Word count and SEO: how long should a post or page be?

We often get the question of how long an online text should be. As this often depends on different factors, it’s difficult to give just one answer. But looking from an SEO and user-oriented perspective, there is a rule of thumb you can follow. We advise writing more than 300 words for posts or pages, while product descriptions should be over 200 words. Why? Because a higher word count helps Google understand what your text is about. It also gives you the room to give enough information on the topic being discussed, which is helpful for your site visitors. However, we don’t advise adding more content for the sake of it. Quality and readability always come first!

Did you get a red or orange traffic light because your word count isn’t high enough? Read about the text length check here, or jump to the paragraph on how to write high-quality lengthy posts or informative taxonomy archive pages.

Why does word count matter?

Defining word count is easy: it’s how many words are used in a specific text, on a page or in another place. It’s an easy way to measure text length. But why does it matter you ask? Well, making sure that your text is long enough helps Google better understand what your text is about. We’ve experienced this ourselves; we have written quite some articles that are over 2500 words, such as our SEO essentials. They are cornerstone content, and they help our organic traffic grow. Here’s how longer articles contribute to SEO:

When your text is longer, Google has more indicators to determine what it is about. The longer your text, the more often your focus keyphrase will probably appear. This is no excuse for keyphrase stuffing, though! If you optimize your copy naturally, your focus keyphrase will pop up here and there throughout your text. You can also fit in more synonyms and related keyphrases. What’s more, in a longer post, you can add more headings, links, and images, where you will mention the keyphrase or related phrases. So more content gives you more room to provide users with high-quality and nuanced information.

A longer text can also help you rank for multiple long-tail variants of the keyphrase you’ve optimized your text for. That’s because you have more opportunities to address various topics in a lengthy text. Your article, or your other posts that take a deep dive into the subtopic, will have a chance to turn up in search results for the long-tail variants of your keyphrase. If you do some well-thought-out internal linking you can even boost the traffic to the extensive post you’ve written. This helps you drive more organic traffic to your site.

Avoid having thin content

Also, if a page doesn’t have a lot of text (a low word count), Google is more likely to think of it as thin content. All search engines want to provide the best answers to online searches people do. Thin content is less likely to offer a complete answer and satisfy the needs of the public. Consequently, it will probably not rank very high.

The same goes for product pages and descriptions in your online store. While these don’t have to be as long as blog posts, it is a good idea to make sure the text is long enough. Don’t underestimate the importance of having the proper information on your products. This can make the difference between making a purchase or not, as more text helps them make an informed decision and helps them trust your website.

What does Yoast SEO check?

The text length check in Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO helps you by checking the length of your texts. This check is part of the SEO analysis, and you will find it in the SEO tab of the Yoast SEO meta box or in the Yoast SEO sidebar. It calculates how many words you’ve added to a page and whether that’s enough to help you rank. This check is also available in our Yoast SEO for Shopify app.

Feedback of the Yoast SEO analysis on text length
Feedback of Yoast SEO for Shopify analysis on text length

Every page on your site needs to contain a certain number of words to be helpful for your site visitors and Google. How long your text should minimally be, depends on the type of page. Taxonomy pages require less content than blog posts, whereas cornerstone content is often your most important content and therefore needs to contain a significant number of words.

In the table below, you can see how we assess the different pages. If you have less than the minimum number of words on a page, you’ll get a red traffic light in the Yoast SEO analysis. Where you get a green traffic light when you’ve hit the minimum word count we advise.

Taxonomy page >250 words
Regular post or page >300 words
Cornerstone product page >400 words
Cornerstone content page >900 words
Product page or description >200 words
Minimum number of words per type of page to get a green traffic light in Yoast SEO

Not enough content

Yoast SEO will also give you a red or orange traffic light if your post or page consists of less than 50 characters in the readability analysis. To properly evaluate the readability of your content, the Yoast SEO plugin needs a minimum number of characters. If your post or page contains less than 50 characters, the plugin’s readability checks won’t give you the best results. And, in most cases, you can’t provide the best answer to your audience in such a short span of words.

Word count in the Yoast SEO insights tab

You can also find the exact word count of your content in the Yoast SEO Insights tab in the sidebar. The Insights tab also contains other useful features, like the Flesch reading ease, estimated reading time, and prominent words.

How to write a high-quality lengthy post

So, longer articles might have some advantages over short posts. But while you’re writing posts with a high word count, it is important to keep the quality of the text at a high level. Good quality texts are readable, well structured, and always contain original content

Writing high-quality content for your site or online store is hard. Especially when your goal is to write articles with a high word count to grow your organic traffic. When you’re writing, and especially elaborating on what you already have, make sure you keep the following aspects in mind:

Write readable texts

The most important thing when writing long (or any kind of) posts is to write for your audience. That may sound obvious, but it is surprisingly easy to get distracted and start adding irrelevant information. Start by thinking about questions a reader could have about the topic you’re covering. Then, provide clear answers to those questions. Of course, the answers should be well-written and readable.

What can you do to make your text readable? Your text needs to follow a logical line of thought. To accomplish that, we advise you to start every paragraph with a topic sentence, i.e., a sentence that explains the main idea of that paragraph. Use the rest of the paragraph to elaborate on that sentence. Be sure to keep your sentences and paragraphs short and snappy. If you find any unnecessary words or sentences – delete them. Minimize your use of passive voice. But do connect your paragraphs to make the text easy to read, a good way to do this is by using transition words.

Use headings

One way of structuring your text is by using headings. Headings within a text serve two purposes. First: they show a top-down hierarchy. You immediately see that a subject has, for instance, three subheadings that elaborate on it further. Another function is for scanning. You can let your readers know what a paragraph is about by using headings. It also makes your text pleasant to read, as a heading tells you what the next piece of text is about.

Write original content

This is the hardest one. It is not easy being original with so much content out there. But, it might help if you reflect on what makes you unique. Think about how what you offer is different and better than what your competitors offer. Then do some keyword research to see what your audience searches for online. Preparing with research can give you plenty of ideas on what to write about and how to make yourself stand out from the crowd. In case you get stuck, we have a whole blog post on how to find inspiration.

Want to learn more on how to write high-quality posts that users and search engines will love? Our SEO Copywriting course and other SEO courses can help you with that. You can get access to these courses with Yoast SEO Premium or Yoast SEO for Shopify, which also gives you access to extra features in the Yoast SEO plugin.

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How to create high-quality archive pages 

Let’s start by explaining what archive pages are. WordPress uses so-called taxonomies to group content. The word ‘taxonomy’ is a fancy term for a group of things (website pages, in this case) that have something in common. WordPress has two default taxonomies: categories and tags. The difference between a category and a tag mostly has to do with structure. Categories are hierarchical: you can have subcategories and even sub-subcategories. Tags, however, don’t have that hierarchy.

WordPress automatically generates a page for each category or tag you create. So, do be mindful of them, and don’t create new tags for each post you write! We call these pages archive pages because that’s what they do: they archive posts (or products) that have something in common. Besides categories and tags, there are also other types of archive pages. You can even create a custom taxonomy or use a plugin that creates one.

Why are archive pages important for your SEO?

Taxonomy archive pages are very valuable when it comes to structuring your site. A clear site structure helps both Google and your visitors to understand and navigate your site and help you rank higher. To get the best out of your taxonomy archive pages, you will need to work on them. The pages that WordPress automatically generates tend to only consist of a list of posts without any further introduction. So, if visitors land on one of your archive pages, they don’t get much information. This increases the chance that they won’t find what they’re looking and leave the page.

How to optimize taxonomy archive pages

To make your taxonomy archives awesome, you often don’t even have to do that much. Start by adding a clear heading and an introduction, where you highlight the content on that archive page. In addition, you can add some links to that introductory content pointing to the best posts or pages on that archive page. This will go a long way in making sure that the users understand what the page is about.

For descriptions on archive pages, we recommend a minimum of 250 words. That’s less than what we recommend for blog posts, but that’s because the description of an archive page has a different purpose than a blog post. Rather than exploring a topic, these descriptions serve as an introduction to the rest of the content on that page. These texts don’t have to be lengthy. You want to rank with these pages though, and that means category and tag pages need content.

How to write high-quality product descriptions

A lot of online stores use the default text that the manufacturer provides when it comes to the products they sell. This is not something we would recommend (at all). Not only will this show Google that there are already five other websites out there that are providing the same content as you are (which hurts your rankings), but it also shows users that you don’t take the time to properly optimize your product pages. This hurts your credibility. Of course, if you have an online store with lots of products we understand that this isn’t done in a few minutes. In that case, we recommend starting with your most important products or best-sellers.

Make sure your product descriptions contain the information people will want about these products. Make this information easy to read and to the point. As you probably saw in the table, these pages often ask for less content than blog posts or other pages. But do make sure that all the information that someone would want about that product, is on the product page. As I mentioned before, a great product description can be the difference between making a sale or not.

Conclusion on word count and SEO

This post taught you that the word count of your posts and pages can influence your rankings. However, and this is very important, you should not compromise the quality of your text for the sake of writing longer pieces. So, always use your common sense and write readable, and well-structured texts that are helpful for your site visitors. Eventually, this is what Google wants as well and therefore will get you higher up the rankings!

Read more: SEO copywriting and writing for sales »

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