The Different Reasons to Count Website Words

Word count is a statistic most readers don’t consciously consider, but it affects both the writers, translators, and readers whether they realize it or not.
If you hang out with translation professionals or writers (and if you do, you have my sympathies!) then you’ve likely heard the term word count a million times. We all must seem obsessed with word count to people who don’t deal with text on a daily basis. For writers and translators and other text-based professionals, word counts are incredibly important, but for people outside of our fields it’s a slightly exotic term. Certainly you can grasp what it means immediately: The number of words in a document or work. But why are we obsessed with it? Why bother counting the words in a website, for example?


For a lot of text or language professionals, like we humble translation pros, word count is often how we invoice for our work. For example, I might be hired to translate a website written in French into English. Billing by page or by time spent can be misleading; I have a lot of experience and I can work quickly even if the work is challenging. But just because I work quickly doesn’t mean the work didn’t require effort, so being paid by the hour might mean I don’t earn a fair wage for the work. Invoicing based on word count is a much fairer and accurate metric to go by, and has the advantage of scaling accurately across a wide variety of media.

Target Audience

Another important reason to count the words on your website involves your target audience – what kind of material are you writing and who is aimed at? Readers rarely think about word counts, but there are “sweet spots” for every type of material and readers are unconsciously aware of them. Novels, for example, are usually somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 words long – longer, and they look intimidating on the shelf and a whole segment of the potential audience skips them. Shorter, and they look thin, like they’re not worth the price. Web articles are generally about 1,000 words, blog posts about 500, because these lengths look right to readers and can be absorbed in a short time.


The type of venue also matters. Some magazines encourage longer articles, some web sites don’t actually use “articles” at all, but rather pithy, brief sentences with a lot of graphics. In order to know what kind of work you should be producing, you need to know what kind of word count you’re expected to use as a goal. Word Count ends up as the most informative metric you can be given as a professional, whether you’re writing or processing words like in translation work. And it’s incredibly important to you as a reader whether you consciously realise it or not.

Of course, there are always exceptions. There are classic novels that clock in at less than 50,000 words, and there are blog posts that go on for tens of thousands of words and no one complains. As with all metrics, word count is important – right up until it isn’t.

Methods to Count the Number of Words in a Website

Word counts for websites is an essential tool for all translation professionals; here are a few great tools for accomplishing them.

For every profession there are different components, some of which appeal to you – the fun stuff – and some of which don’t – the hassles – and some stuff in-between those two extremes which are mainly nuts-and-bolts housekeeping things you probably have no real opinion on. Don’t overlook the housekeeping stuff, because it can bog you down, slow you down, and make you view your work more negatively without even realising it. A good example of this in the translation business is word counts, especially words counts for websites.

Nuts and Bolts

That’s because you get paid in different ways by different clients, and one of the most common ways is by the word. Sometimes getting an accurate word count of a web site can be a real pain, though. You have two basic options: One, you can open Word or another word processor and cut-and-paste the website into it. This has several disadvantages: One, websites often have several – or several dozen – pages, making this process a bit tedious. Two, this will also paste in a lot of ad text or extraneous text that shouldn’t be counted.

The other option is to use some online tools to get your word counts. This can be a cleaner and faster way to handle the problem, and also allows you and your employer to start from the same page, as you can both use the same online tools to get your word counts for invoicing purposes.

Best Online Tools

There are a surprising number of online tools for getting word counts from websites. Here are some of my favourites:

Website Word Counter ( What I love about this site is that all you do is type in the URL of the website, specify whether you want a count of just that page or a set number of URLs in the domain – or all of them. If you have a large website you’ve been hired to translate, this can give you an instant idea of the scope with a fair degree of accuracy.

Word Count Calculator ( This site will give you instant stats on word count, character count, and line count as you type. This is often very useful if I’m invoicing on the number of words in the final document instead of the original document, as I can type my translation directly into this and see where I am at all times.

Count On It ( This site will give you counts stats on uploaded files, which is great if you’re not actually working from a web site or something you can easily cut and paste from.

Cut and Paste Word Count ( This site does just what it says: Instead of having to type in text or direct it to an existing URL, you can simply cut and paste text into it for an instant word count.