Does Content Length Matter for SEO? When to Use Short-form or Long-form for Ecommerce
How many words should you write for a piece of content to be valuable to your store’s SEO?
The advice around content length is usually “the longer, the better”, or even that every piece of content should have a minimum word count of 2000+. The reality is that it all depends on the content - the length should suit the purpose of the content and the person reading it. Writing a long product description might fit the narrative of longer content faring better with search engines, but it won’t suit a customer looking for information quickly.
Therefore the question instead becomes, how do you choose the right content length?
Short-form vs Long-form: Pros and Cons
Let’s start by defining short-form and long-form content along with their general pros and cons.
There are differing opinions on the cut-off for what can be considered short-form content; some say under 1200 words and others say under 1000 words. This type of content is better suited to information which needs to be conveyed succinctly.
- Quick to read for the user, making content more easily digestible
- Easier to develop and publish on a consistent basis
- Easy to consume on mobile
- Less opportunity for keyword placement
- Won’t have space for as much nuance or depth on any given topic
- Quick consumption often means users won’t stay on site long
Best suited to
- Product descriptions
- News bulletins
- Short blog articles
- Email copy content
If short-form is anything under 1000-1200 words, then it stands to reason that anything above that is considered long-form. However you’ll usually see many consider content long-form once it reaches closer to 1700-2000 words or higher. This is best suited to content which requires a more in-depth approach.
- Better for developing evergreen content
- More depth results in more opportunities for SEO, meaning this content can be better for keyword ranking
- Ability to demonstrate knowledge, thereby increasing topical authority
- Will usually earn more backlinks
- Takes a significantly longer time to develop this type of content
- Requires more resources i.e. copywriters, editors, etc.
- Can be tricky to display on mobile devices
Best suited to
- In-depth blog articles
- Ebooks and guides
- Evergreen pages i.e. About Us
It’s easy to see where the difficulty lies in deciding which type of content length is best. Shorter content is better on mobile which is great for ecommerce, but a higher word count can often be better for earning backlinks which are important for discovery. So how do you truly determine which to utilize? The answer lies in search intent and page purpose.
Content Length and Search Intent
There are many different factors that form search engine algorithms to determine SERP rankings, however content length is not one of them. There is no measurement taken on content length that determines short-form content ranks lower than long-form. Many SEO experts agree that long-form content typically performs better than short-form content, but especially in ecommerce this is conditional on a key factor - user search intent.
Search intent is an invaluable element of SEO as it tells you why a user is searching for a particular set of keywords. This gives you vital clues as to what kind of content they’re looking for, and what search engines typically show them. If, for example, they’re not quite ready to make a purchase and looking for opinions, Google may show them reviews and articles. If the user is searching with intent to buy, Google might show them shopping suggestions and product pages. Therefore it’s important when you’re creating content for your store, you’re doing so with different types of intent in mind.
The goal of search engines is to meet the needs of the user, so your content should seek to do the same rather than simply aiming for “longer content length is better”.
When to Use Short or Long-Form in Ecommerce
There are of course times where it will be more appropriate to use short-form or long-form content when it comes to ecommerce sites. Here are some key questions to consider:
- What is the page type? e.g. product pages, blog, FAQ
- Where is the written content placed? e.g. an article, product description, caption
- What is the purpose of the page? e.g. information, how-to guide, conversions
- How will this content be presented on mobile?
- Will too much content distract the reader? Will too little content be off-putting?
Considering the purpose and page type will be your first guide as to how long the content should be. Product pages will typically have less written content than a blog for example, but some blog articles may be much longer due to the nature of the topic being discussed. You want to keep the user’s focus and attention on the content, so asking these questions will help to determine that.
Additionally, look at what both your market and SEO competitors are doing with their content. Looking at what content is already ranking will give you a clue as to what users typically want to see when they search for those target keywords - is it blog posts? Product pages? Look then at your market competitors - those who you see as being in competition with in your industry - and analyze the typical content length and layout they’re using for comparable pages.
Content length for blogs
Blog content should be a mix of long and short-form content, aiming for longer where possible. These should be more in-depth such as product use guides, how-to guides, information about your production process or other topics of interest to your audience. Focus on the topics and questions that your audience are looking into related to your product category.
Long-form content might be, for example, if you sell artisan chocolate you may write on topics such as “How is cacao processed?” or “The difference between cocoa percentages in chocolate”. These are evergreen topics which may not be directly related to your product and purchasing it, but will position your brand as an authority on the subject, demonstrating to users that your brand is knowledgeable. Short-form content may be gift guides, product launch announcements, or other seasonally relevant topics such as what you’re offering for Black Friday.
Product page content
Product pages are typically shorter content wise compared to other pages on your site. That’s because the purpose they serve is to deliver information, persuasion, and functionality in being able to purchase the product. You don’t want to distract users with too much written copy, as this will be off-putting and cluttered.
Instead, focus on delivering information that your customers want to know and writing keyword-rich descriptions. If customers can’t find the information easily, they’ll simply navigate away from your site and search engines will take note of this, determining that perhaps your pages don’t satisfy user search intent for those keywords.
4 Factors That Matter More to Content than Length
1 - Quality
Above all else, the quality of your content matters much more than the word count. You could have a 4000 word blog article, but if it is clearly stretched to reach a certain length this will be obvious to users. Equally, a short product description may not have all the detail and information a user is actually looking for. Both issues boil down to quality.
Google’s mission statement puts a heavy emphasis on quality, usefulness, relevance, and reliability, therefore these should be guiding principles when creating your own content. Focus on the people who will be reading and using your content and their needs, not trying to satisfy search engine bots or “best practices” for content length.
When creating content for your store, ask yourself some key questions:
- What information do my customers want?
- What topics interest them?
- What more education might customers need?
- Will this content be useful or relevant to my target audience?
2 - Keyword optimization
Writing a 2000 word page is great, but without well placed keywords it won’t mean much to search engines and users won’t find it. Keyword optimization should be something you consider throughout the content creation process.
Before creating a new piece of content for your store such as a product page, you want to look at which keywords you plan to target. Which audience do you want to discover this page? Which keywords do they typically use? How and where can you incorporate them? Then consider how your page’s content could satisfy the search intent behind these keywords. This will allow you to create purposeful content that is relevant to your audience, and as a result rank higher for your chosen keywords.
3 - Readability
While not a ranking factor, readability is important to the people who visit your store. This is readability in terms of both grammar and spelling as well as how easy the copy is to comprehend and understand. To put the impact of readability into perspective, research suggests that as many as 59% say they’d be less likely to use the products or services of a brand whose site contains obvious spelling and grammatical errors.
So if it isn’t a ranking factor, why is it important to SEO? A poorly written or difficult to understand page results in a poor user experience. By prioritizing readability, you’re giving your users a much better experience and a higher chance of converting. It improves user engagement, because they can better comprehend what you're writing about rather than being confused. This ultimately will show search engines that your content is useful and worthwhile to users, and this will impact your store's SEO.
Here are some tips to improve readability:
Use simple vocabulary where possible, and provide definitions or explanations if your product requires any complex vocabulary.
Make use of header tags to distinguish hierarchy and make it easier for users to quickly skim the contents of a page.
- Pick fonts for your store which are easy to read, and use a font size that makes for easier reading.
4 - Added value content
Your store isn’t just a site full of text - you need visual content to truly demonstrate your products and brand. These visual elements add value for users, giving them more to go by than just words alone.
For product pages, you want to include high quality images - show a few angles, the product in different use environments etc. You should also consider including video content, to show the product in action or in more detail. Back these up with content that focuses on the details the customer wants to know - specifications, benefits, etc.
Visual content combined with written content will help to build trust and confidence with the user, and lead to a better chance of conversions than one type of content alone.
When it comes to blogs, include images and infographics that help to illustrate the topic of the article. For example if you’re writing a product care guide include images which demonstrate the steps and care instructions you’ve detailed.
At the end of the day, the best content length for your store will depend entirely on your goals, your target audience, and the purpose of the pages you’re writing for. There is no right or wrong answer, and instead of trying to maximize word counts merchants should instead focus on their customers and their needs. If you can address the needs and interests of your customers, then that will better serve your store and SEO strategy than word count alone.