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Is there a length below which Google doesn't give as much weight to a page?
There's a Google patent (or paper) out there that does suggest a minimum threshold number of words on a page, but I'd have to dig out exactly which one it was in.
1) Articles should be chopped up into smaller, logical chunks that don't go much beyond the fold, or bottom of the page. This is because some people think that surfers can't be bothered to scroll down too far to find what they're looking for, and it gives you better contextual ad targeting and search targeting. (How many times have you searched for a phrase, gone to a massive page and you've clicked away because you don't want to search through loads of text?)
2) Have the whole of the article on one page. All the info is in one place and its easier to read, just scrolling down without having to keep clicking on "next page" links. This works for me with articles about a specific subject of the type that people really want all the info they can get.
I use a bit of both, but test and see what works for your site and its visitors.
Personally, I don't mind clicking when an article is broken up into reasonably sized portions, like many news stories are that I've read lately. BUT there's nothing more annoying than a lot of those "technical" sites that break down each article or tutorial into mini-bite-sized portions so you have to keep clicking away with every few sentences.
That is OBVIOUSLY done for page impressions for CPM advertising revenue, and some have gone so far as to not only not provide a printable version, but the pages are styled such that you can't even print the pages as is with all the ad clutter on them. And with some (black backgrounds, barely readable mind you) you can't even save the source to remove the clutter to print it out because they've got preformatted text styling for their ads that deliberately makes it near impossible. Too short is greedy enough, but it's zero useful and usable.
I've read some research stuff from very reliable sources that concluded that break-off points for reader retention are at around 300 words per page and then again, to small degree, at 2K words. And those were studies done by people whose specialty is converting visitors to sales.
Going by what I've read, 300-500 words is OK (maximum IMHO), and more than 300 should be broken at a logical place for continuity if its longer than 450-500.
If any search engine can't figure out what a page is about in 300 words, there's either something wrong with the writer or with the search engine.
So looks like number of words is not a significant player when talking about ranking.
A little offtop, but related to ranking.
From what i see comments help to improve ranking. Looks like there are few reasons:
- pages updated with comments could be treated as fresh content (Google likes fresh content)
- long tail searches direct users to my pages because of some keywords mentioned in comments