After months of hearing that Google wants to see page lengths of 700-1000 words, I started to question that idea. And then I began to notice that companies selling SEO services rarely had even half that amount of content on a home page, or other top tier pages on their menu. Hmmm.
Checking with and reading up on the wisdom from several knowledgeable sources, including Karon Thackston at MarketingWords, Tom Schmitz at SearchEngineLand, Arnie Kuehn at MarketingLand, and Brian Clark at Copyblogger, here's what I learned.
Google does value content of quality and substance. What makes quality is partially length, but that long content has to say something interesting and relevant to the reader. It has to educate and entertain to hold attention.
But surprisingly, this is more important on blogs and on what's called second tier pages -- which are basically articles rather than sales vehicles.
Your homepage is a sales vehicle. So are your niche specialty pages. They don't need to be so long.** They DO need to capture enough interest to cause the visitor to want to stay on the website and explore further.
It helps if your homepage has several bright shiny objects -- aka, videos, large, and I mean LARGE graphics and big fonts, lots of headlines, and buttons, lots of buttons and links.
And of course, yes, all toned down somewhat to a notch or two above the level that your professional anxiety can handle. Because the key here is to keep people on your website, keep them reading the long content articles you have sweated over (or paid for :) ), and to guide them towards making the decision to hire you.
** This yippee about home pages not needing to be so long ONLY applies if you have plenty of 1000 word second tier pages. This is a both / and content writing, website content proposition.
Second Tier Pages, aka Articles
First tier pages are those that appear on your website menu bar without clicking on anything. (Reminder -- the menu bar is also called the navigation bar. Some of you call them the page tabs or page buttons or page links) Typically these are:
Second tier pages are those that appear on what is called the drop down menu. Many of you have a drop down menu attached to your Counseling page with what I've called your niche specialty pages, such as:
Depression & Bipolar
Parenting and Family
The wisdom I've been collecting today is that it is your niche specialty pages that should be longer. So add case anecdotes to illustrate the change process. Add statistics to illustrate the costs of not getting treatment. Add quick self help tips of the sort that are already freely available on the web, but in your voice.
Longer Blogs Too
We've also heard that blog posts can be shorter -- about 500-600 words. Not so, according to my research. Because each blog post gets its own web page, these are essentially read as articles by the search engines. So more is more here.
Just keep paragraphs short, use keypoint lists, and use subheads. And be sure to set your subheads in a small or medium sized heading font, because that's helpful to SEO.
Not including this note this blog post is 550 words long.