The Problems with Using a Word Count in SEO Copywriting

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As a freelance copywriter, a lot of the projects I work on involve SEO copywriting. Sometimes, I work with the client directly, and other times, an SEO company contracts the work out to me, giving me guidelines on what they want for their client. In the latter situation, I have a little less leeway to do what I want since it’s the SEO company’s client.

Usually, it’s not an issue, but some SEO companies are still stuck in the past, using silly metrics like keyword density and word counts to judge the worth of website copy. And here is where I have a problem. I’ll save the topic of keyword density for a future post, but today I want to talk about the problems I have with using a word count in SEO copywriting.

  1. There is no real evidence that word counts directly influence rankings. Thankfully, most SEO companies have gotten beyond the idea that copy needs to be between 400 and 800 words to rank well in the search engines. But there are still some out there that cling to this theory. Whether you believe in it or not, the simple truth is there is no real evidence that supports needing a specific word count to rank well. The top-ranked pages in Google for various search terms vary greatly in word count. I’ve seen pages rank well with 50 words or less and pages rank well with thousands of words. The truth is your rankings are largely determined by offsite factors, like link building. Word count does NOT directly influence rankings.
  2. Quantity and quality are not directly related. When it comes to copywriting, quantity and quality are completely separate from one another. Just because a page is long doesn’t mean it’s good or bad. And just because a page is short also doesn’t mean it’s good or bad. What makes copy good or bad is how effective each word is and how well it converts.
  3. Writing to a specific word count is restrictive and leads to forced copy. When you force a copywriter to come up with a set number of words, you’re just asking for trouble. The copywriter will either have to add fluff to meet the word count or cut back severely to meet it. Either way, it leads to unnatural copy, and forces the copywriter’s attention onto a trivial matter.

What do you think about word counts for web copy? Good idea or terrible idea?

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