There's been some debate over the years as to whether the length of a webpage, blog post, landing page, etc., affects the page's search rankings. Some have suggested that its specifically part of the criteria Google uses in its algorithm to evaluate the user experience a webpage delivers to the user. In other words, is it what the user is truly looking for?
As recently as August 2019, Google's John Muller went on Reddit and said, "Word count is not a ranking factor. Save yourself the trouble." So there we have it... end of debate, right?
Well, not quite. After all, whether word count is one of the 200+ Google ranking factors is a much different question than "Does word count positively impact a page's search ranking?" Why? Because lengthy, relevant content makes possible so many things that definitely do help your search rankings. Even in the article referenced earlier in this paragraph, the author included word count as #16 on the list without really saying it's part of the algorithm.
So let's take Google at its word ... that they don't count the words on every page they crawl to use as a basis for their search results. The truth is, it doesn't matter if they're doing it intentionally. Study after study has shown that pages with higher word counts get the top spots, with some variation depending on the subject matter.
That means the longer content is doing something that appeals to the search algorithms. And while Google is pretty tight-lipped about what's actually in its algorithm, it's becoming clear that those extra words are helping out in some key ways:
So, now that we've satisfied the search algorithms' thirst for relevant keywords/key phrases and backlinks from other websites, let's turn our attention to the readers ... the human readers. The biggest challenge with writing long-form content is getting people to actually read it. People generally don't like to read, especially if they see a lot of text. This is where design comes in.
Think about how you feel when you pull up a website and all you see is text filling the screen. Top to bottom, left to right. For most people, before they read a single word, they think, "Holy crap, what a chore this is gonna be!" This happens in a split second on a subconscious level and it's based on how the overall design hits their eyes.
So when putting your content together, find ways to incorporate one or two bullet-point lists. Place an image so it's nested within the copy. And break it up into short paragraphs with occasional subheads. This will look more inviting to the reader and pull them in to your content.
That's why the best strategy for creating written content is to write as many words as you need to communicate what you want to say. It's never a good practice to pad the writing with irrelevant fluff, but don't cut yourself short either. Focus on good writing and inviting design for the best results!
Earlier this month, it was my week to give a 10-minute presentation about my business to the members of the BNI networking group I'm in. For a few weeks, I thought about what I would say and how I could get people to understand the value of what I do. I decided that it had to start with a narrative - a story that has a beginning, middle and end. It's human nature to be drawn in by a story, with plot and characters.
So I introduced myself and said, "I am a freelance writer and so, naturally, I'm going to start with a story about ... plumbing."
This is, more or less, my plumbing story:
So why did I start a presentation about my services as a writer with a story about plumbing? Because there are a few parallels between me, the lead character in that story, and business owners out there who know without a doubt that they should be blogging on their websites. That said, not everyone really understands why blogging is so important. Here are the three most important reasons:
So what does all this have to do with plumbing? Well, even if you're a good writer who got A's in English in school, writing a 500-word blog post is hard work because you don't do it every day. A lot of people start with good intentions and blog for a month or two, but then taper off or abandon it completely. In fact, go look at a handful of small businesses' websites and take note of when they're last post was. You won't have to look for long until you find one that's eight or nine months old. This happens not just because the writing is hard work for them, but because coming up with new ideas every week or two is also a challenge.
I'm like that plumber who came in, got the job done in a couple of hours and didn't cost me much money. I sit in front of a blank page on the screen at least once a day. And because I do it every day, I have a process that works for getting started, doing the research, coming up with a compelling introduction and writing the blog. That means what might take most people all day takes me a couple of hours and my clients are always happy with the results.
So if you know you need to blog on your website, and you dread the thought of doing it or simply don't have time, let's talk!
Next month marks three years since I started my full-time freelance writing business. It has been an adventure, filled with highs and lows, sometimes moving faster than I can keep up with and at other times scrambling to find more work.
I've often wondered, though, if I'm really getting the most out of my capabilities. I've got the writing part down, but what about the business part? What can I do to improve my business performance?
So starting next week, I am going to begin work with a business coach, Sanjay Parekh of FocalPoint Coaching. Coach Sanjay and I have had several informal discussions about what this coaching experience feels like, how it works and what we can accomplish by working together. I'm trying to avoid any preconceived expectations and go into it with an open and enthusiastic mind. As you can tell, I'm very excited.
More posts to come...
If you want to improve your writing, here's an exercise. Take anything you've written in the last month or two and go through it, highlighting every adjective and adverb you can find. Then, delete them. All of them. Now re-read your writing and see if it's an improvement. If you find yourself wanting to put some of them back, push yourself to justify why you really need them. And the answer shouldn't be that it just sounds better that way.
This advice actually came from book on writing fiction, but I think it works for most kinds of writing. During editing, see if you can get rid of as many adjectives and adverbs as possible. While you may have to make adjustments to maintain the meaning you intended, communicating the same information with as few modifiers as possible will make your copy stronger.
Here's why. Every adjectives and adverb is a shortcut that, even though it makes the writing easier, it can have different meanings to different people. If a writer describes a period of time as a "long" time, you might interpret that to mean six months, while someone else might think it means five years. However, if that writer had described it as "five years," there would be no disagreement.
Here's an example:
You might see this in a memo or email introducing new policies within a corporation. All of the adjectives and adverbs are highlighted. Now let's take a look with all of them deleted.
While not perfect, this sounds stronger and more confident than the first version. However, some of those adjectives and adverbs did convey meaning that needs to be worked back in. There are also a few places where this exercise has revealed opportunities to clarify the message. Analyzing the first passage, we find:
Here's how my final rewrite would look:
Try it on your next piece of writing, even if it's an email or an internal memo. The result will be writing that makes you appear to be stronger and more confident.
blogging or journaling. Which is it?
Sometimes I write about writing. Or business. And then there are the times I just write about the loose change jingling around in my head... bacon, hockey, Stumpy, movies, lawn maintenance... who knows?