For a long time, short-form, bite-sized content was where it was at. Amid dwindling attention spans (or so we were told) and content saturation, Google was rewarding brands for providing their audience with content they could consume in a couple of minutes.

But the stats now suggest the opposite is true.

Articles with 3,000 words or more get 1.3 times or more organic traffic than those with 500 words or less, data analysis suggests.

Longer content dominates page one of search rankings. As per a study by SerpIQ, the first result on Google typically has 2,416 words and the 10th result has 2,032 words.

HubSpot backed this up with its own study in 2021 which found that the ideal blog post length for SEO should be 2,100-2,400 words.

Longer content also earns more backlinks and gets more social shares.

So, what changed?

According to Google, not a lot. It insists that word count is not a ranking factor.

Here’s Google’s John Mueller making that clear on Twitter: “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.”

Google isn’t judging content by how long it is, but by how well it satisfies search intent.

It comes down to the simple fact that you can say more with more words. More keywords and phrases, more helpful information, more internal linking.

But, as Mueller stresses, you need to be mindful of writing for writing’s sake. If you include too much ‘fluff’, as we call it, you run the risk of spending good time and money on creating content with not a lot to show for it.

How do you do it?

Actually writing upwards of 2,000 words without resorting to said fluff can be really tricky. There’s a real knack to it. We’ve mastered it through writing in-depth on subjects which, reasonably, could’ve been answered in much less than 2,000 words.

Here are some of the 2,000-plus word topics we’ve covered for our clients:

– How to wash your horse

– What is accidental damage?

– What do cats see?

– What are food hygiene ratings?

Here are some of the tricks we’ve learned for getting that word count up:

  1. Think about the bigger picture

Topics often have more legs than you might think. While you don’t want to stray too far from the search intent, you can add value to your content by thinking about questions once or twice removed from the specific subject you’re talking about.

Often searchers don’t know what they need to know until you give it to them. That’s a slightly confusing thing to say so let’s look at an example:

A feature around ‘The best beaches for dog walkers’ could also talk about beach risks for dogs or water safety for dogs, not just about the locations themselves. You could cover everything from protecting dogs from sunstroke to the coastal wildlife that could pose a threat.

Expanding the topic keeps things fresh from a writing perspective, helping you – or whoever is writing the piece – to move on through the topic.

  1. Include any relevant rules and regulations

This won’t apply to all topics. But you might be surprised by just how many subjects can be framed with relevant rules and regulations.

Laws and standards are always changing to ensure they keep up with the times. Often, the changes are made without as much as a passing mention. Naturally, there are awareness issues as a result.

Case in point: the recent changes to the Highway Code, brought in to provide more protection for cyclists and pedestrians. According to a survey by the AA, at the time the changes were introduced, a third of drivers didn’t know about them.

If there are any rule changes your audience needs to know about, they’ll be thankful you’ve made them aware.

When explaining complex legal changes, try to translate them into practical layman’s terms. This will require a writer who is adept at turning complex subjects into easily understandable copy. Here at Q Content, we’ve employed writers with a legal background to do just that.

  1. Make lists

Listicles are favoured by readers for all kinds of reasons. They play into skim reading (which has become the ‘new normal’); they hold the promise of solving problems easily; they’re easy to return to; they aid recall. We could go on…

They appeal to writers for similar reasons. They provide some much-needed structure without having to do too much planning – simply identify how many items you want in your list and you’re off.

Say you give each item 100 words, you’ll only need to write ten to hit 1,000 words. Sorry for the simple maths, but you see what we’re getting at. And who’s to say that you need to stop at ten? If the topic justifies it, you can write a 20 or 30-tip list.

Did you know that odd-numbered lists are found to be more effective? It’s unclear why exactly, but there’s a school of thought that they’re considered more trustworthy by readers, because no padding was added to make a balanced (even) number.

  1. Add in some colour

The best content we create is when it’s a more collaborative piece with the client.

That’s not to say that we impose on our clients, asking them to give up too much of their time to grab some insight and comment. But the odd quote or case study can go a long way.

While we’re very much from the school of ‘content shouldn’t be too salesy’, lacing an article with a bit of expert insight serves two functions: adding value for the reader, and showing your authority as a business.

Not to mention, it brings up that word count.

Why not pull out the best quotes to be used as graphics to break up the text? When you’re compiling longer-form content, you always need to be mindful of how it looks for the reader – on both mobile and desktop.

  1. Conduct your own surveys

Sometimes you can be searching for ages for that pearl of a stat that backs up your point. Instead, why not conduct your own research?

Some interesting findings can give you a great ‘in’ to a feature. They could also be repurposed elsewhere and used as the basis for press release material, then (hopefully) picked up by third parties for further amplification (and some lovely backlinks).

Conducting relevant research doesn’t have to be a big thing. It can if you want it to be, of course, for the reasons stated above, but it can just as easily be a poll on social media, making use of those followers.

Ready to go long?

We’ve seen first-hand the difference that long-form content can make to search ranking. Some of our clients have surprised themselves by how many places they managed to move up the SERPs by committing to writing longer pieces.

But make no mistake, it’s a real commitment if you’re planning on writing the blogs in house. Depending on your writing capacity, it might take a little while for the strategy to pay off, too.   

Why not let Q Content take the strain? We’ve been writing quality long-form content for years, and like to think we now make it look easy… Clients often marvel at how we can keep coming up with new content ideas; it’s the power of having a team of creative types who live and breathe it – day in, day out. 

Get in touch today to find out more or browse through some of our recent work for some inspo. 

Ben Hollom

March 24, 2022