The Question

What is your philosophy on website content? 400 words or so surface-level content or a thousand words or so with in-depth content. I’ve talked with people on both sides.

My Answer

I can give you the definitive answer in terms of what actually works and what your website copy should be. I know it’s the definitive answer because a couple of years ago we tested this with our clients — about 50 websites. And we got the same result for every website, so I know this is correct. 

The Panda Update

NOTE: The Panda Update was in 2011!

In 2017 (I believe), Google made a major change to its algorithm and added something called the panda update, which basically deals with the overall quality of your website. And one of the major things that Google considers when it comes to your website is the actual website content. 

The Target Of The Panda Update

So we realized that there were websites that had this really thin kind of low-quality, short content, like 300- to 500-word blog posts that really didn’t provide a lot of substance. They were just there for the purpose of being there, and they didn’t actually solve any problems. 

They didn’t help anybody, and they were just kind of blah. What we found is that websites that had a lot of that content actually scored lower on Google’s quality score.

The Results Of The Panda Update

So we went through and got rid of all of that low-quality, crappy content and website traffic went through the roof. It was crazy. 

Our blogging strategy for our clients had been three blogs per week. We would do three blogs per week and they would be like 300-word to 500-word blog posts and they were okay. I mean, they were what they were. 

Their purpose was for search engine optimization. We were doing that for years, and it worked for a long time… until it didn’t. It’s just like with SEO, where the stuff we do today is probably not going to work in two years. You’re always evolving. 

What We Did To Fix It

So we downloaded the Google Analytics data for our clients and we looked at which blog posts over the last three months were getting organic traffic and which ones were not getting organic traffic. 

And if it’s not getting organic traffic, it means that Google is not showing it for the search terms that we’re trying to rank for. When we did these, the blogs would basically be focused around a keyword that had a pretty decent search volume. And if we’re not getting the traffic for that, then there’s no point to having the blog. 

So here’s what we did for every single client… This was a huge project because we had about 50 clients. We left the blogs that had traffic alone. But we got rid of the blogs that had no organic visits over the last three months and did not have any backlinks to them. 

We either deleted them if it was just crappy content, or we added them to other blogs and expanded them into better content. And what ended up happening is that traffic went through the roof. 

What We Do Now

So here’s the answer to the question of “What is your philosophy on website content, 400 words or so?” I don’t really look at website content in terms of numbers. 

Typically, now we write one blog post per month for our clients but it’s a very well-written, well-researched blog post that actually helps people solve a problem. So, i focus less on a number of words and more on whether this blog post actually provides a useful piece of content. 

We typically end up with around 750 to a thousand words, maybe a little longer, just because of the fact that it’s useful. But we don’t really write blog posts just to satisfy a certain word count. I write them more to provide a helpful piece of information that someone is actually going to read. And when they read it, are they actually going to benefit from it? 

For a long time, everybody would always say, “Oh if you want more traffic, just write better content.” I used to hate that crap because it was stupid. But now, it’s really the way to do it because there are so many engagement signals that Google uses like bounce rate. 

The Bounce Rate

If somebody goes to Google, searches for something, goes to your website and then immediately bounces back, that’s not a good sign. Google looks at that as a sign that the content there is not very good. 

And if you have these generic blog posts that are just kind of thrown together for the sake of ranking for a keyword, that’s usually what’s going to happen a lot. 

And when that happens, website rankings and your quality scores go down, and it’s just a downhill spiral from there. So, I wouldn’t worry much about a word count. Instead, I’d focus more on the quality.