On average, longer content tends to do better than shorter content in the SERPs (search engine page results).
Backlinko's research found that the average word count of a Google first page result is 1,890 words.
This research shows a clear correlation between content length and how well that content performs in the SERPs.
Correlation does not equal causation, though.
Just like long content does not equal comprehensive content.
But what does?
What is content comprehensiveness?
Google clearly uses the word "comprehensive" in their SEO Starter Guide.
Here's what it says: "Provide an appropriate amount of content for your subject. Creating high quality content takes a significant amount of at least one of the following: time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill. Content should be factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive. So, for example, if you describe your page as a recipe, provide a complete recipe that is easy to follow, rather than just a set of ingredients or a basic description of the dish."
Obviously, Google has trained their AI algorithm to recognize comprehensiveness.
There's another clue in this paragraph that's relevant to this discussion.
Notice where it says "Provide an appropriate amount of content for your subject."
"Appropriate amount" indicates that there's such a thing as "too much" content on a particular subject.
This backs up the claim that long content does not equal comprehensive content.
It also makes creating content a bit more complicated.
Because you always want to be more comprehensive and in-depth than your competition, but you have to avoid going too broad at the same time.
In essence, you have to try to match what your audience needs.
If you go too short, they'll leave unsatisfied and look for another piece of content on the same topic, which reflects poorly on your content.
And if you go too broad, your audience will be overwhelmed and they'll probably bounce.
Again, bad news for your content.
How do you create comprehensive content without making it too broad?
First, you can always open every article from the first page of Google and do some competitive analysis.
Word count alone is a terrible indicator but combined with the rest of your research, it can play a role.
You can pull the word count from every first page results and see what Google considers an "appropriate amount" of content for that topic.
Again, word count is a guideline at best and never a rule.
Next, see what subtopics your competition covered and try to pinpoint what's missing.
In your article, you can cover all of the subtopics your competition covered combined.
After that, you can do more research and add even more subtopics if you find glaring content gaps.
Sometimes you'll find very weak content on the topic you're coveting so you'll have a chance to really out-do your competition.
But sometimes your competition will have already done a terrific job and you won't have a lot of space to go above and beyond.
This is where you have to apply common sense and decide when enough is enough and you're going too broad with your content.
Does comprehensive content help with SEO?
Comprehensive content obviously helps with your SEO efforts.
In fact, it does so in more ways than one way.
There are over 200 reported Google ranking factors.
Comprehensiveness influences quite a few of them in direct or indirect ways.
Here are a few direct Google ranking factors that are influenced by comprehensive content:
- Internal Links – comprehensive content provides you with a lot of interlinking opportunities because there are more subtopics and sub-ideas to interlink
- Backlinks – comprehensive content is much more likely to be shared by your industry peers and audiences
- Average Session Duration – your audience will spend more time with your content if it's comprehensive and provides them with everything they need to know on a topic. Check out my article on average session duration and how to improve it.
- Bounce Rate – when someone clicks on your content in the SERPs, they're more likely to check out your other content if the piece they clicked on is comprehensive and useful
- Dwell Time – similar to average session time, your audience will spend more time on your pages if you're providing them with comprehensive content. Check out my article on dwell time and how to optimize for it here.
- Repeat Traffic – you will only earn repeat visits by your audience if you give them what they're looking for and comprehensive content is certainly the right step in that direction
- Comments - if you cover a topic from every possible angle, it gives your audience more to comment on
As you can see, comprehensive content can act as a trigger for many little moves that can win you the game in the long run.
10 Tips on how to optimize for content comprehensiveness
The end goal is to create a comprehensive piece of content.
You can leave it up to chance or you can strategically pay attention to some key areas that will steer your content creation process in the right direction.
Let's examine several of these areas and how you can use them to optimize your content for comprehensiveness.
1. Keyword research
Keyword research can uncover a lot of subtopics related to the topic you're covering.
You will always have to employ common sense to decide if a subtopic is relevant enough to your main topic to be included or not, though.
You can get a lot of hints and subtopic ideas right there in the Google SERPs.
Simply type your main topic into Google and check the People Also Ask and Related Searches sections.
People Also Ask will show you relevant questions people have regarding your topic.
And every time you click on one of the questions, the entire section expands in the topical direction of the question you opened.
Answering these questions in your content can influence Google to recommend your content when someone types one of those questions into the search box.
The Related Searches section can be just as useful.
Click on the most relevant suggestions and then go through the top results again to see if there's some good angle you can include in your piece.
Just don't go too far down the rabbit hole.
2. Competition research
Opening the first page results and doing some competition research is very powerful when trying to craft a comprehensive piece of content because you can clearly see what already works on Google.
Like I already mentioned in this article, you can check what subtopics Google already considers relevant and what content gaps exist so you can fill them.
If you wish to go a bit deeper, you can pay attention to the sources your competition is linking to for some more ideas.
3. Topic research
Knowledge gaps shouldn't stop you from creating comprehensive content.
If you're uncertain about some of the subtopics or angles that should be included in your content, you can always read up on them and learn what you need to learn before creating the content.
You can't be an expert at absolutely everything related to your niche.
4. Skyscraper Technique
Once you've done with keyword, competition and topic research, you can apply the Skyscraper Technique.
Basically, the end result of the Skyscraper Technique is content that's more in-depth than what already exists on a particular topic.
Check out this video for a full explanation on the Skyscraper Technique from the man who coined the term, Brian Dean of Backlinko.
5. Search intent
Search intent is a simple concept that can't help your content all that much if you nail it, but it can completely kill your content if you miss it.
Search intent means creating content that matches what searchers are looking for in a particular search query.
For example, if you type into Google "best Christmas presents for mom" you will notice that virtually ALL of the search results are lists of recommended products.
Creating a piece of content that goes into why certain products are the best Christmas presents for mom would be to completely miss the search intent.
To make sure you're not missing it, always do some research to determine the search intent before creating the content.
6. Data and statistics
Including raw data and statistics to back your claims up can add comprehensiveness to your content.
Plus, people tend to trust the content that relies on statistics to prove points.
Using statistics in your content also gives you a chance to link to some authoritative sources which ever so slightly helps your content do better too.
Google's reasoning there is that quality content relies on and links to other high-quality content.
7. Include relevant videos and images
Including relevant videos and images doesn't only help your SEO efforts, but it also adds extra comprehensiveness to your content.
For example, screenshots area great way of adding a lot of information to your content in the form of an image.
The same goes for videos.
A few minute video that covers something well can really help you out if you're in danger of going too broad with your content piece.
8. Charts and infographics
Charts and infographics can spice up your content and make it more visually appealing, but they can also add depth to it.
Infographics, in particular, are a very powerful tool for increasing the likelihood of earning backlinks.
On top of everything, infographics add comprehensiveness simply because they provide another way of consuming your content.
9. Case studies
People love case studies because they enable them to compare their efforts against someone else's concrete results.
A well-placed case study example can really help drive home a point and make your content more comprehensive and relevant.
You should also consider creating your own case studies because they add a lot of relevance, authority, expertise, and authenticity to your domain.
10. Answer relevant questions
Needless to say, comprehensive content attempts to answer all the relevant questions around a particular topic it covers.
People Also Ask section of the Google SERPs is a good way of finding what questions people are asking around your topic.
Another great way of gathering questions around your topic is by using AnswerThePublic.
AnswerThePublic gathers data from Google and Bing so you can be sure you're indeed getting the questions real people are typing into search engines.
If you want to learn more about AnswerThePublic, check out my article on how to use it for content ideas and even outline articles.
Creating comprehensive content is one of the pillars of content marketing.
Comprehensive content positively influences many direct and indirect search engine ranking factors.
It also provides a lot of value to your audience by giving them everything they need to solve their problems.
If you want to succeed as a marketer in today's hyper-competitive world, creating comprehensive content is your ticket to success.