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Word Counts for SEO: How Many Words Should Your Content / SEO Elements Be?

Christian Bullock • June 21, 2016 • 5 minutes to read

When it comes to SEO copywriting, know that there really isn't a hard set amount of words by page depth rule in place.

For SEO elements such as title tags and meta descriptions, there definitely are limits you want to look to not exceed.

What follows in this ultimate guide for SEO word counts are guidelines to help you make the most out of web page elements and content for SEO. This resource will continue to be updated when any new algorithm updates are made.

SEO Copywriting for Content

The following are loose guideline to follow by page depth. This is because each website is different, and the user intent by page is going to also influence how many words you want to realistically display.

Our word count guidelines by page depth are as follows:

  • Home page: 250 words
  • Primary level: 300 words
  • Secondary level: 350 words
  • Tertiary level: 400 words
  • Quaternary and deeper levels: 450 words

How we label page depth:

The following are facts that support our recommended word count guidelines:

  • Google (in this case, John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google and one of the more outspoken employees who actually speaks about SEO) does not look for a specific number of words per page. They focus more on quality. Quote from John:

There's no minimum length, and there's no minimum number of articles a day that you have to post, nor even a minimum number of pages on a website. In most cases, quality is better than quantity. Our algorithms explicitly try to find and recommend websites that provide content that's of high quality, unique, and compelling to users. Don't fill your site with low-quality content, instead work on making sure that your site is the absolute best of its kind.

  • Google employs actual humans as "quality raters" to help make manual changes to search engine results. They follow a document with guidelines to help them make decisions. In this quality rater guidelines document (download the ~140 page PDF here, if interested), it is stated:

An unsatisfying amount of MC (main content) is a sufficient reason to give a page a Low quality rating. This means that if a page is lacking in main content on the page, it can be a negative ranking factor.

SEO Element Word / Character Counts

The following are guidelines the MKG team follows when constructing two of the most important on-page SEO elements: a web page's title tag and a web page's meta description tag.

Know that the following elements of each web page should be unique. Duplication leads to search engine confusion, which leads to page cannibalization and sending a weaker signal to search engines as to what pages should rank for different keywords.

Title Tag Guidelines

  • A title tag is your indicated clickable text for a web page's organic listing; search engines may chose to change it based on the query.
  • Write a title tag to be descriptive and make the searcher want to click on it.
  • The actual characters can exceed 55 characters; just know that an ellipsis will be displayed.
  • A search engine spider will crawl and "read" the entire tag content.
  • Ranking weight used to give priority to keywords used in the beginning of the tag. This correlative factor is decreasing. As long as a keyword phrase is used anywhere in the tag, it will be effective.
  • A title tag remains one of the most important on-page SEO ranking factors.

Meta Description Tag Guidelines

  • A meta description displays anywhere from 130-165 characters as a page's "descriptive snippet" in a web page's organic listing, based on pixel width of characters used.
  • The meta description may not show despite having one in place if search engines feel as if it doesn't match a user's query (in which case search engines will grab text from the page that they believe is the best relevancy for the query).
  • The keyword phrase you're targeting should be used anywhere in the text. If a keyword phrase that is used is matched to a user's query, that keyword phrase will be bold in your descriptive snippet.
  • A meta description tag carries no ranking weight.
  • A meta description tag can influence a page's click through rate greatly .

Text Headline (H1) Tag Guidelines

  • No character restriction for this tag.
  • To test length: go to the page in a desktop browser window and on a mobile device. Make a UX-based decision.
  • Keyword phrase or keyword with modifier should be included in this tag.
  • One a single H1 tag instance should be used in a web page code.

Text Sub-Headline (H2, H3, etc.) Tag Guidelines

  • No character restriction for this tag.
  • To test length: go to the page in a desktop browser window and on a mobile device. Make a UX-based decision.
  • Topical terms should be used in these tags.
  • Don't make the page seem robotic in nature by using the keyword phrase + modifier in sub-headlines. Think about UX first then think if you can use a topical term.

Help Us Help You

Did we not cover something you're curious about? Let us know in the comments below and we can update this guide accordingly.

Happy SEO word / character counting!

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