Businesses must work hard to ensure that their web content and digital presence ranks in the right places online for those looking for relevant terms, products and services through search engines (which themselves are ever-evolving and increasingly crowding as more and more online content is published.)

The exact requirements for ranking on search engines in the appropriate results change all the time as the scope of their algorithm and programming develops and improves, but one crucial factor for SEO remains: copy content – the written text on a web page.

Writers, marketers and content creators frequently find themselves faced with briefs for increasingly long copywriting jobs in order to best stand out amongst digital competitors and meet best practice requirements for SEO – but does ‘the more the merrier’ rule really work for search engines, or does quality rule over quantity?

How SEO Works

Search engines work as simple matching machines for those typing in a query to them – matching up what it thinks is relevant content to the term/s entered. SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the practice of optimising online content in order for the algorithms behind search engines to recognise it as appropriate and of a sufficient quality in order for it rank highly when a relevant search query is made.

There are three main parts to SEO: the optimisation of the content on websites (organic content), the improvement of the overall user experience of websites (technical) and the usage of paid-for advertising on search engines (ads).

When SEO is written or talked about, it is usually referred to in terms of optimising websites for the algorithm behind Google. As the world’s biggest search engine, it holds an almost 92% market share and so for many is the primary focus before other, more localised search engine services are investigated into.

Optimising Content for Search Engines

For content on a website to be best understood for SEO, it should be clear, held in good context and relevant to the product, service, brand or theme of the website. For most websites, this means hosting content all in one language/dialect, all on a theme or appropriate topic, and written with clear and correct spelling and grammar. Although the programming behind search engines is automated and is entirely computer-based, it is now more accurate than ever.

The latest Google update, BERT (the Bidirectional Encoder Representation) is based on neuro-linguistic programming practices and so is as currently close to human interpretation as possible – so although some common sense should be used in the creation of copy, if a human could understand it, chances are the machine now will too.

How Many Words Should a Web Page Have For Good SEO?

No one knows the exact sweet spot for perfect SEO ranking – and indeed given that indications show the algorithm is updated and tweaked daily, even if they did, it wouldn’t be sustainable or appropriate for long. It has long been suspected that word counts of 1000+ words are best placed to rank well on search engines as this amount gives plenty of context alongside a comprehensive explanation of the topic to those users reading it. This was reflected for many years as high-ranking pages tended to sway toward more longform content compared to shorter, more brief copy.

However, as the Google algorithms have developed and improved in their AI, so too have the requirements for SEO. Now, with smarter programming, search engines are able to comprehend and compute what a website is about and the quality of its content through a lower sample size.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the requirement for good SEO drops from a 1000+ word count to 800+ or even 500+, but rather that the algorithm switches its focus from quantity to quality. Comparisons of content between high-ranking and low-ranking websites no longer evidence such disparity in the lengths of text provided, but rather in the quality of such text alongside several other ranking factors. This means that the best thing publishers of content online can do is ensure it is of high quality, relevant to the site’s topic and easy-to-read.

Keyword Optimisation

The easiest way to demonstrate the relevant of content to a search engine for SEO purposes is to include the use of appropriate keywords or key terms within it. Keywords and key terms are the words or related words typed into search engines by users when they make a query, meaning the query input is easily matched with a resultant page if their usage is consistent.

Keywords can be researched using a variety of keyword tools but their use within text on a page should be natural and appropriate. It is critical that their use makes sense within the context of the copy and that they remain appropriate to the topic being discussed. Keyword ‘stuffing’, that is, the practice of using as many keywords as possible in text without considering the appropriateness of them, will result in negative SEO and will see pages penalised and ranked down on search engine results pages.

Other SEO Factors

Although content is an important factor on websites, it is no longer the only feature on which a search engine will judge its relevance or prevalence. Webmasters must ensure that their sites are easy-to-navigate, accessible on a range of devices, fast-to-load and that they deliver an all-round positive user experience throughout in order to rank well in SEO terms. There are numerous technical aspects of a website that are taken into consideration alongside the relevance and quality of the text featured and so these too must be optimised.

For support with your business SEO, spanning organic content, technical management and advertising, get in touch with the Woya Digital team. We’re always on-hand to help advise and make recommendations for improvement to help gain competitive advantage and rank as high as possible throughout all relevant search engines.