Google: Short Content Can Be Useful & Rank Well

Nov 26, 2012 • 9:19 am | comments (45) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

short contentThere is often this misconception that in order for your pages to rank, you need at least 500 words on a page or some other number.

That is not true. Ranking is dependent on a ton of factors, and while more words on a page may help Google understand the relevance of the page to the query - it doesn't necessarily mean the page will rank.

A Google Webmaster Help thread has John Mueller, a Google representative, talking just about that.

He wrote:

Rest assured, Googlebot doesn't just count words on a page or in an article, even short articles can be very useful & compelling to users. For example, we also crawl and index tweets, which are at most 140 characters long. That said, if you have users who love your site and engage with it regularly, allowing them to share comments on your articles is also a great way to bring additional information onto the page. Sometimes a short article can trigger a longer discussion -- and sometimes users are looking for discussions like that in search. That said, one recommendation that I'd like to add is to make sure that your content is really unique (not just rewritten, autogenerated, etc) and of high-quality.

So clearly John is saying there is no magic number - the most important thing is how unique and valuable that content is.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto.

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11/26/2012 02:33 pm

This one's a great topic. This gives me a big idea on how will I create a content in my website and to my clients.

Lyndon NA

11/26/2012 02:34 pm

Of course, JM is right. That said - how often do you see "short content" ranking high in the SERPs? Throw in that Panda seemed to dislike weak content pages ... and that included a large number of short posts on some sites ... it's not surprising people are apprehensive. At the end of the day, though "short" may be ok (there being no real min-length or min-word count) - it doesn't seem to be effective. They don't get popular ... or bigger content gets more popular. They may not show as relevant (fewer words likely means fewer complementary/alternative terms). All in all - you are generally off creating bigger and better content. It doesn't have to be an essay - but enough to get the users attention and satisfy their needs ... which seems to be where many pieces of short content fail?

Kausik Dutta

11/26/2012 02:38 pm

Yes, it's true. We have seen twitter posts also come wihtin top 10 for certain terms.

Ryan Patrick

11/26/2012 02:47 pm

I've seen plenty of well-ranked pages that are a paragraph or two. I think this is ideal and may end up being the trend in the future. If you need a question answered would you rather read a book or paragraph? Personally, I like succinct. And, as a user of Google I would prefer rankings that get to the point versus ones that include 1,000+ articles, 20 minute videos, or having me click through 10 pages to get all the article read.


11/26/2012 03:06 pm

Maybe we can do an experiment where everybody writes short, Twitter-like content, and I'll stick with longer content for one year and see what happens? Everybody still shuddering the from SEO Panda update from last week, also known as Thanksgiving? :)

Keith Brown

11/26/2012 03:28 pm

Yes but keep in mind his example is short content w/ lots of unique comments, meaning it will still be hundreds of words on a page. IMO unless the domain has a ton of authority 50-100 words will have a hard time ranking and sticking near the top of any competitive SERP.

tired and sick

11/26/2012 04:25 pm

Screw John Mueller and his filthy ilk. Short content from Google can rank well, like Adwords ads. Stop listening to these guys, their goals are to have people click on ads and to have you buy ads. What they say is to confuse you. After Panda and Penguin, Google's ad clicks increased by 100% and all useful traffic is beign shifted away from non-advertisers. Google Search is changed to help Adwrods.

Matteo D'Agostino

11/26/2012 05:08 pm

I'd like if it could be true. And I prefer short and clear websites contents. But at the moment in my experience long texts are useful and... in long contents you can add more than one call to action, more h1, more h2, more link ecc.


11/26/2012 05:29 pm

Thanks Barry you are always going straight to the point. After the Penguin and Panda updates I've noticed that most of bloggers are writing long presidential speeches to talk about something simple, sometimes saying the same thing in 2-3 paragraphs, it is a trend these days, and for this reason I've stopped visiting some blogs, Internet is becoming boring because of them, they are becoming boring writers because they just want to please Google and the Matt Cutts whims. Remember, KISS (Keep It Simple Stu...) ... I'd love to believe that this John Mueller statement is true, but these days, you don't know whom to believe, one day they say this, another day they say the opposite.

Mike Blackmore

11/26/2012 06:04 pm

Barry I love how you demonstrated this post with a short article. :)

Clayton Alan Curtis

11/26/2012 06:07 pm

Unique? How about "authoritative". How many times do we see shallow, Yahoo Answers results pop up above the fold in SERPS? Only to land on them and have an "answer" from 3 years ago that covers about 5 sentences.


11/26/2012 06:16 pm

Exactly, that is everything these days: "Authority", I also have seen MANY Yahoo and MSN pages with "0", Zero, NADA, no content, ranking on 1st page for competitive queries, of course this is a Google deficiency and it is becoming boring to see always the same 10 sites (Yahoo, MSN, eHow, Amazon, etc) ranking on 1st page for thousands of queries because of its authority, which in other words means the money they spend in Google AdWords and buying expensive links wherever they can that the regular Webmaster can't afford.

Oleg Korneitchouk

11/26/2012 06:37 pm

I'm sure short content can rank well but if you run correlation analysis, you'll find that longer content ranks better/easier/higher. And his "short posts inspire long comments" example... he's basically saying the short post wouldn't rank, only when you add more content (via comments). Basically reversing the initial stance.

Kurt Henninger

11/26/2012 09:59 pm

You are dead on right there. Particularly since Penguin, large sites authoritative sites with very very shallow content rank quite well. Yahoo, About, eHow, and in the local sphere, Yelp, Yellopages, even BBB listings are crowding out non-authoritative, yet business owner centric sites.


11/26/2012 10:31 pm

Google can differentiate between comments and actual content. I think short content is particularly relevant to ecommerce where you have to write better short descriptions to stand out. I would owe vert advise people to take this with a grain of salt if they are starting out writing content as copywriting tight compact prose is an art form developed over time.


11/27/2012 01:02 am

I would agree that it's time to quit listening to Google. Great content will never rank above paid ads, which now consume half the page for some queries. Google's quest to earn a buck is pushing them further into irrelevancy.

rigged gh

11/27/2012 02:47 am

Not just that, Google also tweaks results to be worst than ads so ad clicks are maximized. You're screwed if you are in greedy Google's sights and everyone wanting to make a buck online is. Google's goals are different from yours, so stop listening to Matt Cutts, John Mooo and other shameless shills.

Aumi Cen

11/27/2012 04:26 am

I agree with John Mueller


11/27/2012 06:54 am

It might be true... but it is well known that nothing is free in this world. If Google is providing search engine as free service. It has right to earn something from it. tell me if I am wrong. See what happen if Google charge paid service for searching 1$ for 10 searches ...hahhahha :)

Rimon Scout

11/27/2012 07:26 am

I imagine how a page full of images or little content can rank well in SERP's. But it is good news that a little content site can also rank well.

Tului Teschke

11/27/2012 08:31 am

I have seen sites ranking #1 for one of my keyword with max. 50 words per page which I think is totally fine. A minimum word count also creates more BS content on otherwise legit sites. If I want short and concise information about a specific topic in a niche, how can I get this if all the "relevant" sites on page 1 have at least a couple hundred fill words I have to wade through first?

ASP Manchester

11/27/2012 11:37 am

Quality content might help or its still a waste of time. Lets hope for the best upcoming Panda or Penguin update

Website Developers

11/27/2012 11:42 am

Google We hope your Panda, Penguin or EMD update doesn't effect the short contents.

Craig Hamilton-Parker

11/27/2012 11:47 am

Roll on the day when we get an ad-free search engine genuinely aimed at crawling good content. Maybe one day the BBC will have their own search engine? I know where I'd search. Bye, bye Google...

James Barker

11/27/2012 12:05 pm

And how would it be funded if it were ad-free?

Craig Hamilton-Parker

11/27/2012 01:01 pm

With government money - as is the BBC. It is in the interest of culture and democracy.

Nathaniel Bailey

11/27/2012 03:23 pm

No magic number says a googler! I would have thought they would keep in with the "no evil" saying they have at google and made it an awesome number of words per page such 666 or 999 because they are not evil related either so would fit nicely with the "no evil" principle that google think they have lol But I must admit, John does seem to be telling the truth this time around because we have client pages which rank with just a very small amount of content on them, but then again they do have a lot of strong links pointing to them, so saying that no content can rank is true, but then again, any page can rank with the right back links point to it so, as always, take what ever comes from google with a pinch of salt to be safe or they might just kick you in the...

Local Web Geek

11/27/2012 04:51 pm

I use 500 word articles and never had a problem. I never thought word count mattered anyways just subject matter and how it makes your client feel.

Joseph Neeley

11/27/2012 07:43 pm

The BBC is not funded by government money but by money extorted from anyone who buys a TV whether they watch BBc or not.

Sanjay Yadav

11/27/2012 10:42 pm

This is what that I want to know because before reading this post I was little bit confuse about short articles or content but now this post clears my doubts.

SubmitShop UK

11/28/2012 05:26 am

I agree with you, i have seen my tweet ranking in top 10 results related to guest posting for one week at least


11/28/2012 07:13 am

I am agree, time to stop listen that guys. I not listen anything useful from them, only how 'proud' they are, because ruined the web. Really them now just stealing money from webmasters pockets, peoples who created content/sites. But in the moment all tanked to his greedy majesty, google.


11/28/2012 07:17 am

so looks like we need to create 10-50 words pages. google will happy and tank it


11/28/2012 07:18 am

same as amazon and youtube, - internet coalition


11/28/2012 07:19 am

yes, and it (including wikipedia) is exactly - content farms. google fighted before with such type of content, but looks like coalition win


11/28/2012 07:22 am

google has adwords before this crazy animals


11/28/2012 07:24 am

with latest google penguin & panda - content is not king anymore. Everything up to decission of google developers, what is kwd stuffing, what is overoptimization, etc. Now you even unable to choose nice emd domain for your project


11/28/2012 08:54 am

Government controlled too?

LaTisha Styles

11/28/2012 07:48 pm

If we just stop writing for Google and write for our readers none of this would matter. I'm looking for ways to drive traffic from offline activities as well. And Bing. if anyone is using it.

Lyndon NA

01/10/2013 05:12 pm

Content never was king. Promotion was King, and still is ... but it relies heavily on having a solid Queen (which is content).


01/14/2013 10:33 pm

makemoneyonline website has very good content before ;) It type of content google liked now.

Inifn Markets

01/29/2013 12:34 pm

very important topic, I personally think that long text can be boring for users to read, it must be user friendly and valuable

Christopher Skyi

03/15/2013 01:20 am

Proof that short content can be enormously valuable? On the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, on an empty field just outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the great orator of the time, Edward Everett, spoke for over two hours in dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was long, well received, and nobody today remembers it. Afterwards, a shy first term president then spoke for only a few minutes. With a "few appropriate remarks", he was able to summarize the war in just ten sentences. "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."


03/27/2013 05:16 pm

Please just use DuckDuckGo and shut up. Books are not any differnt...

drugs treatment

01/12/2014 10:33 am

Do you have any other ideas of how aggregators can use the data they have to provide additional value to the users?

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