How big should blog posts be to rank on Google?

This blog post was previously published on

The time when it was all about targeted keyword rich, short form content,  crank out a few hundred words, has long gone. Creating long form, well researched content is expensive, time consuming and hard work.

But what is the evidence that we should create long form content? How do we answer the question, “What size of content will help me rank in Google?”

Brian Dean

Evidence that Longform content is best recently did a massive study of 1 million Google search results, published on January 21st, 2016

It’s findings regarding size of content were:

” Based on SERP data from SEMRush, we found that longer content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results. The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.”


Steve Rayson over at bloggged, “Content, Share and Links: Insights from analyzing 1 million articles”, you can download his 31 page pdf here

Steve Rayson
The analysis was the result of teaming up with

Deep research and opinions matter :

“There are, however, specific content types that do have a strong positive correlation of shares and links. This includes research backed content and opinion forming journalism. We found these content formats achieve both higher shares and significantly more links.”

On the length of content with regards to social sharing:

“…long form content of over 1,000 words consistently receives more shares and links than shorter form content.”

On the type of content shared

 “List posts and videos achieve much higher shares on average than other content formats. However, in terms of achieving links, list posts and why posts achieve a higher number of referring domain links than other content formats on average. While we may love to hate them, list posts remain a powerful content format.”

It seems the much hated listicle is not only getting the shares, but the links too. Gathering anecdotal evidence for this article, people would role their eyes at the idea that listicles get the most attention. This may be due to that fact that people who are in the web publishing business see more of them and are not in “reader mode”, but are in publishing mode. It may also be pure snobbery, the fact that we want people to think we are more sophisticated than we actually are.

The article goes on to say that most content receives few social shares and even fewer links. This would indicate that content is being dumped on a massive scale into a vase and empty space with no one reading, sharing or linking to it.

The research indicates that longer form content in excess of 2k is more likely to be successful. Thus time spent creating 3 x blog posts 1,000 words long could be wasted, whilst time spent creating 1 blog post 3,000 words long returns rewards.

The study goes on to look at the type of content that is being shared and linked to, analysing around 70k webpages with articles from , The Atlantic, New Republic, the and indicates that it is well researched opinion pieces that are most popular.


How Important is Content Length? Why Data-Driven SEO Trumps Guru Opinions
Analysis was performed of the top 10 results in Google in 2012, using 20,000 keywords and discovered a direct correlation of long content to higher results in Google.


“As you can see, there is a drop in content length as we move from first to tenth position. On average, 10th position pages have 400 less words on the page than first position pages. This does point to the trend that higher ranked sites have more content, but keep in mind that this graph is not segmented in any way – this is just a graph of all of the SERPs we’ve analyzed.”

More evidence from

In another study from Moz, by John Doherty, it “found a direct correlation between the number of back links…and the overall length of the content itself.”

Below is a chart of 500 posts on the x-axis and the number of words on the y-axis

Moz graphic

If we take the chart above and overlay with the number of links each post acquired has been recorded, we can clearly see a correlation between length of post and number of links the post gets.
John Doherty states, ” if we visualize the links that these posts have gained, there seems to be a correlation between longer content and links:”

 moz graphic 2

OKSUMO and Buzzsumo research
Why Content Goes Viral: What Analyzing 100 Million Articles Taught Us

“We’ve analyzed the social share counts of over 100 million articles in the past 8 months.”

“If you look at the chart below, the longer the content, the more shares it gets, with 3000-10000 word pieces getting the most average shares (8859 total average shares). Not surprisingly, there was a lot more short-form content being written. How much more? There were 16 times more content with less than 1000 words than there were content with 2000+ words.”


It is quite clear from this graph that you are more likely to have your content shared on Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin, Twitter, and Google+ if you content is over 3,000 words, rather than 1,000 words or less.

This flies in the face of common thought that we are only motivated to share, short, snacksized bits of content. It is not what the data is telling us.

“As you can see in the graph, 3000+ word articles get more social shares on Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin, Twitter and Google+.”
The Backlinking Strategy That Works
Patt Flynn has also noticed a relationship between shares and content length.



5 Things That Will Change Your Mind About Long Form Content Marketing

In Garrett Moon’s research for he found that content with a higher number of words ranked higher in Google.


“Yes, it’s true. Long-form content ranks higher on average than shorter pages. In my results, the pages in the top five (1-5) averaged more than 2,000 words per page. In the bottom half (6-10), the posts only averaged 1,400 words. Long-form content was absolutely weighted to the top of the list.”

Neil Patel
Neil Patel of Kissmetrics and Crazy Egg likes to get data driven answers in this blog post investigating the merits of long form content, Why you need to create evergreen, long form content

Neil Patel

“I took the 327 blog posts I have written on Quick Sprout and broke them down into two buckets. The first bucket contained blog posts that were fewer than 1,500 words, and the second contained posts that were greater than 1,500 words. I then analyzed how many tweets and Facebook likes each post got.

Posts that were under 1,500 words, on average received 174.6 tweets and 59.3 Facebook likes. Posts that were over 1,500 words, on average received 293.5 tweets and 72.7 Facebook likes.”


A word about causation. We are not stating that long content causes more links and higher ranking, but we are suggesting that there is a correlation between the two, it has been my belief that this has been for case for a number of years.

However, we have a number of factors at work here, the main one is the person who actually reads the content and then reacts. Something is happening to cause them to be more likely to socially share the content or link, size of the content may be a factor, but the content must be coherent and resonate with the reader. It must engage.

Semantic footprint vs the keyword

Spock and Bones

Google introduced a new algorithm called, Hummingbird in 2013. Danny Sullivan of said,

“Google said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.”

That Google is using the “meaning” of the whole article rather than a specific searched for keyword means that more semantically relevant content is going to help Google determine the relevance of that search term for your content.

It’s not as simple as “more is better”. It’s that more relevant, useful content is better.

If we look at it simplistically, what does a 500 word post have that a 3,000 word post does not? The answer is ease of consumption, it’s quick for the reader. But speed of reading is not the objective of the publisher, we want to produce a reaction. If a reader’s objective is to read and consume a blog post quickly, then they are quickly on to the next thing.

The problem is, most publishers see their content in isolation rather than a sequence of content from numerous other publishers.

Each piece of content consumed by the reader is battling for time in the consciousness, ready for downloading into the subconscious.

Which brand do you think is going to stick more, the brand of the content that took 2 mins to read or the brand which had the content that took two 15 minute sessions to get through?

The thing is, it’s hard to create long content. We get distracted, Netflix, Facebook, Linkedin upates, yada yada yada. And when you create something great at 1,000 words that PUBLISH button starts pulsing. Right now I’m at 809 words and I think I have something interesting for people.

But there are a few other points I want to cover on this issue, and hopefully it takes this particular piece of content from good to great, but that is your call not mine.

We now know content has to be big and thus requires more investment

Brand vs Product

It’s hardly definitive but take a look at this data for a brand search and a product search.

Brand vs product

I often have a discussion with SEO types about branding and usually it goes, “people buy things because of the thing the thing does”, when the reality is it’s more often than not about the way it makes people feel.

Brand is all about how the consumer feels, it is an emotional thing.
And it’s not even just about purchases, it’s about social media too. People share content because of how it makes it feel. People are more likely to share content from people they have met and liked that people they do not, not because the content changes, but the way the person feels about the other person changes.

You can see this if you analyse the various tribes of SEO, they tend to rewteet each other. Not because of the content, but because the concept of the tribe is being invoked.

The trick is not to get your product to connect with the customer, but to build an emotional relationship between the consumer and the brand.

This is how you rank in 2015

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SEO is Dead

There has been a lot of navel gazing within the SEO industry this year.

You couldn’t move without someone numpty publishing an SEO is Dead post

This is mostly because the landscape has changed. The way Google ranks its results has changed. What was working within the SEO industry was not aligned with what Google wanted.

A number of techniques that only recently worked very well to get a website ranked in Google no longer works, although it’s interesting to note that quite a number of people and seo agencies are working in an outmoded fashion.

We already know this and many bytes of blog posts have been crunched to bring us that news, again and again.

The old way of working is mostly dead

I say mostly dead as there are exceptions, the old way of doing things still works for those who have built a machine with processes that are efficient enough to dodge the Google hit squad.

We even see that dodgy widget links still work and even work for Google themselves, whilst preaching it is a sin and will send you to ranking hell. Blackhat still works, but the probability of being crushed is way to high.

The point being, that if you want to build a decent, medium to long term business that delivers an effective you need a new way of doing things.

The methodology of SEO has mostly been about busting the algo, backward engineering how the Google machine works, identifying weak spots and then drilling into those spots. It’s a methodology that requires a specific mindset, a somewhat technical ability and a super hero ability to wield Excel spreadsheets without having to wear underpants on the outside.

This mindset is still needed, it’s simply no longer the killer it used to be.

Vomiting the long tail onto your title tags not longer emits the sweet odour it once did. Even hardcore, outsourced to tropical countries, manic article creation no longer works, and also industrial guest posting is liable to send your website down the toilet.

Interesting thing is, a lot of websites still employ these tactics.

It’s interesting, because it means that those working the “new way of thinking”, are going to be those who will win.

So what is the new way of thinking?

Well it’s actually quite simple and it’s something I have been preaching for years, so it’s not like I am revealing a huge secret.

The New Way of Thinking is:

You Publish for People.

Which has actually been working for thousands of years, it’s only recently we have been formatting our communicative output for the Google robot.

And yes this does include social media an mobile, but it’s more than that, it’s about taking the news and creating fresh content around it. Google is not the only thing that likes fresh, people like it too. People like to experience content that is aligned with what is currently on their mind.

No longer should you be chasing the algo, you should be chasing people.

P.S. Apologies for the headline, I couldn’t resist.