At the start of a new year you look at you again with a fresh look content strategy. What works And what doesn't work? I came across a research about the anatomy of top articles from SEMrush. This can help you to look at your content with a new perspective. They investigated more than 700,000 blog posts based on a number of characteristics, such as the length of the article and the length of the title. There were a number of startling things in it for me that I would like to share with you.
Before we start, a first comment. There is no ultimate formula that will work for every item (or brand). Alina Petrova (SEMrush) states that their research shows that there is a strong correlation between certain characteristics of content (such as the length) and the performance of an article.
The most striking findings the SEMrush investigation:
- Longreads of 3000+ words get 3x more traffic, 4x more shares and 3.5x more backlinks than articles of average length (901-1200 words).
- Articles with long titles (14+ words) get 2x more traffic, 2x more shares and 5x more backlinks than articles with short titles (7-10 words).
- So-called listicles (articles with lists) receive 2x more traffic and 2x more social shares than other article types, followed by guides and how-tos.
1. The length of a blog article
How long should a blog article be? 800, 1000, 1500 words? Or even longer than that? You would think that people prefer “content snacking” and that short blog posts are ideal. SEMrush's research shows that longreads of more than 3000 words perform best in terms of traffic, shares and backlinks. The hypothesis is that people are more involved in articles that contain a lot of information.
Long-form content is interesting from an SEO point of view. Longer content means more chance to rank on many different keywords. But Google indicates that the number of words is not a ranking factor. And more words does not automatically mean that a blog post is of better quality … There are also suspicions that a combination of short and long content may work well for SEO (see, for example, this article, which ironically is a longread).
The length of your content should not be leading. It depends on the reader's search query and what he or she really needs. If you can meet that in 300 words, then that's fine too. Read for more tips in this area this interesting article from Heather Lloyd-Martin, which also cites more investigations.
The content length should depend on the user query and what your reader needs to see. – Heather Lloyd-Martin
2. The length of the title
Creating strong titles is an art. You want a title that makes potential readers curious, but you also want to ensure that the search engines (and in particular Google of course) make your blog post score high.
SEMrush investigated the impact of the title length on the performance of the article. And very surprising: articles with long headings (more than 14 words) receive 2x more traffic, 2x more shares and 5x more backlinks than articles with shorter titles. The conclusion of SEMrush? A longer title provides more insight into the content of the article (and therefore the value for the reader). As a result, it attracts more readers, who then also share more.
Longer titles, seriously ?!
I am genuinely surprised by scoring those long titles. I knew this for example HubSpot study (from 2017), where titles under 14 words score better. Google also does not show long titles in their entirety, such as here read at Moz.
I also wonder if it could be a cultural difference: do the English like longer titles? Articles in various languages were included in the study, but the vast majority were in English.
At Frankwatching we try (also based on our own research) to keep titles short. And that is a struggle, precisely because you do not want to be cryptic and also want to score in terms of SEO. Our experience (so far then) is: shorter titles (but not too short) generally score better on our platform.
What about your blogs and articles? Have you ever looked at the length of the titles? On the basis of this research you could test it … Would the longer title work better?
3. Process the “type” in the title
You choose a format for your article, such as a step-by-step plan, a list or an interview. You can also use this format in the title of the blog post. SEMrush investigated its effect on the performance of articles.
The research shows that articles with lists in the title score best. They get up to 2x more traffic and shares compared to other types of articles. Yes, the well-known “listicle” (X things to do …, X ways to …) is the most popular. Then follow guides and how-to articles. It is no surprise that lists and practical articles work well. But good to see it confirmed again. 🙂
You can get more research results here see.
Keep thinking and testing yourself!
Now of course you don't have to change your content strategy and start making longreads and lists like crazy. 😉 It is all about the quality and relevance of your content. And variation in your content is also important, otherwise it will become very boring and predictable. The research shows interesting features that you can test with when creating new blog posts. But you always have to keep thinking and measuring what works for you and your target group.
I am curious: do you recognize anything of these research results? Is there something in your content strategy that you want to do differently this year? Let us know via the comments below.
This article was previously published in the Frankwatching Weekly. Do you also want to receive this Saturday edition in the mailbox? register here.