Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller engaged in a lively Twitter discussion on what it means to create ideal web content. He answered whether Google ranked long form content higher, commented on word count and offered his opinion on what publishers should focus on.

The discussion covered the relationship of word count to the concept of being comprehensive as well as whether word count is part of a ranking factor (it’s not).

Matching Competitor Word Count

The discussion started out with a question related to competitor research. The person asking the question apparently reviewed the top ranked pages in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and discovered the word count of the top ranked sites.

Competitor research is often thought of in terms of reviewing what top ranked pages are doing and copying what they’re doing in terms of keywords used, word counts, and so on.

The problem with that approach is that just because the top ranked sites have a minimum of 1200 words in their content doesn’t mean that word count correlates to the ideal word count for ranking.

It’s just what’s there, either because that’s what they feel is best or they are copying each other.

But then there’s always that one outlier with an epic 8,000 word web page that is masterfully ranking for all kinds of keywords, that blows away any notion that 1200 words is ideal.

Google’s SEO Starter Guide says:

“Content should be factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive.”

Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines that states:

“High quality information pages should be factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive.”

The word “comprehensive” is used 30 times in the quality raters document. So it’s fair to say that Google is at least a little bit to blame for publisher anxieties about “comprehensive” content.

The concern for comprehensive content is practically a syndrome because it leads too content that is far longer than it has to be. Anyone who has ever researched a recipe can attest to that.