One of the things I use the WordPress Yoast SEO plugin is to make sure I reach its preferred word count. But did that count just change?
As I’ve told you before, I don’t worry much about the exact word count when I write a post. The only thing I try to make sure I do is reach at least 300 words.
Why 300? Essentially, that’s the number the number the Yoast SEO plugin recommends for blog posts. The idea seems to be that a post should be at least a certain length to be useful enough for search engines to want to recommend.
Once I hit that 300-word mark, which I can almost always reach without even trying, I don’t worry about how long a post is. I write until I feel I’ve said what I needed to say.
But blogger, content marketer and podcaster Christoff Trappe noticed something strange the other day. His Yoast SEO plugin flagged a post’s word count in red (meaning it needs improvement). But the note next to the little red marker stated the word count of 353 is below the recommended minimum of 900 words!
When did that happen?
Oddly enough, when I scroll below the edit window for this post and look at my Yoast SEO stats, it still shows me the 300-word recommendation. In case you’re curious, I haven’t quite hit 300 words, yet. But don’t worry…I will.
What preferred word count should you shoot for?
How long a blog post should be can be a controversial topic. I think you can provide useful content that answers a key question or two in 300 to 500 words. But I think you can also write a longer post that would certainly be more thorough and answer even more questions if it were between 500 and 1,000 words.
Orbit Media Studios conducts an annual survey of bloggers. One of the questions it asks each year focuses on word count. Over the past eight years, the word count listed as the “average” post length has steadily risen.
Back in 2014, the first year of the survey, that average stood at 808. By 2016, the average had edged past the 1,000-mark. The average peaked (so far) in 2021 at 1,416 words.
In its most recent survey, in 2022, the average fell slightly to 1,376.
Most of my blog posts probably aren’t that long. That’s not a bad thing as long as I create useful, engaging, informative and/or entertaining content.
But the fact that the average is far above 300 words leads to the obvious question.
Is Yoast rolling out a word count revision for everyone?
It might make sense to some that Yoast SEO might decide to increase the recommended count. But a quick look at the plugin’s official website makes no mention of this.
In its article, “Know when you have enough words to rank with a page,” it includes a little table showing that for a regular post or page, it still recommends a minimum of 300 words.
But what’s interesting is the line right below that: It does recommend a minimum count of 900 words for what it calls “cornerstone content.”
If you’re keeping score, I’m past the 500-word count at this point in this post. But I still have a long way to go to reach that 900. In any case, my little word count marker is green since it’s above 300 words.
If this were to be a “regular post,” I would already have gone above and beyond the standard of preferred word count. Indeed, to a point, in mentioning that Yoast isn’t recommending that word count of 900 for every post, I’ve answered the question this post began with.
If I wanted to make this post “cornerstone content,” I would certainly need to go further.
It turns out that Christopher must have inadvertently toggled the “Cornerstone Content” setting in Yoast or it somehow toggled on by itself. (The latter wouldn’t surprise me; stranger things happen every day.)
But, wait…what is this ‘cornerstone content’ stuff?
Yoast SEO defines “cornerstone content” as the “core content” of your website. The article points out that cornerstone content is also known by another name: “evergreen content.” I’ve definitely written about evergreen content and its importance before.
Yoast’s article puts it this way:
It consists of the best, most important articles on your site; the pages or posts you want to rank highest in the search engines. Cornerstone articles are usually relatively long, informative articles, combining insights from different blog posts and covering everything that’s important about a certain topic.
Another advantage of evergreen content is that it’s useful enough that it can be scheduled anytime and shared and reshared on social media often. Since it doesn’t rely on a specific trending topic to be relevant, it has a longer “shelf life” than topical content would ever hope to have.
If you use an editorial calendar, evergreen content that’s ready to be published can always quickly fill a hole when something more trending falls through at the last minute.
Because cornerstone content has to stand the test of time and needs to be more informative by its nature, Yoast does indeed set a preferred word count at 900 for that type of post.
But Yoast’s idea of cornerstone content seems to be even more important than what I’ve talked about as “evergreen.”
It makes sense when you think about it. The longer a post, within reason, of course, the more questions it should be able to answer. Yoast makes one point very clear: Cornerstone content plays a significant role in any SEO strategy.
It even recommends that you should select four or five pages (or posts) as “cornerstones” for your site. Those pages should be accessible directly from your home page. In their mind, this content is so important, there should be no challenge in finding it. A reader shouldn’t need to search for it. It should be presented up front.
No, I haven’t specified pieces on this blog as specifically “cornerstone content.” Maybe that’s something I’ll consider, however, as a new goal for the year.
In any case, by Yoast’s count, I have reached the 900-word mark. This gives you an idea of exactly how long a post that is.