Content length is a matter of concern for both SEO and user experience. You need enough content to register in major search engines, but not so much that you alienate your users or appear to be overoptimizing your pages. Writing too much is a pitfall of some search marketers obsessed with achieving a higher rank; they believe that more content is always better, when in reality, that’s hardly ever the case. While certain best practices should be followed to maximize SEO potential, quality is always better than quantity.
The home page is a unique animal for two reasons: first, because it carries the most weight in representing your site to major search engines, and second, because it’s usually the first and only chance you have to capture your users’ attentions long enough to lead them to conversion. With that being said, let’s explore why word count is important for your home page, and what number of words strikes the right balance between user-friendly and SEO-optimized.
First, it’s important to establish a baseline for SEO. Your homepage text needs to be optimized for search engines if you want to stand a chance of ranking high for relevant keywords. However, the requirements for search engines are less strict and less demanding than you might think. In terms of onsite text, there are only a handful of guidelines you’ll need to follow in order to get the best results. Aside from your title tags, meta descriptions, and physical site structure, you’ll only need to pay attention to these features in your home page content:
In order to be seen as existing by the robots of major search engines like Google, you will need a minimum amount of “crawlable” text. Robots will scour your site, including your company name, title tag, meta information, and of course, onsite content. In the old days of SEO, that meant including keyword-rich content, so Google would be able to understand what your site is about. Today, Google’s robots are highly advanced, and can detect the meaning and intent of your site without you spoon-feeding it content. So, aside from optimized meta data, you only need to include enough text to convey the main purpose and category of your website to a search engine crawler.
Logical, Semantically Appropriate Text
It’s also important to structure your home page content appropriately for search engine robots. It’s not enough to simply list a series of words that describe your business; you need to write in a natural, logical, and appropriate form. That means your content needs to be error-free, straightforward, and written clearly. Google can detect not only grammatical and semantic errors, but also unnatural instances of language that could indicate a non-native speaker or an intention of keyword stuffing. If you write in a natural voice, you have nothing to worry about, but extending your onsite content for the sole purpose of hitting a word count could lead you to write unnatural sentences.
A Word Against Keyword Stuffing
Even if you have a few hundred words of sufficient content that is suitable for Google crawlers and appears to be naturally written, you can still face a penalty if you are keyword stuffing. Do not artificially implant keywords into your text for the purpose of increasing your rank; at this stage of evolution in SEO, it will only work against you. Write truthfully about your company, and convey the core strengths and qualities of your business.
Your home page word count for SEO shouldn’t matter too much, aside from meeting the above requirements. As such, your word count could range from 100 to about 1,000 words.
That 100 to 1,000 word range is only for search engines’ benefits; remember that your home page is also the first impression most visitors will have of your company. Your word count also needs to cater to your users’ expectations and desires. Your onsite content will need to immediately convey your company’s description to your users, and also catch their attention long enough for them to want to venture deeper into the site. It isn’t the place for longwinded elaborations, nor is it the place for vague descriptions.
Concise, Readable Text
Instead of focusing on how much text you have on the page, focus on what messages and ideas you want to convey to your visitor. Then, find a way to convey that information to your visitor in the most concise way possible. Don’t truncate or compromise your message, but cut out any unnecessary or “fluffy” content. Your users don’t want to read excessive material that has no relevance; they want the shortest path available. In most cases, that means decreasing your word count to avoid tiring your audience.
You’ll also want to make sure your content is easily readable, with a clear font and appealing design that complements the content’s form. That means it’s not enough to have a paragraph of excellent content squished together in a lump on your page—your words need to be spaced enough to engage your readers.
Direction to Fuller Pages
Remember that your home page alone isn’t going to convert readers, and therefore, you don’t need to cram information on it. Let your interior pages do the bulk of the work. You can have as much content as you want on your About page, your Services page, and of course, your blog and news pages. Keep your word count on the home page appropriate for its primary purpose: capturing immediate attention and directing users to relevant interior pages for further brand engagement.
It’s hard to boil all this information into a one-size-fits-all word count recommendation, but for most sites, creating a great user experience means falling on the shorter end of that 100-1,000 word spectrum.
Every brand and every website is unique, so unfortunately, it’s impossible to calculate an exact word count that achieves the “best of both worlds” for search engine and user experience optimization. There’s no number I could write here that would solve every webmaster’s problems. However, you can figure out the perfect word count for your specific brand by experimenting with A/B tests.
Design your home page in two iterations: make the first a shorter version, closer to the 100-word range of the spectrum, and geared toward giving your users the best experience. Set it up for a week (or longer), and measure the results in terms of your organic traffic, and your bounce rates on the homepage. Then, mock up a version of your homepage with bulkier content—something closer to 1,000 words, and run it for a week to see how it impacts your search relevance and user behavior.
It might take some trial and error before you find the perfect word count for your home page, but that’s the way it should be. In online marketing, there’s no one simple answer for anything because every brand is unique and every demographic has different preferences. In time, you’ll be able to determine what balance of SEO structuring and user catering is right for your company, and your traffic and conversion rates will reflect that.