Content Marketing: What We Learned About Optimal Word Count for Posts, Blogs & Articles

The Secret of Content Marketing

It’s 42.  That’s it.  Just, 42.

Just kidding!  Hopefully many of you out there caught our reference to Douglas Adam’s ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’.  But seriously, since content marketing is very important – and many of our clients as for help in this area – we looked into optimal word counts for blog posts (like this one).

There’s a ton of data on the subject of how word count affects organic search ranking but that is not the focus of this article.  In short optimal word counts vary by industry with respect to organic search ranking.

We chose instead to focus on optimal word count for user experience…because it’s all about the user.  The blog/article represents a good opportunity to connect with prospective (and current) clients.  Words on the screen just for the sake of having more words shouldn’t be the goal.

With respect to user experience and optimal word counts, here’s some thoughts…

People read about 200-300 words per minute.  So, for a blog post with – say – 600 words, a fast reader can get through it in 2 minutes…a slow reader, 3 minutes.

Important Info

How long do people typically stay on your blog posts? 

You should already have Google Analytics (or other platform’s) data indicating the average time on page (if you don’t, you need to get setup with an Analytics, Reporting & Measurement Plan). Click HERE to schedule your free digital media consultation.

In Google Analytics, navigate here:

Google Analytics >Behavior > Site Content > All Pages (Avg. Time on Page)

Screenshot from Google Analytics showing Avg. Time on Page Metric

If your blog posts typically have an average time on page of 40 seconds, then – as an example – the corresponding amount of words a user is reading is anywhere from 133 for slow readers to 200 words for fast readers.  This article already has 312 words.  That would seem to be an optimal length article for sites with 60 seconds average time on posts.

Note: if your site does not group blog posts or articles under their own permalink path (like “/blog/blog-title”, “/article/article-title”), it will make it harder to determine Avg. Time on Page for ALL blog posts or articles.  If you have the path “/blog” (or similar), it will be much easier to pull the data from analytics.  Our site, for example, does NOT use this naming/path convention so it’s slightly more challenging to isolate blog posts in analytics (but don’t worry, we got it…)

So, is the user’s amount of time on a page a result of the word count of the page?  Possibly.   It would stand to reason that you’d have a longer time on page is there are more words.

That said, time on page is not just about the word count.  Meaning, what else is on the page?  Is the post text-only?  Text +images?  Infographic? Slideshow?  Videos?  Quiz or something interactive?  Is the page/post easy to navigate?  Does it use good html markup and good UX (making it easier for a visitor to navigate/use page).  Time on page is a factor of both the content you have and the visitor’s state-of-mind / level of interest or engagement.

If what is published is compelling and relevant to the reader, they will spend more time on that page and consume the content (read the whole article, watch the video, etc.).

Personally, we feel that “content” shouldn’t be created for content’s sake.  Meaning, have something interesting to say then say it.  If you don’t have anything interesting to say, any new ideas, then don’t bother.  Do not write words on a page just to write them.  There, we said it.

Many companies pursue content marketing strategies “for SEO” which turn them into de facto publishers, when in reality, these companies are not, and the “content” they produce is banal.

Take this article, for example.  We are experts in assisting our clients with digital marketing, we’re not a publishing company.  Yet, we wrote this “content” and published it as part of our content marketing strategy (part of SEO), hoping to be indexed highly against searches for “content marketing” or “word count” (and the like) and for users to click those highly ranked pages of ours in the search results.

Did it work?  Did we reach someone (you) who’s in the market for info/help with digital media issues?  Are you in the Purchase Cycle for our services?  If you found this post through a search on Google (or bing), and if it has value to you, then this article did it’s job (and this article has 775 words in case you’re interested).