Clients often want to know how long their content should be. They want a number. Really, they want to know how little they can get away with.
I wish I could give you a number, but it doesn’t really work that way. With SEO, some phrases are very competitive — meaning there are a lot of searches for them — while some phrases are really not searched at all. If no one’s really searching for a particular phrase, you can get away with a couple of paragraphs of unique, audience-focused, evergreen content. But if you’re going into a very competitive space, you’re going to need a lot more than just a couple of paragraphs per page if you want Google to pick it up.
This is also difficult to answer because all clients are different, with different limitations. If it’s a major, multinational corporation, there is only so much budget allotted for content. If it’s a solo-preneur, there is only so much time to write content.
It would be nice if there was a magic number that I could give you, but the fact is content needs to be “long enough.”
Understanding the Long Tail in Content Marketing
Have you heard about the long tail before? Take a look at the following chart:
The y-axis (vertical) represents how many people are searching for a particular phrase. The x-axis (horizontal), represents how specific that query might be. There are some phrases that are searched by a lot of people, but they’re very broad. However, other phrases are very specific, but they’re not searched for by many people. This is called the long tail.
Let’s look at an example for this. We’ll use a limo company to illustrate it.
There are a lot of people who search for limo. It’s a very broad term. Of all the people who search for limo, what do they want? Do they want a limo right now? Do they want to buy a limo? Do they want to learn what it takes to be an owner of a limo company? The phrase “limo” is very broad. It could mean a lot of things. That’s why a lot of people are searching for it.
Now, we can be a little more specific and we say, “Asheville limo.” You’ll find fewer people are searching for that phrase. It’s more specific, and the intent is clearer. Maybe they need a limo in Asheville to get from the airport to a specific destination. Maybe they just want to see how many limo companies are in Asheville, because they want to start a limo company. That’s even more specific. But there are some phrases like, “I’m at the Asheville Airport and Uber will not pick me up. I need a limo right now and I will pay top-dollar for it.” That’s very clear and not a lot of people will search that phrase because it’s so specific.
Here is where the long tail gets interesting. Some phrases are very broad, some are very specific, and some accomplish the purpose better than others. Limo is a very broad phrase. I would venture to guess that conversions are not very high for limo companies for the term “limo.” Some searchers are looking to buy a limo, while some are looking for a limo in Black Mountain, not a limo in Asheville. So, the conversion rate will likely be relatively low. But when we use “Asheville limo,” the conversion rate starts to increase – it’s a little more specific. Now, if someone searches for, “I’m at the Asheville Airport and Uber will not pick me up. I need a limo right now and I will pay top-dollar for it,” that’s a very, very, specific phrase. But if you are the website that can be found in Google for that phrase, it’s a guaranteed fare, a 100% conversion rate. You can see that in this chart:
If you’re too broad with the search terms you’re using for SEO, the conversion rate will be lower. When you are more specific, your conversion rate will be higher. Here’s where the long tail comes in. There are going to be endless possible phrases that someone could search using the term “limo,” and the conversion rate that any one limo company sees from using that term is going to be very small. However, when long tail phrases are searched, limo companies who used those phrases are much more likely to have conversions as a result. You’re going to get business from the long tail phrase, not from “limo.”
That’s why you need long content on your websites. If you’re writing on a very limited topic and only write a couple of words, the potential long tail searches for which someone might be able to find that page in Google is limited. But if you’re writing a long piece of content, it’s going to be found for almost the infinite number of searches someone might think of when looking for a limo in Asheville. You’ll be accidentally ranking for all kinds of phrases you’ve never even thought of because you have longer content with more possible long tail search phrases. And some of those phrases will have a very high conversion rate.
Longer content gives you more opportunities because there are more potential phrases for which you could be found on Google. That’s why Google likes long content. It’s not that Google ranks a page better because you’ve got more than 1,000 words on it. It’s that, because there’s a lot of content on that page, there are more ways Google could send traffic to that page. And, of those very specific phrases that someone could possibly search for to find that page, they’re more likely to convert.