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SEO 500: An Updated View On Copy

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2007-02-01

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Traditionally, the magic word count for SEO has been around 300 words. As Google gets more particular about what it picks up due to higher concentrations of MFA (made-for-AdSense) pages, that new optimal count may be 500-600 words with a long tail.

SEO 500: An Updated View On Copy
How Much Copy Should Your Pages Include?

The 300-word tradition has been discussed at length over the years as the perfect blend of content and speedy readability. But the surge of the cut-and-paster, especially in an era of RSS where syndication implies permission to republish, is forcing search engine crawlers to dig deeper for quality content.

Word count, then, could be a key indicator of how in-depth an article is, a quality indicator (only in terms of information depth, not, necessarily, quality of style). To control for style quality, consult the word-stylists, Strunk and White, or, to save you some time, remember this advice from Stephen King:

second draft equals first draft minus ten percent

However you style it, be you a Hemmingway or a Faulkner (Faulkner's better IMHO), the words should be loaded - you remember those college term papers that rambled eternally to a contrived word-count? - and necessary.

Aaron Wall of SEObook.com has posted a fairly in-depth guide to SEO copyrighting on his blog, making a case for the longer article that makes a world of sense.

"On a philosophical level it also makes sense that search engines want to index richer content. The web is a series of incomplete thoughts. The more search engines can make people write in depth high quality content that provides complete answers the more they improve the value of Google."

Wall says small, hyper-focused content is losing out to natural, rich writing, especially when trying to grab on to that long tail of search. The long tail whips searchers to websites with keywords the webmaster never thought to optimize.

Two things then, in-depth writing coupled with enabled comments, are a brilliant combination for snagging that long-tail. Consumer reviews (if your site is so conducive) are even better. Enabling comments, or allowing visitors to post their opinions increases content and relevance with little effort on the webmaster's part.

But also, whereas you, the professional, are not permitted to misspell, the somewhat anonymous visitor is. Think all searchers spell things correctly? Of course not. Natural misspellings on your site often match the natural misspellings on the search side.

Something else, though, that comments and consumer reviews do besides bulk up the word count, is bolster the apparent authenticity and transparency of the site. Content, even if highly polished, can seem less contrived, lower to the ground, accessible, and honest.

Allowing that free market of ideas in your own marketplace shows that the site was created with the end-user in mind - another quality indicator that attracts links, visits, loyalty, and attention from search spiders looking for meaningful content.

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Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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