A lot of my clients seem to be uncertain about word count. I don’t blame them. Word count is something writers and publishers talk about. It’s not really something that necessarily means anything to anyone who doesn’t write, edit, or publish day in and day out.
At the same time, my clients are all aware that word count is important, especially when it comes to content marketing on the Internet.
So I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about assigning different word counts for different purposes.
250 words is the minimum word count for any piece that you want Google to “count” for SEO purposes. That’s any web page or any blog post. They simply don’t bother with anything smaller than that. That’s not to say that an 110 quicky curation news piece can’t have some value from a customer perspective, but it’s not doing much for your search engine results. This even counts for product descriptions, though you can break this up: i.e., a short product description at the top of the page and a longer one down at the bottom. For many businesses, 250 to 500 words is the maximum length any web copy page should be (like “Home,” or “About Us”).
Mileage does vary. Some businesses really do need 1000 words of homepage copy. It depends.
400 to 1000 words is the length of a fairly solid blog post. You’ll deliver a lot of good information in this space, you’ll get good SEO benefits, and you’ll please your customers. You don’t necessarily have to go longer than this. Many magazine articles clock in at around this length, except for full length features, which are about 1,000 to 2,000 words on average.
1,000 to 2,000 words is what I’d call a truly high-value, knock-them-out-of-the-park blog post. You reserve this length, however, for those times when you’ve got awesome things to say. I mean truly awesome, insightful, one-of-a-kind things to say. To create these, you’d sit down with your writer and talk about your unique take on some industry issue that really matters to you, or that people really want to know about. Or you’d do an interview with someone really interesting. Or you’d create a long running resource page, the type of thing that people are going to go to again and again to reference and re-read. Some SEO experts have offered some statistics to note that 1,600+ word pages tend to get a lot of traffic, shares, rankings, etc. Again, I imagine seeing these results if you’ve got something really phenomenal to say. This would also be the length of a really long form sales letter.
Anything over 2000 words is basically an ebook. You can publish it as a PDF or do what some companies are now doing, which is turn them into really long web pages with navigable chapter links.
For comparison, a short story becomes a novella at 7,000 words.
This also gives you a handy guide for talking about word count on e-books.
A 2000 to 7,000 word e-book is a good “short report”: the kind of giveaway that you’d set up to sign people up to your email list.
A 7,000 to 25,000 word ebook is a pretty solid electronic download PDF e-book product. It’s kind of in the middle. It’s a non-fiction novella.
At 25,000+ words you’re starting to edge into book length. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, for example, clocked in at 36,363 words. These days most full length adult paperbacks that you’d buy in a store clock in at around 50,000 words or more. The non-fiction books can be a little shorter; the fiction books are expected to be at around 70,000 words at least. If you’re asking for a 50,000 word book you are literally asking for a full length book.
100,000 to 200,000 words is an insane amount of content. At this point you’re competing with really huge books. We’re talking one of the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings for example. I’m not saying that some books shouldn’t be just this comprehensive, but I do want you to understand the undertaking you’re asking for if you are asking a writer to create this content. I’ve seen people say they want to pay $1000 for a book that’s just this long, and I’m here to tell you that it’s not going to happen. Revise your plan if that’s your budget, and get back down into a more realistic zone.
On a good day I can bang out 3,000 to 5,000 words. On a really good day I’ve been known to get up to 8,000 or 9,000. Most of my clients comment on how remarkably fast I am, so I know that I’m not even the norm. So in order to produce a 100,000 word book for you I’d have to have 33 really good days to work with. $30 a day isn’t going to cut it. 😉 Especially since you’d be using up my total writing capacity for those days. It wouldn’t cut it for any writer of quality.
Hopefully this will help you as you put together your marketing plan. This can help you know exactly what you’re asking for, and it will help you decide what you can afford to pay for. That way, you can make even stronger decisions about what you’re buying, instead of arbitrarily choosing a word count that looks really good to you. 🙂
By the way, this piece clocks in at 880 words. 🙂