In a recent Google Hangout, John Mueller stated that the word count, the number of words on a page or post is not a ranking factor that Google considers.
If that’s true, why do most of the top-ranking pages have long word counts?
Simply Adding Content to an Underperforming Page Won’t Work
When John Mueller says something, it can generally be taken as SEO gospel, as this is his area of expertise at Google.
However, I’m not sure we can take this as a blanket statement related to word count due to the context in which the question was asked and the number or SERPs that indicate long-form articles rank better.
The question John is specifically addressing has to do with adding content to a page.
“Let’s say I want to improve content on a page. I add as much relevant content as I can for the users. Does this mean that when I add relevant text to the page, Google automatically assumes that the page is better? Does it work out like that? Is more text better in the eyes of Google?”
Adding more content to help boost under-performing pages or posts has been a strategy for the past couple of years. However, the professionals in this area already know it’s not simply about the word count. The content needs to be relevant to what the patients are searching for.
Updating Content Is Complex and Should Be Done Strategically
If you have an underperforming page in the results, that doesn’t mean that adding content to it is a bad idea; it just needs to be done strategically.
The best place to start is to evaluate the current content on the page and try to determine why it is underperforming. Also, who is it relevant to?
- Is it only relevant to keywords? (not a great strategy)
- Is it only relevant to search intent? (trying to understand what the patient is searching for)
- Is it relevant to what the patient is hoping to learn?
In my experience, a combination of these elements can be all important.
Also, look at the data points for that page. Did it ever rank well, or did the traffic slow down on a specific date?
Taking a hard look at the data will go a long way in determining a winning strategy for improving rankings.
Longer-Form Content Is Still Generally Best
Again, the lesson here is that what Google looks for most is the quality of content on a page, not necessarily the amount. That being said, longer-form content does seem to still rank higher, specifically in local search results for physicians.
A big part of this is considering the user experience (UX) of a page.
Today, most site visitors come from mobile devices, so patients clicking around several links to get the information they want is not a great experience, and they will likely leave your site more quickly. This lends a benefit to longer-form content.
It’s much easier for patients to keep scrolling through a page on their phone rather than clicking through to several linked pages.
Even after John’s comments, I still stand by my general guidance that pages with under 300 words will struggle to rank.
300 words on a page should be considered the minimum effective dose to have success with local physician SEO.