Post Panda Article Length for SEO
Within the last decade the World Wide Web has been overwhelmed with copycat websites, sites filled with keyword-stuffed, scraped, spun and badly written articles. It's also been inundated with weak or inaccurate content. The general purpose of much of the content was SEO to gain revenue via Google's AdSense program or via various affiliate programs. The lines between good quality and poor quality became blurred. As a result, so did market trust. Google, still the most powerful search engine on the web, decided to make some adjustments. One of the key components Google's algorithm engineers looked at when creating the 2011 Panda algorithm was content quality.
The primary intention of Panda was to place pages with weak or thin content behind those with good quality content. The purpose was to reward websites that had authority and responded to the reader rather than AdSense dollars. The average length of articles has always been based on what search engines and web publishers knew about how people searched the web or used websites. It was discovered that for the most part, readers skimmed the page, rather than settled in for a long read. Article lengths ranged between 300 and 700 words. The quality of those articles has always been an important factor.
Since Panda, lengthier articles are showing up in the search engine results pages ahead of the short snappy articles on the same topic. Lengthier articles are generally more in-depth and therefore carry more weight, offering a richer experience for the searcher due the the site's authoritative nature. Length isn't the key element to making it to page one in the search engine results pages, however. What Google really wanted when creating Panda was what the searcher wanted – quality.
An article should only be as long as necessary to ensure rich content, but articles of at least 1000 words gain ranking as they are believed to be authoritative. Articles of 3000 words in length are even more appealing to Google's search engine, but it's also about what is on the page. Longer articles are appealing because they are generally more in-depth, but they should also include photos, graphs or videos to enhance the reader experience and lower the site's overall bounce rate. Lengthier articles are rising in the ranks since the Panda update, something niche websites should shoot for. If the reader is engaged, Google will notice.
Until Panda, the key components to ensure an article was recognized by Google were keywords and back-links. Quality was difficult for the algorithms to determine. Bounce rate has never been a true factor in determining quality. Word count or length was only relevant to the reader if the article lacked the information he was looking for. It only related to SEO if the content was too thin to be recognized. Long before the dreaded update, writers knew their articles had to be unique. They had to offer quality and value to their readers, but this concept was lost.
The majority of visitors to a website stay for less than one minute. If the majority of your readers are hitting the back-button, something is amiss on your site or on particular pages within your site. Articles should be as long or as short as they need to be in order to hold the reader's interest. They should respond to the search queries in a thorough and compelling way. If the reader gets exactly what he wants with a longer article, he won't be so quick to bounce off the site.
A review of post Panda webmaster forums related to article length reveals many web publishers have experienced higher ranking with longer articles. Writers are revealing more page views with longer articles. Writers who ghost-write for web publishers are getting more requests for longer articles. In a Google Webmaster Central thread, Susan Moskwa, Webmaster Trends Analyst for the search engine, assured web publishers it's not about length. It's about quality. It doesn't matter if a web publisher offers that quality in 200 words or 2000 words. Good reader experience is an essential component in the Panda algorithm.