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Content length actually does affect rankings and conversions

Most people who design websites, work in the SEO industry, or even create content for websites, do not understand that content length actually has a dramatic affect on the conversion rate that will be seen on the page, as well as the rankings that will be derived. The simple answer with regards to the question of content length is "more is better."

When you split test a website for conversions and rankings, you can quickly come to some interesting facts about the way Google views content. Keep in mind that the actual content that is created for a website is not able to be "understood" by Google, and instead it is being reviewed for how many terms are "comparative" or "exact" with regards to a certain genre of business. They are looking at "originality" and spelling mistakes, as well as poorly formatted sentence structure. When it comes to the actual meaning of the content that is presented, Google relies on inbound links to the page acting as a "vote" for the quality. This is the only way that Google can understand the quality of content, and differentiate it from poor quality.

With this said, we have run several tests on our own pages, as well as client pages in order to come to a consensus about the length of content, and the affects it has on rankings and conversions. Our test homepage had 1292 words on the subject and form fields below the content. The redone page that was tested against had 488 words, and a design that presented the form fields higher on the page. The original version converted at 7.6% higher a rate than the new version. Leads from the longer form were also better quality than the short form. The takeaway here is that "content is not actually king."

SERP IQ did an in-depth analysis of top ten search results for over 20,000 keywords, and revealed a distinct pattern. The average length of the content on a page that ranks in the top ten positions on Google for any keyword is 2,000 words. Not only is this a shock, but further research shows that the higher the position in search on average, the more words were used on the page. Here is a breakdown of the average statistics:

#1           2,416 words average.

#2 2,494 words average

#3 2,492 words average

#4 2,341 words average

#5 2,327 words average

#6 2,223 words average

#7 2,127 words average

#8 2,138 words average

#9 2,087 words average

#10 2,032 words average

Google absolutely prefers webPages that are very rich in text content, and shows a distinct preference by ranking top ten results from pages that show more than 2,000 words. However, Google does not prefer more words because the algorithm likes it, and instead shows preference because actual humans like it. SEOMOZ did a study in 2011 trying to establish a correlation between the amount of links that a page on their site saw, compared to the amount of words on the page. The results were interesting, in that the more words presented, the more links were shown. The most popular page for links on the website had more than 35,000 words and generated more than 800 links. The correlation stayed consistent across all of the analyzed pages.

This type of statistic remains consistent on social media as well, with longer posts receiving significantly more shares, tweets, and mentions than shorter posts.

The general trend on search engines is to use more terms. All statistical data shows that people are increasing the number of terms used to search for something on Google. Hitwise data shows:

1 word searches = 20.29% (previously was 19.02%)

2 word searches =23.65% (previously was 32.58%)

3 word searches = 21.92% (previously was 25.61%)

4 word searches = 14.89% (previously was 12.83%)

5 word searches = 8.68% (previously was 5.64%)

What can be learned from this pattern is that the more long tail keywords you can rank for, the better. Search is moving toward presentation in greater percentages of terms that SEO companies would consider "long tail." The more content you have eon your page, the more chance you have of getting picked up in search for those long tail terms.

The last lesson to be learned is that longer content converts better than short content. Marketing Experiments ran tests on Google Adwords that landed on longer content pages vs shorter content pages. In every case, the longer content showed a better conversion rate than the shorter content. In the first test, the longer content converted at a 40.54% better rate. When even longer copy was used, the rate of increased conversion continued to rise, ending at a 45% better rate in the test that used the longest content.

Here is what we can learn from these lessons:

!. Make sure the content you write is quality.

2. The copy itself isn't completely responsible for conversions.

3. Use social media to spread the content around.

4. Do not write long copy just to write long copy. Quality still matters.

Use these guidelines as a template for creating the best quality content on the web, and the rankings will come.