What is the ideal word count for a web page?
4 answers to 5 questions
Here are five questions I’ve asked of ‘experts’ in recent months?
How big does my turkey need to be to feed a family of 16?
Why won’t the lawnmower start?
What’s the best way to get moss off my roof?
For how much longer do I have to keep taking this medication which makes me so sleepy all day?
Are you sure it’s my turn to take the bins out?
Straightforward questions to which there are straightforward answers - but how about this one?
What is the ideal word count for a web page?
Here are the four replies.
Why only four? One of them applies to two of the questions.
See if you can match them up.
You’re using dirty petrol.
Use a high-pressure washer at the end of an extension pole.
At least 20 lbs.
If you want to stay alive, don’t ask dumb questions.
The questions have one thing in common.
Each was asked of an expert. Each reply was simple and straightforward. No surprises there. Generally, experts do know best, although it’s not quite so easy for them during unprecedented pandemics.
But how about this question –
“How many words should be on a web page?”
Other than, “You expect me to pay that for writing a few pages of copy?!”, it’s a question clients ask of copywriters more than any other.
And why not?
It’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask. Surely any half-decent copywriter can give a half-decent answer. Sadly, it ain't necessarily so.
Short and snappy or expansive and explanatory?
Some experts swear that web copy, to achieve its desired impact, should be short and snappy. Others argue that longer text has a better chance of addressing readers’ ‘pain points’. It's more likely to lead to an enquiry, a sale, or a conversion. An SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) expert will argue that, to impress the search engines, there most decidedly is an ideal minimum word count to aim for.
So who’s right? Let’s take a look.
Short vs Long - the Arguments
Meet Team Short. These fellers believe that web users rarely read much at all. They’re too busy. They merely skim down the page until they’ve found what they’re after.
Team Short will argue to the death that heavy blocks of text only serve to deter the reader. They'll promote the effectiveness of the power of imagery. Graphics, perhaps animated, should be more than enough to hook the reader. Keep it short. Keep it sweet. Keep it focused.
Now meet Team Long. These guys believe just as passionately that the route to copywriting nirvana lies in long copy. More words mean more chances to persuade readers about the irresistible benefits of the products or services on offer.
Plus, Team Long will persuade you that longer copy is better for SEO. Without sufficient text, search engines won’t be able to find or index the site, leaving it forever languishing in the nether reaches of internet perdition.
So who’s right?
You won’t thank me for the answer. You see, both teams have a point. On the one hand, it’s true - many web users are flighty, fickle creatures. Say they find themselves on a webpage that’s cluttered with text. If they can’t, within seconds, find what they’re looking for, they’ll simply leave and search impatiently for more fruitful pastures.
Too little copy also has its drawbacks. To prepare this article, I’ve researched numerous sources, specifically on the ideal word count requirement for SEO - from Forbes to SearchEngineLand and many in between.
I’ve read that anything between 300 and 1,300 words is the recommended number. Of course, the only opinion that matters, that of our friends at Google, is intriguingly, and ever-so-slightly annoyingly, enigmatic. To the relief of copywriters across the globe, the only answer they ever give is, ‘Readability is the key. Engage your reader and we’ll be impressed.’
What’s your web page for?
Or what's it meant to achieve? Now this is a great question. One that will certainly help us in our quest to fight our way out of the long vs short dilemma.
Is your website merely a brochure site – one that you direct people to by supplying them with the URL? In other words, you don’t need to be found on the search engines. Perhaps you just want to sign people up to your email list or download a free eBook. Then a low, but effective, word count may be best.
But what if you need to inform your target audience - to address their ‘pain point’? What if your competitors have just the same goal? Then, you will need your pages to rank well on Google. You’ll want your site to be easily indexed by the search engines. Then, a minimum of 300 words is desirable.
Essentially, the ideal number of words for a web page is the number that works – the number that grabs and keeps your readers’ attention.
Of course, for a high word count to be effective,
you need to craft the words well (a job for your copywriter). You’ll find 15 techniques here
you need to format them well (guess what? Another job for your copywriter)
Formatting? Well that means
- making your copy skimmable – breaking it up into nice bite-sized chunks
- using plenty of lovely white space – bullet lists and paragraph breaks
- breaking up the text with appropriately engaging sub-headings
- inserting attractive images and graphics
- making careful use of bold, italics and underlines
It all depends
So there we have it. An only partially conclusive answer to the most reasonable of questions.
The ideal number of words for a web page? It depends … on what you want your page to achieve.
But maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t be stressing about your word count.
Instead, talk to your copywriter about making your words count.
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