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As dental content writers, one of the questions we’re often asked is, ‘how long should a blog post be?’ A quick google search will come up with dozens of different answers, which can be pretty confusing.
Do you, for instance, crank out dozens of short 300-word posts, or should you invest a great deal of time crafting a 10,000-word masterpiece? In truth, the answer is neither or both!
“C’mon,” I hear you say, “how is this helping?”
Put it this way, in 2023, word count remains important but only when coupled with high-quality, informative content. A 3000-word blog post that only skims the surface of a topic will not be as meaningful as a 500-word post that answers a particular question in detail.
That said, there are people who have devoted a great deal of time crunching the stats for every industry. They look into engagement metrics, CTRs, social shares, and rankings. After a while, patterns begin to emerge, and from the data, it’s possible to find the ideal word count for each industry – a sweet spot, if you like, that may get your articles or posts ranking better.
While this is not the topic of this article, here are some rough examples so you can see the difference.
The ideal post length for a financial technology (FinTech) article is 2000 -2150, whereas, in the retail niche, it’s more like 1500-1700 words.
Alternatively, the ideal word count for the home and garden niche is just 1000 -1100 words, but why is it significantly lower?
If you think about it, most home and garden blogs or articles are very visual-centric. In other words, readers following instructions on how to complete a project will prefer to see pictures and videos rather than a wall of text. Therefore a lower word count would make sense on this occasion.
But what about the dental niche?
The healthcare industry is a trillion-dollar industry. Globally, the dental industry alone is expected to hit $693.25 billion by 2026. So if you’re blogging in the dental arena, it stands to reason that you will be facing some tough competition.
Not only are you up against significant publications like the New York Times, Forbes and CBC, but you’re also competing with countless scholarly articles backed up with research from top universities.
Therefore, if you want to get your get blogs and articles noticed, you should be looking to create top-level content packed with insightful and in-depth information. Do this well, and it could be sufficient to get your articles noticed.
So, how long should a blog post be for the dental industry?
Research suggests that the sweet spot is around 2000-2150 words long, but that’s not to say that shorter articles won’t rank. If you have two articles on the same subject, there’s a good chance that the longer article will rank higher than the shorter post.
Here’s a good example
Let’s take the popular search term ‘how much do dental implants cost?’
Here are the top 3 results and their associated word counts
As you can see, the top result is Forbes.com. A very popular and trustworthy website on its own but look at how long the article is compared to the article in position two. A little under twice as long. Even the second-placed article is nearly three times longer than the one in position three, so that tells a story, right?
Well almost! As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t always the case.
Let’s take another popular key phrase, how do dental implants work?’ and look at the results.
Now, if you look at the top four searches on Google for this key phrase, each article is under 1000 words – way below the recommended length for healthcare articles. So given what we’ve already seen, why are they ranking above other longer articles?
It could be for any number of reasons;
- The articles may be the most relevant to the question – remember, Google aims to return the most suitable piece of content to a search query
- It could be that these particular posts have been referenced more by other websites – Google will reward trustworthy content with higher ranking positions.
- It could also be down to the quality of links that these posts have compared to others.
So, what does all of this prove?
First and foremost, content needs to be unique, informative and insightful. Writers should look to go above and beyond skimming over a search query and instead aim to provide no-fluff answers to real-life questions.
So does this blow the theory of ‘long-form content is king’ out of the water?
Well, no, not really…
You see, research still suggests that long-form content is best. Here are some examples:
This company analysed over 20,000 key phrases and found that the average number of words for that coveted #1 spot is 2450.
Google knows people don’t want to plough through numerous articles or posts to find a definitive answer when they can find the solution all wrapped up in one post.
Moreover, there is also evidence to show that longer-form articles get shared more: See the table below.
So has writing long-form content always been the best way forward?
In truth, the ideal word count has evolved over the years, and it’s worth taking the time to talk about this evolution to help us understand where we are today.
Word count evolution
Do you remember some 15 years ago when articles directories like Ezine Articles were all the rage? People would crank out 300-word articles and post them on article directory sites to quickly gain exposure. It worked because Google saw Ezine as a trusted site in the early days and gave the article directory a high ranking.
Over a decade ago, when I started writing content, you’d always see an Ezine article on page one every time you did a search. It was a quick way of getting your content noticed.
So, the internet was full of articles like this:
Tips for Writing an Ezine Article in 10 Minutes
The trouble was that as standalone articles, many of them weren’t very good. I mean, could you write a comprehensive article in 10 minutes? I know I couldn’t.
Inevitably, they were rudimentary at best, and at worst, they were non-sensical and spammy, being used as backlink bait to direct traffic back to the author’s website.
Eventually, Google got wise to what was happening and changed the rules. Google’s long overdue update now forced content creators to focus on highly informative, high-quality content. Hallelujah!
Almost overnight, article directories like Ezine dropped like a stone; therefore, so did most of the thousands of articles that piggy-backed on its success.
As a result, people stopped posting, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Then, in 2011, 500-word blog posts became the norm because when Google changed the rules and introduced their second (Panda) update, many websites were left scrambling to replace the poorly written, thin or un-unique content that previously populated their websites.
But why 500 words?
If you think about it, 500-words is a nice round number. It’s easy to price up, and it appeared long enough to at least answer a particular question if you cut out the fluff.
However, let’s not forget that back then, people weren’t competing with sites containing 2000-3000 word blog posts.
So how did we suddenly go from writing 500-word posts to long-form articles?
Simply put, marketers soon realised that;
- Long-form articles are easier to cover a subject matter in greater detail in a depth that’s impossible in a shorter-form post
- Long-form posts are ideal for scanning. Most people don’t read. Instead, they scan headers, subtitles and bullet points to find the information needed.
- Longer posts leave readers feeling like they have read something worthwhile
Nowadays, it’s hard to gain significant traction without the aid of long-form content
But here’s the thing, and it’s an essential factor… There aren’t many dental practices that adopt this policy.
I’ll say that again…
Dental practices that adopt long-form content as part of their content marketing strategy are few and far between, but the ones who do, tend to have success:
This dental practice, for example, wrote this comprehensive guide of 3712 words, and it ranks in the #1 spot for ‘teeth braces’, a search term that gets over 8000 hits per month.
A closer look shows that it also ranks above two of the big hitters in the dental industry, Interdent and Colgate, who occupy positions two and three. Given that Interdent and Colgate have quality backlinks in the tens of thousands and, in Colgate’s case – millions, that’s no mean feat.