Word Count for SEO

What is the Best Word Count for SEO in Canada?

“Don’t worry about your word count; Worry about making your words count.”

You’ve more than likely heard the term SEO, and, like most people, can recite “search engine optimization”, but that’s where your knowledge ends, right? You’re still confused as to how to optimize the search engine, and which search engine are you optimising for that matter?

These questions will naturally answer themselves during the course of this article as we try to fathom what is the best word count for SEO in Canada. But first, you need an actual definition for SEO. 

SEO and Word Count

According to New York Times bestselling author Neil Patel in his article SEO Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide For 2021, “SEO stands for search engine optimization. Which is the art of ranking high on a search engine in the unpaid section, also known as the organic listings”.

In other words, SEO is the process of getting your web page/ article / blog, etc, at the top of the search results of a search engine like Google, without purchasing Advertisements.

So for example, you entered your long tail keyword ‘What is the Best Word Count for SEO in Canada’ in the Google search engine and the results show THIS article on page one of the search results.

You would therefore conclude that this page has been successfully optimized for Google. Btw, a long-tail keyword is a keyphrase such as the title of this article, which is more specific than a short tail keyword, which is one or two words such as “SEO word count”. More on this later. 

SEO experts, and there are many, including Patel, will tell you that in order to rank on Google’s first page in the search results, you have to follow an SEO strategy involving backlinking, providing relevant content and writing long texts where you made sure to include the most important keywords at the right places. 

Where did this idea come from? 

Actually, indirectly  from Google–10 years ago! If you’re surprised that SEO has been around for so long and you are only now learning about it, be prepared to be shocked: SEO is actually over 20 years old.

To be more specific, the actual term ‘Search Engine Optimization’ was first used in 1997, though the practice of optimising web pages started from as early as the mid 90s. Back then, Yahoo was the Google of today. Interestingly, Google started in 1998 and has since become the go-to search engine not the least due to its simplicity and ease of use.

As such, website owners now optimize their sites to rank on Google’s search engine. 

While Google never discloses the algorithms used to rank pages, they have from time to time given clues and suggestions to enable website developers to produce high quality content to the end user.

The Evolution of Word Count for SEO

So ten years ago, in order for Google to retrieve the end users’ keywords, they relied on what is believed to be TF-IDF or term frequency inverse document frequency, along with the title tags and words in the heading.

It is believed that in order for Google to retrieve these keywords, they would somehow use this technique to find and extract the most relevant words in a series for the web page to rank them high.

Consequently, in order for Google to understand what your webpage was about, you would have to write long texts making sure to include the most important keywords, strategically place these keywords in the text, and have the right number of keywords in the texts.

Remember, Google never reveals their algorithms, so this was the outset for the emergence of SEO experts–men and women who would study Google to figure out their algorithms based on what they said, and mostly what was not said, and also experimenting on the websites’ optimization to see how they ranked. 

Due to the inevitable manipulation of the system by web developers to rank high on the search engine (keyword stuffing and cloaking are two common violations of Google’s algorithms), Google has had to over the years change its algorithms as these “experts” discovered their secrets.

Today, it employs related keyword techniques that are themed to interpret the intent of the content on a webpage. Enter BERT. 

What is BERT? 

According to Google Search, “BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT), which is another attempt by Google to improve their natural language processing in order to better understand the search queries of their end users”.

Introduced in 2018, the BERT models can “consider the full context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it—particularly useful for understanding the intent behind search queries”.

In other words, BERT is basically a machine-learning algorithm that, based on large amounts of text, is trained to read text in order to find the best matching answer. Can you say almost human? Indeed, BERT is Artificial Intelligence (AI). And this is the direction that Google has taken in the past few years. 

However, Google did not get here overnight. According to Google’s CEO Sundar Pichal in a 2017 keynote speech at its annual I/O event “the company was shifting from a “mobile-first world to an AI-first world.

BERT, SEO and Word Count

Then a series of announcements followed involving AI in various ways: from the development of specialised chips for optimising machine learning, to the use of deep learning in new applications including cancer research, to putting Google’s AI-driven assistant on as many devices as possible.

Pichai claimed the company was transitioning from “searching and organizing the world’s information to AI and machine learning.” The end result: BERT.

The idea of BERT is best explained by their research director, Peter Norvig, “With information retrieval, anything over 80% recall and precision is pretty good—not every suggestion has to be perfect, since the user can ignore the bad suggestions. With assistance, there is a much higher barrier.

You wouldn’t use a service that booked the wrong reservation 20% of the time, or even 2% of the time. So an assistant needs to be much more accurate, and thus more intelligent, more aware of the situation. That’s what we call ‘AI-first.’”

But what does this have to do with the best word count for SEO in Canada? 

A lot, actually. In fact, SEO experts are at the best position one could be in terms of optimising web pages for search engines now more than ever–due to AI-first technology.

While it will be more difficult to manipulate the search engine with keyword stuffing, exaggerated length of texts and word counts, it will be easier to rank higher in the search engine when SEO experts help their clients to produce content that is relevant to the search of the end user. 

Which brings us to the age-old question, “What is the best word count for SEO in Canada” when producing relevant content? After all, clients want to know how many words to write to have the best chance of appearing on Google’s first page.

Surely there has got to be some guideline somewhere? And, indeed, there are. But before we delve into this, let’s hear from Google’s Search Advocate, John Mueller, on the subject of word count in 2021. 

This topic came up on Twitter in response to a user who asked whether or not it would be beneficial to de-index shorter articles. This is what John Mueller had to say, “I agree with you & Mihai :).

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.” 

Key takeaway:

1) “Word count is not indicative of quality”

2) Quality is what Google is looking for

3) By the same token, pages with few words may be highly relevant to a user’s query

4) Ultimately it’s up to the site owner to use their best judgement.

In other words, Google will not necessarily rank pages based on word count alone. When it sees the quality content, it will rank shorter content just as well as longer content.

And in case you’re wondering why Google; aren’t there other search engines? Yes, there are. But as of 2021, Google is still the number one search engine and the go-to site for all things Internet. 

What do the SEO experts have to say about this? 

Notwithstanding what Mueller has said, four major players in the SEO industry have found clear correlations between word count and Google rankings:

1. Hubspot: 

In a recent study the marketing automation platform, Hubspot, gathered data from the 50 most read blog posts in 2019. They found that the articles were, on average, 2,300 words long.

2. Yoast: 

Yoast is a search engine optimization plugin in WordPress–but it is so much more than that, and personally one of my favourites. If your website is hosted by WordPress, chances are you are using Yoast. According to Yoast, the ideal blog post length is 300 to 1,000 words.

That is a huge gap. However, Yoast takes into account the fact that some topics do not require any research, but may just be an answer to a question. Yoast concluded that 1000 word count is the ideal number for higher rankings.

3. Semrush: 

According to a 2018 SEMrush study, the ideal length for better ranking is 1137 words.

4. Backlinko: 

According to backlinko in the 11.8 million Google search results they analysed, overall, the average word count of a Google first page result is 1,447 words. 

From the above one can infer that a webpage with an average word count of 1,471 (the avg of the four numbers) ranks higher than other pages.

So, is 1471 the best word count for SEO in Canada? Not necessarily.

Correlation & Causation

One of the challenges SEO experts usually have is understanding the difference between correlation and causation.

If you looked at the top 4 or 5 ranking pages for your keyword search and saw that they all had approximately 1471 words, it is understandable that you would think that is what is required to rank well for that keyword. However, this could be a correlation, not a causation. 

Another study (2015) by HubSpot suggested that longer posts may be “link-worthy” and more shareable. In turn, it could be the link profile of the page that causes it to rank well. It could also be that longer posts allow for more thorough answers required for some search queries, which then triggers Google’s AI technique to rank it higher. 

What is important to note is, correlation does not equal causation.

Google’s own SEO starter guide states, “Content should be factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive.”

Comprehensive is not a synonym for long. Comprehensive means “complete and including everything that is necessary.”

If you’ve been following this article you should have concluded by now that there is no definitive answer to the question, what is the best word count for SEO in Canada.

However it is not our desire to leave our readers more confused than when they started, so let’s see if we can help you to actually arrive at a “magic number as to the best word count for SEO in Canada by looking at some other factors. 

The first factor we will look at is Relevance:

Arguably the most important factor to rank content is its relevance. We cannot over emphasise the point that content should be relevant to the search of the users.

Ahrefs advice on content length: “Don’t shoot for a particular word count- just make sure you cover a topic in full. Whether that takes 500 words or 10,000, the key is that you are creating the best resource available for your target keyword.” (Search Engine Journal)

Ultimately you are writing for the users’ keywords. When a topic asks for more information then you should write as Google suggests–comprehensively.  

The second factor is the length of the keyword:

According to some SEO experts, your word count should be dependent on your keyword length. So for short-tail keywords (one or two words), you should shoot for approximately 4,500 words or more; mid-tail keywords between 2,000 and 4,500 words and long-tail keywords such as the title of this article, between 1,000-2,000 words. 

Long-tail keywords are considered to be the best in Digital Marketing SEO. They are a great opportunity for small blogs to rank higher and do well. The ideal blog length for long-tail keywords is 1,000-3,000 words. Although the market is competitive, it is less competitive due to its specificity. This article is 2490 words long. You be the judge as to who’s right. 

A word of caution concerning keywords:

Short-tail keywords are very competitive. You will notice in the search results, millions of answers–that’s due to the non-specificity of the query. This makes it hard for Google to show specific results and you will be “punished” for this.

The results: a low ranking of your webpage –especially if you’re a small site with low domain authority. So, this is a very important factor. You should select your keywords properly.

Another factor we’ll look at is: User Intent

The most important aspect when deciding on how long content should be is user intent. I.e. What does a user want when he/she lands on your page. If you understand what a user is looking for on your page, it will help you to write comprehensively enough to meet that need.

Having said that,

Content should be as long as it is needed to help convey the message of the page and allow users to complete their desired actions on that page.

Conclusion

You’ve seen that many studies by SEO experts have shown varying lengths for the best word count for SEO.

With machine learning, such as Google’s BERT, search engines can now better understand your content without you having to type thousands of words. Notwithstanding the length, web owners are encouraged to provide good content for the end users, which may mean a short article, or a long epistle. 

Can more words allow you to expand on a topic and offer your reader a view of the bigger picture? Absolutely. Could a shorter read be just what they’re looking for during coffee break? Quite likely.

The real takeaway from here is that your web content should give contextual meaning and value to your user, which is a shared conclusion among all SEO experts. 

Because in the end, only Google knows the answer to how they process texts and whether the word count is something to strive for.

I advise people not to focus too heavily on SEO recommendations when crafting content. Focus first on what your content is meant to do and go from there.

Notwithstanding all of the above, 

The final answer to the question of what is the best word count for SEO in Canada is 2000 to 3000 words. 

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