Short Articles Won’t Penalize Your Site; Think About Users
If your content marketing article is too short, Google’s algorithms will hate you, right? Not so, says John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends analyst, in a recent Google Plus Hangout.
It’s not the first time the search giant has emphasized that content quality, value, and user engagement matters much, much more than arbitrary content length. Google has tried to put this fear to bed before, here and here. Yet many content marketers still worry short articles will tank their SEO.
Here’s yet more proof that short articles can be great for your users, for your SEO, and for your SERPs rankings.
Short Articles Are Okay
Mueller made the point in 2014 quite transparently:
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.
In other words, even an article of a few hundred words — that is, a casual article that can be read in a minute or two and that clocks in at less than a page of double-spaced type — can add real value for readers and be viewed favorably by Google.
However, not just any article of that length will add value for the reader. The content of your content marketing writing matters.
Ask yourself if:
- Your article covers the subject well.
- Your take is unique to your site.
- Your article grabs your reader’s attention.
If so, you’ve written and published a great content article. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 100 words or 3,000 words — you’re doing content right.
Think About Your Users
The question, of course, is whether your content — be it short or long or in between — adds value for your readers. This is where your marketing strategy, buyer/user personae, and marketing analytics come into play.
Good content doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Good content flows from an effective strategy that meets the needs of users as well as the benchmark requirements of search engines. A well-thought-out strategy is the cornerstone of the great content that will help you reach your goals.
Part of your strategic planning should involve buyer/user personae. Who are the users reading your content? Why are they reading your content (as opposed to that of competitors)? And what do you hope for them to do after reading your content?
Answer these questions to formulate one or more buyer/user personae that you hope to engage and convert with your content.
Lastly, measure your results and iterate to refine your content approach. Your marketing team should be paying close attention to which pieces get the most engagement — whether you care about sharing, page time, comments, or click-throughs to your CTA page — and tailoring future content in a similar direction.
As Google has said repeatedly — and any good content marketer will tell you today — making your users happy is what matters. Not how many words are in a particular article or on a particular page.
Great Content, Short or Long, Is What Matters
Short content can be very effective for some content marketing uses. For our blog, we’re currently aiming for 500- to 600-word pieces and receiving good engagement. For many of our clients, we’re also pursuing a similar strategy with great results.
Importantly, it should be noted this content philosophy has been around for a long time. Google isn’t the first to take this view. Despite dubious origins, which we don’t endorse, a quote often attributed to Winston Churchill on speechwriting still rings true in this regard (paraphrased here):
Long enough to cover the subject; short enough to keep it interesting.
In other words, your readers, and Google, want high-value articles that engage and inform, without needlessly dragging on. Provide this type of content to your readers, and you should see user metrics and Google SERPs rankings moving in a positive direction.