There are several reasons for this:
- Google seems to assume that if your site isn’t regularly updated, you’ve lost interest in it and (by implication) internet users won’t find it useful.
- The expected amount of content per page seems to be permanently increasing.
- Regardless of any other factor, your competition keeps increasing their word count.
Why does this happen?
Again, there are several reasons:
- The more words you’ve got, the more Google can index and the more “reasons” their algorithm has to put your page higher up in the results.
- The maxim “less is more” doesn’t seem to apply to the internet. Mark Twain famously said that he’d written a long letter because he didn’t have time to write a short one. But on the web, because computers are doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes, being succint doesn’t apply. Just look at all the recipe pages on the web where the writer takes forever to explain the dish and why they love it before shoehorning in the ingredients and actual method.
- Even though we skim pages, we tend to think that longer pages means better information. So we stay on the page longer (especially if it has a video to entertain us) which, in turn, is rewarded by the search engine algorithms because they’re been taught that staying on a page longer before we click back to the search engine means that page was more useful.
So if you’re a fan of writing short content, that’s bad news.
And if you’re looking for a short answer as to how long your content should be, sorry, again, there’s no definitive answer.
Years ago, when I first wrote articles at EzineArticles (a site that’s effectively on life-support for various reasons), the minimum article length was 250 words. Then it increased to 300 and now it’s 400 words. But, to be honest, that’s pretty short nowadays and is unlikely to get you ranked in the search results for anything more than the most obscure phrases.
Even the description below YouTube videos is getting longer and, at first glance, you thought they didn’t matter because it’s a video site.
I’m mixed about how long your website content should be.
Part of me thinks 500 words or so should be enough.
Other parts of me think that at least 1,000 words is a minimum.
And the “research what others are doing” part of me thinks it’s nearer 2,000 words or more. Where “or more” can stretch to 5,000 or even 10,000 words.
Now you’re probably asking yourself who has the time to read an article in the multiple thousands of words?
Let’s go back in time to when you had a pile of direct mail letters arrive.
Direct mail was (and still is) expensive.
But it has a lot of parallels with the internet.
In direct mail, long copy (those 16 page sales letters for instance) almost always out-sold short copy.
Gary Halbert famously used a complete paperback as one of his long copy sales letters. From memory, the cost of the book was “self liquidating” (people happily paid a post and packing fee that basically covered printing the book as well) and it performed very successfully. My guess is that, in part, people don’t usually expect a book to be a sales pitch. Which probably explains why some marketers still sell a physical book as their initial lead. We value real, dead tree, printed books a lot more than we value electronic ones.
Incidentally, remember that Dan Kennedy always taught that if you were going to put a voucher in your book (and you should!) then the voucher should be at the front. You’ll get more response as not everyone gets round to reading a whole book. That’s also why a lot of Kindle books have a sign-up for a free giveaway near the front (partly Dan Kennedy’s reason, partly the Kindle system of only previewing the early pages of a book).
Why does long form content work so well in direct mail and the internet?
Dan Kennedy’s view was that with long form content you can answer all the possible objections someone has to buying whereas a short letter (web page) can’t hope to do that.
The internet has a lot of direct connections to direct mail – both work fine with almost everyone not responding. A good mail order response has always been quoted as 1% and web pages aren’t much different.
The major plus an internet page has over direct mail is that it isn’t limited in length,
This article will be over 1,000 words (it’s reached 800 already) and internet pages are stretch-to-fit. If I want to make it a lot longer, that’s fine. It doesn’t cost me any more to host it (my hosting company give me unlimited storage because they know I’ll never hit any limit they’d care to place). It doesn’t cost you any more to view it because your data package is either unlimited or pretty big. And text doesn’t eat up bandwidth anyway – that’s reserved for images and, to a bigger extent, videos.
Don’t worry that you think your readers won’t read the whole page.
They’re not the only ones you’re writing for.
Your other target market is the search engines themselves and their robots will “read” every single word and will then go off and run a bunch of scary computer code to do their best to make sense of it and score it so it can – maybe – show up in the search results.
Which is why long content is generally better than short.
The trick is to make it interesting.
Wikihow put in lots of pictures. So do Wikipedia and most other sites.
Partly because we tend to be visual creatures.
Mainly because it splits up the page and makes it look more interesting – something I’m usually guilty of not doing, sorry.
How can you easily write longer content?
One very easy way to write long content is to split it up.
Sites like Buzzfeed thrive on lists and you can do the same.
If you can come up with a few ways to deal with whatever you’re writing about, it’s really simple.
7 topics can each have 150 or so words expanding on them. Do that with a short introduction and a concluding paragraph and you’re easily over 1,000 words but writing them doesn’t seem much effort as you’re only writing a paragraph or two about each part.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to do that.
Want a longer article?
Come up with more bullet points and write 100 to 150 words expanding on each of them.
So your Top 30 page could top 3,000 words and it won’t seem like a slog to do it.
The other thing is you don’t need to write your content all in one session (although that’s my personal preferred method as I don’t forget what I’ve written as easily that way). You could write enough for a couple of bullet points each day and you’d have your page created easily in under a week.
Rinse and repeat.
You’ll get quicker at writing the more often you do it.
You’ll also get better because that goes for anything we practice at enough.
And creating content is something that every affiliate marketer and website owner needs to do.
If you’d like more help with affiliate marketing, check out my affiliate marketing course where I cover what you need to do.