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Every now and then you take a fresh look at your content strategy. What works? And what doesn’t work? New research from SEMrush into the anatomy of top articles offers interesting insights. They examined more than 1.2 million articles based on a number of characteristics, such as the length of the title and the presence of images and videos. There were a number of striking things in it for me, which I would like to share with you.

Before we begin, a side note. There is no ultimate formula that will work for every item (or brand). This research does show a correlation between certain characteristics of content and performance.

The most striking findings

Here are some highlights from SEMrush’s research :

  • Long reads with 7000+ words get almost 4x more traffic and 43% more shares than average length articles (900 – 1200 words).
  • Articles with long titles (10 – 13 words) attract 2x more traffic and 1.5x more shares than short titles (less than 7 words).
  • Titles with lists  get the most page views.
  • Articles with visual content (image and/or video) get more traffic, shares and backlinks.

1. The ideal length of a blog post

It’s a common question (and discussion) among bloggers and SEO specialists: how long should an article be? SEMrush’s research shows: the longer, the better! In their survey last year they didn’t go beyond 3000+ words , now they’ve expanded that to over 7000+. Longform content ranks best for page views and shares, and second best for backlinks.

Ideal content length according to SEMrush.

This does not mean that you should only write long articles from now on. SEMrush argues that long reads are likely to perform better because they provide readers with a lot of in-depth information about a topic:

“Indeed, long reads likely perform better because they provide users with in-depth information on the topic – not just because they contain more words. When creating your copy, you should bear this in mind. Focus on the core elements of successful content such as unique and engaging text, strong research, and relevant information – rather than simply how long it is.”

On SearcheEngine Journal, Viola Eva also explains it clearly:

  • Longer content leads to more links.
  • More links lead to better rankings (and more organic traffic).

But don’t let the number of words dictate what you write. If someone is looking for a quick answer to a question (for example: “Where is Frankwatching’s office?”), then he is not waiting for an extensive long read. No, he just wants to know where that office is. So keep your readers’ user intent in mind before you start writing. Not the number of words but relevance is key !

2. The length of the title

Long titles work best, according to SEMrush. They get 2x more traffic and 1.5x more shares than short titles. The main lesson is that longer titles allow you to give more information about what your article is about. This gives readers a better impression of the relevance and value of the article.

Ideal length title according to SEMrush.

This year titles between 10 and 13 words score best, last year even more than 14 words. At the time I was quite surprised about that length, since we see at Frankwatching that shorter titles generally work better. My advice is to keep experimenting. Would a long title also work better for you?

Also, don’t let the length of a title be leading. There are other elements that make a title attract readers. It must arouse curiosity, stand out, connect to the user intent, and above all, it must connect to the content of the text. You want to avoid clickbait.

3. Lists most popular

7 ways to steer behavior, 9 tips to get more leads & sales from your best articles… Yes yes, love it or hate it : lists work. We see that on Frankwatching, but it is also apparent from this research. Articles with titles that clearly contain lists attract the most page views. Titles with a number are generally more noticeable and the idea of ​​a list offers the reader a nice overview.

Titles containing how to’s and guides follow after the lists. I suspect it’s because these kinds of titles respond very strongly to user intent. You’re looking for an answer to a question, and these titles show that they (probably) contain the answer to your question.

Research title type SEMrush.

4. The influence of visual content

New in this year’s research is that SEMrush also looked at the effects of images and videos in a text. It turns out that articles with 1 image have more traffic, backlinks and shares than articles without.

Images in articles according to SEMrush.

How is this possible? It may have an effect on SEO, because images rank through image search. Images can also be of added value for the reader: they can clarify your message and make the text more attractive (read: less boring).

It would be interesting to read some research on the type of image as well. The images in this article are of added value, but what would be the effect of articles filled with stock photos?

The effect of videos

Articles with videos also get more traffic than articles without. Video can be distributed through various platforms, which can provide you with extra backlinks. It can also ensure that visitors spend significantly more time on your website.

Videos influence articles according to SEMrush.

You can view more results of the study here .

Keep experimenting

Don’t change your content strategy based on this research. So don’t go crazy producing videos, long reads and listicles . Keep your visitor’s intent in mind. What is he struggling with? Can you help him better with a short answer? Then go for that.

Variation is also important. If you only write blogs with lists, it becomes very boring and annoying. Hopefully the research inspires you to try some new things when creating new blogs. There’s no harm in shaking things up and experimenting!

What do you think of the research? And do you want to try something different with your content strategy this year? I like to hear it. 🙂