the top 10 pages in the results. Immediately, the thing that popped into my mind is the depth of the posts. Almost all the pages had incredible insights with the exemption of a few.
Sure, I had to visit all in all a hundred pages and read. It did take up a lot of my time, but it also came with two benefits. One is that I learned. Another is that I found one thing that is common among the high-ranking pages.
Good Lord, have I stumbled upon the holy grail of Google SERP?
Ideal Blog Post Length of High Ranking Pages
Almost all the pages I visited provided not only great insights but also have depth. Because of that, the content length was also long.
Is that it, writing long form articles is the key to ranking high?
For a better understanding, here is the data I gathered.
To be clear, here are background details that can affect the figures in the table.
1. I did not sign out of Google and cleared the browser cache. As such, the pages I visited may not be the same as others.
2. The search results are from Google Philippines. Hence, people living in other countries will see different results.
3. I counted the words in the main article. It does not include other words found in the header, sidebar, footer, and hidden codes.
4. Finally, the data only shows the number of words. It does not account for anything else such as external links, shares, and other metrics.
Interpreting the Results
I get it. Some people do not like numbers. I do, and there is a reason why bloggers and content writers should, too.
Based on my data, 76% of the pages have over 1,000 words. As for the others, most of them have a higher percentage of internal links. Using this strategy, they broke down their posts into many other posts. As such, Google still considers them as having depth.
Because the average length of all posts is 1,912 words, is that the ideal blog post length then?
Before deciding on that, here is another data gathered by Backlinko.
As one can see, the data here is different from mine. Here, it shows a declining correlation between the first to the tenth position in Google SERP. Furthermore, their data suggests that the average number of words is 1,890.
A big difference between both sets of data is the sample size and the method. While I used a few search terms related to what I do, Backlinko analyzed one million search results.
Regardless, 1,912 and 1,890 words are almost identical.
Is 1,900 words the sweet spot when it comes to the number of words in a blog post?
Blog Post Length Best Practices
Google recommends that we follow SEO best practices and focus on writing for people. Given that the average length of top 10 pages is 1,900, are we to count the number of words we write?
Our attitude influences the way we do things. For instance, the results of working for the sake of and loving the work is different. In the same manner, our intention when writing manifests itself in the published post.
If one were to write with a target number of words, the result is a less-than-stellar article. Such posts often are inconsistent, and worse, stuffed with words.
Here is an example:
“I learned a lot from the Filipino Writer. The reason why is because it has a lot of good articles to learn from. I like the articles very much especially because they are informative and I learned so much.”
Writing Content Best Practices
Earlier, I mentioned ranking signals used by Google. Let me then tell you what these are.
First and second are the external links and content, of which keywords is a subfactor. Finally, the third is RankBrain – Google’s artificial intelligence system. I am telling you, this is SKYNET (from the Terminator series) in the making.
These ranking signals, including hundreds of others, are the core of Google’s algorithm. While distinct, they are also interrelated.
Google has a fixation on user experience. As such, it wants to show pages that are relevant and insightful. Such obsession led to the creation of the RankBrain. Although it is still in its infancy, it will not be long before it becomes the most important ranking signal.
One purpose of RankBrain is to help find relevant pages by understanding the intent of users. In other words, it tries to understand the context and show results based on what it thinks the users need.
For the machine to serve its purpose, it needs to understand the context of our posts. Using proper external and internal links, we can also further enhance its understanding.
Writing posts with in-depth coverage almost always result in long form articles. Hence, there is no need to think about the number of words. Instead, we ought to focus on the quality and giving the most value to readers.
Quality Reigns Supreme
The way I would describe SEO is this – a little bit here, a little bit there, pretty soon it all adds up. In essence, everything we do to enhance our rankings are all small parts. For us to rank well, we only need to do more than enough of the small parts.
Good things come when a blog keeps receiving a huge number of visitors daily. It opens up collaborations with brands not only here but also in other countries. Of course, that depends on how the bloggers positioned their website. The world without borders where there are limitless possibilities does sound enticing.
In the past, I have used Facebook to boost posts with the intention of driving traffic to my site. Despite my best efforts in selecting the target audience, the numbers were appalling. In particular, most of the people who visited the posts spent a short period of time. Suffice to say, they were not my intended audience. In comparison, Google AdWords did much better.
The lessons I learned from my experience in boosting posts and advertising is this. Companies can do that and they should. But for bloggers, there is a much better option.
Focus on writing high-quality blog posts that give value to readers.
Food, lifestyle or travel bloggers, it does not matter what the niche is. At the end of the day, it is up to individual bloggers to decide what they do.
All I am saying is that the data shows what makes pages rank high. If what they do is to provide in-depth posts, then that is what I am going to do.
By the way. Let me end this post by saying that I hit the sweet spot for the length of content with these last words.