Determining the Ideal Length of Web Content for Google Panda

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It’s been a while since we mentioned Google Panda, the 2011 algorithm that turned the web search world on its head. While two years have passed, and within that time Penguin made its debut as the latest algorithm to challenge web content, the Panda is still alive and watching your posts for quality.

The Google Panda algorithm was all about how useful and relevant content was in response to a user’s query. It rewarded sites that had unique, authoritative content and punished those with duplicate or irrelevant content. Keyword-stuffed, fluff articles were negatively affected while articles with strong links, exclusive web content (as in written specifically for that site) that were hosted on authoritative sites got to keep their ranking edge.

One of the main questions that continues to gnaw at the minds of professional SEO writers is web content length. Google of course won’t give us a magic number, mainly because the ideal length of an article or blog depends on your target audience. However, we can give you some tips and advice on how to approach your writing to avoid Google Panda penalties.

Don’t Write Unless There’s Something to Talk About

Write web content because you have a solid topic in mind, not just to produce some fresh content. If you write without purpose, you’re bound to either come up short or start rambling for too long. Google doesn’t like meaningless content – it needs to be relevant to users to gain any favor on the search result pages.

If a search query is for “best flowers to plant in South Florida” and you have an article titled “Seasonal Decorative Landscaping for South Florida,” Google will bet your article will contain information on what the searcher wants. After you’ve established relevancy with your title, you need to make good on its promise to provide information about landscaping in the South Florida area. If your article only contains a list of plants or it’s stuffed with landscaping keywords, it’s not going to be of much use to the reader looking for in-depth information – and it’s not going to help you with Google.

Write to Inform, Not To Bore

You may think that more content equals quality content, but that’s just not true. Sometimes if you set a target word count too high, you can end up filling your post with irrelevant filler content that causes readers to turn away. When a searcher clicks your article but leaves your page quickly, it raises your bounce rate.

When Google notices that your site has a high bounce rate – many users clicking through and leaving after skimming your content – Panda may assume several things:

  • your content wasn’t relevant to their search query;
  • there’s something unappealing about your site (pop-ups, virus links, etc.);
  • your content was too short to be relevant; or
  • your content was too long and rambling and they did not want to hunt for the information they needed.

The first two issues are easily fixed. To ensure your content is relevant, stay honest with your page title, meta descriptions, and keywords. Work with your web designer to keep your site clean from viruses and unnecessary pop-ups and distracting site features.

The latter two issues are where the question of web content length comes back into play. You may see several SEO experts throwing out numbers – some claim 300 is the ideal length for a blog post, where others may say anything under 500 words isn’t worth publishing. The truth is, Panda won’t be counting your words – rather, it will be looking to see if your words correspond to the title, meta, and keywords of your post and if what you write satisfies readers who click through to your content.

A low bounce rate and high use time (the time a reader spends on your content) are the keys to Panda’s heart. Don’t focus on how many words, but rather what those words convey, and you’ll come to learn that numbers aren’t the answer when it comes to earning Panda’s approval.

We’ll let Google representative John Mueller sum it up in his response to a Google Webmaster Help thread on content length:

“Sometimes a short article can trigger a longer discussion — and sometimes users are looking for discussions like that in search. That said, one recommendation that I’d like to add is to make sure that your content is really unique (not just rewritten, autogenerated, etc) and of high-quality.”

We Do Web Content has been wrestling the Panda for years now and we’re always on the lookout for Google’s next “P” animal to stir up the SEO world. When your business wants to protect itself from algorithm penalties and keep on top of the search results, let us help! Contact us today for a FREE website audit and learn how quality web content is the name of the game when it comes to your business’s Internet marketing. Call us at 888-521-3880.