Google, in its noble quest to bring high quality content to search results and weed out the dastardly black hat bandits, is now highlighting long-form content – “in-depth articles” that are at least 2,000 words long.
According to Search Engine Watch:
“There are few clues from Google about exactly how they choose to highlight certain articles but one thing we do know is that the minimum word count for potential inclusion is 2,000 words.”
Wait a minute…
Google came up with a completely arbitrary word count to define the length of an “in-depth article,” and content can now receive preferential search treatment just because it’s longer?
What if a company’s audience prefers to consume content in smaller doses? Are they screwed?
What if a company is effectively concise and creates content that provides quality, in-depth analysis in 1,500 words? No dice?
What if a topic is complex and 2,000 words really aren’t enough to provide in-depth coverage? Who makes that call?
What if a company decides to beef up an article about a very very very very very very very exciting breakthrough just to reach that 2,000-word minimum?
Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but my point is that some content creators will insert some artificial padding to reach that magical 2,000-word threshold.
That’s not in-depth analysis. It’s fluff of the black hat variety.
I’m all for rewarding quality content, and I assume there are other factors that determine whether or not content is “in-depth.” But using word counts to define content as anything but long or short is just silly.
Go ahead and tell me I’m overreacting, but this is a product of the larger problem. Looking at the big picture, there are two things to keep in mind about Google.
First, you can calculate all of the numbers you want – social shares, web traffic, links, arbitrary word counts, or whatever else Google includes in their mysterious search algorithms.
There is no way for any mathematical formula to judge and quantify content quality. Period.
Second, Google search is not about matching people with the right business. It’s about matching people with a business that follows all of Google’s rules for Google+, keywords, links, anchor text, schema markups, article length and structure, and all of the other things that Google tries to control.
Actually, I think it’s pretty clear that Google wants its search platform to be about matching people with businesses that pay to be placed at the top of search results. Hey, that’s the only guaranteed way to get there, right?
Google is a business so I don’t fault them for this. We just need to take the blinders off and realize what’s really driving all of these updates, features and “best practices.”
So what is a business to do? It’s simple, really.
Stop trying to figure out and please Google. As soon as you think you’ve figured it out, they change the rules anyway. The game is rigged.
Instead, focus on figuring out and pleasing your audience. Let your audience define quality content and in-depth analysis, not Google.
What kind of content does your audience crave? What topics interest them? What problems do they need solved? What article length works best for them?
Where do they go to find the kind of content you provide – their email box, social media, certain websites? Find as many platforms as possible for sharing your content instead of being overly reliant on Google, which is becoming more and more of a crapshoot.
If that means writing more 2,000-word articles, blog posts, white papers and case studies because your audience craves them, that’s great. There’s nothing wrong with long-form content.
Just make sure you’re creating and sharing great, original content consistently. Regardless of how you or your audience define quality content or an in-depth article, it’s pretty obvious that you won’t get anywhere if you do nothing.
But for goodness sake, please don’t stray from what your audience wants just because Google might let you cut in line.
How far do you go to make sure your content is Google-friendly?
I’m a copywriter, marketing consultant, lifelong New Jersey resident, husband to a beautiful wife and father to two beautiful girls. I love playing with my daughters, a day at the boardwalk, sarcasm, craft beer and grilling. I despise beating around the bush, synchronized swimming, Toddlers & Tiaras and onions. Most people don’t know I used to be a radio DJ and once wrote, produced and voiced a commercial for the TV show 24. Two places I want to visit before I die are Ireland and Norway, the homes of my ancestors. One place I never want to revisit is my first apartment because my creepy landlord, Monty, freaked me out. That just about covers it.