SEO word count is not a ranking factor says Google's Jon Mueller.

SEO Word Count is Not a Ranking Factor

There has always been talk about the pace of change in the world of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Sometimes you notice the SEO change, sometimes you don’t.

Some changes in the SEO landscape seem minuscule and incremental, at other times they can feel seismic.

However, the latest revelation by John Mueller, the Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, is an interesting talking point.

In a February 8th Twitter post, Google’s JohnMu said:

The salient point here is this:

“Having the same word-count as a top-ranking article isn’t going to make your pages rank first…”

And, you know what? John is right. Just because a top-ranking article has 1,158 words doesn’t mean that you can beat it with the same word count. There are SO many other factors that search engines consider when ranking pages.

Now, we must admit, we’re advocates of the “long form” article, what you would call an evangelists. Colleagues and friends often say “Great writing, but nobody’s going to read that!”. Agreed. Yet also being realists you’ll often hear our SEO experts speak about context, in all manner of applications.

A clear point in case is this:

It is a long-held belief in SEO circles that the “minimum word count” for an article is around 300 words. There have been studies that indicate the top 10 articles for any keyword in the Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are over 1.000 words.

The hugely popular WordPress plugin “Yoast SEO” reinforces the minimum word count and gives additional “brownie points” when you go beyond the minimum recommended threshold.

Where Does Word Count in SEO Come From?

Many years ago, Google was far more “easy to game”. Every opportunity to rank a webpage was exploited, using every black hat technique from “doorway pages” to “keyword stuffing”.

In 2008 Google realised it was being gamed and the quality of its search results were suffering. This was at a time when it launched Google AdWords (Now just called Google Ads), the platform to allow you to “be number on in Google” at a price. [I remember when some clicks were as little as 2p – Ed]

The issue was that if the organic search results were full of poor quality pages, then it’s not good to have to pay to “leapfrog” the results.

Google’s then CEO, Eric Schmidt, famously called the Internet a “cesspool” due to the sheer number of poor quality websites and soon after, the Penguin and Panda updates were released in answer to these concerns.

Google Penguin addressed the the linking issue. Massive amounts of rapidly-built, poor-quality links were recognised and ignored.

The Google Panda update addressed the thin content problem. The content farms of the day would churn out low-quality web pages that were short on content. The sheer volume of pages would increase the keyword counts and poor value sites could rank at the top of the SERPs. By “sorting the wheat from the chaff”, Google would allow the best sites to rise in the rankings.

Since those days, SEO professionals have tried to address the issue by encouraging website owners to create quality content. The word count focus was all part of this agenda and I for one have been a willing participant.

So is Word Count Still Relevant?

Well, as of the time of writing, Yoast SEO still counts 300 words on the path to “green light” your content. That may change at some point.

Our advice in our many years of content creation and marketing is this;

  1. Does the word count in the page you have created serve the user well?
  2. In context, is that the right amount of copy for the function of that web page?
  3. Think about the purpose of each individual web page and see if it passes “The Goldilocks Test”. Is the content too much, is there not enough or is your word count just right?

How do you know that your word count is just right?

Look at the page and it’s function.

Is it a homepage? In that case you need to very quickly wow your visitor. You need to say who you are and what you do. Additionally, say how you will add value and then capture the interest with a strong, clear Call to Action (CTA) or signpost your visitor to further information before satisfying them again and capturing that lead.

Is it a contact page? Clearly and quickly show the options – a form for the lazy, an email for the writers, a phone number for the time-challenged. Do you have a physical location and a map to direct real world visitors to your door?

What if your page is a report or a news article? Then you need to convey as much accurate and useful information as you can. Convey the facts, illustrate the points, use tables, charts, images and link as appropriate.

Whatever purpose you are creating content for, always see if it passes the “so what” test. Put yourself in the shoes of a person who will manually evaluate the page and ask yourself if it demonstrates expertise, authority and trust. These are your E-A-T criteria that Google will judge content against.

Then there are the social shares, the links, the conversations about your piece in the wider world. This isn’t word count, these are the ranking signals. Does your target audience read masses of words e.g they are scientists or technically-minded, are they just looking for quick snippets of information?

These are the reasons why you should evaluate word count on a piece-by-piece basis.

300 words or 1,158 words? Your stats will show you if readers are clicking away part way through a page. Bounce rates will give you an indication. Look at user flow, where the go and for how long. Heat maps are useful to show where users click, where they scroll.

When content doesn’t work, change it. Beef it up or cull it down. How about clearly having options so that readers can access long-form content if what they see isn’t enough?

Ultimately just write for your audience and the correct word count will follow. (See also our article Content is King.)

Clever Marketing - PPC & SEO. Hampshire Digital Agency.Hampshire SEO agency Clever Marketing are here to answer your questions and, if you need help, do your work for you.

Data analysis, consultation, copy writing, content marketing, we do it all. To secure our talents, call 01276 534 680 or complete our easy contact form and we’ll be happy to help you get the right word count that captures your users’ attention.

Have a Content Strategy

5: You Do Have a Content Strategy Don’t You?

8 Steps to Increase Traffic to Your Website: Part Five

You do have a content strategy don’t you? Because one of the tenets of the website industry is that Content is King.

Bill Gates said this in an essay in 1996 and, all these years later, it still holds true.

Websites such as the BBC, The Guardian and The Daily Mail are all content-driven beasts. Facebook draws you in to see what your friends are up to everyday because of content.

So if your website, the shop window for your products and services, doesn’t have strong content then that is something you need to take a serious look at.

Know Your Own Content

The first step in your content strategy is to know your content.

Do you know how many pages there are on your website? What sort of content do you have? What have you written about? Does it get much traffic? Which pages attract the most attention? Which content gets read the most, keeps users on your website the longest, engages with your audience and makes them share on social media or complete a form, make an enquiry or a sale?

That’s are a lot of questions but you need to answer them all in order to get a picture of the health of your website so that you can make an informed decision going forward…

Use your Google Analytics to see which pages get the most eyeballs, what the bounce rate is and follow that user flow through the website.

See which pages lead to the most goal completions.

Once you have all this knowledge, maybe marked up in an Excel spreadsheet, you can see what works and what doesn’t.

You want to do more of what is good and try to make improvements to the places where you aren’t getting as many successes.

There are many ways to plan content but knowing your own content you can divide up what you have into

  1. More like this.
  2. Improve upon these and…
  3. Less of this sort of content.

Do Your Competitors Have a Content Strategy?

Now you may not be privy to that exact knowledge, unless you’re into corporate espionage, but you can at least go and have a look at your competitor’s website to see what they’re up to.

Do they post regular blogs? How often?

Do they publish news stories? What about?

Does your competitor have webinars and videos, whitepapers, downloadable guides, an email newsletter?

Look at their social media channels – do they have a lot of followers? Do they post a lot? Regularly? Which posts get the most likes?

If you can see that your competitor is doing so much more than you, then that will be why they are so much more successful. That knowledge alone should get you fired up!

Whatever your competition are doing that you are not is to their advantage. At the very least you should be matching this. You should be aiming to beat this!

And, again, being wise and organised, you will have expanded your list, your spreadsheet and you can see what content you have got and what the competition are up to. There is a mountain to climb but you must do it because that’s what you’re in business to do – to succeed and win.

Is There Anything You’re Missing?

You know your own content. You now know your competitor’s content. But is that everything? What if you are BOTH missing a trick?

Are there websites in your industry that you haven’t had a look at? Go see them. Explore and get more intel.

Did you see anything in your keyword research? Are there terms in Google Search Console that you are getting impressions for that you don’t have strong content for? Does Google Analytics show you which terms people are typing in your site’s search box that maybe you don’t have content on?

This is where you get clever with you marketing, by thinking and looking and doing things that you have not previously done. Even if you later dismiss some of them, having a holistic view of your business, the market and your competition will fire up synapses and make connections that will help your future strategy.

Time to Have a Content Strategy

Armed with all this new knowledge you’ve noted down, it’s time to map out your content strategy.

There will be keywords and content that you currently perform well for. You will want to preserve this performance.

In addition to preserving your best performing content you will want to support and boost it. You can do this by creating additional content using secondary and tertiary keywords, those “long tail” keywords that will help web users find what they are looking for.

So for your content strategy you should do the following:

  • Choose your primary content subjects and support these with secondary subjects. This will form the basis of a parent-child relationship with your content and your website’s internal link structure.
  • Define the type of content that you will deliver these subjects: articles, blog posts and cases studies may be your primary HTML content in your website. Support these content types with videos, infographics, eBooks and whitepapers as appropriate.
  • Define goals such as when you will produce and deliver your new content. If you have limited resources you may wish to focus on a content strategy that has a more immediate impact.
  • Back up your content creation strategy with a content delivery strategy. You have all this shiny new content but how are you going to get it in front of your audience?

That should be enough to get you thinking about and formulating a content strategy. It’s essential that you have quality content for your audience to consume.

And remember – Google automatically crawls and indexes your website but occasionally a real person will assess your site – they will use Google’s quality guidelines to see whether your website’s content comes across as Expert, Authoritative and Trustworthy. E-A-T. Remember this and create the very best quality content that you can. Your users will appreciate it and so will the search engines.

Content Strategy - Clever Marketing - Hampshire Digital AgencyNo content strategy? No problem. Our digital agency will work as your strategic marketing partner to craft and execute your content strategy.

If you would like to know more about any of these individual items then please do give us a call on 01276 534 680 or complete our contact form.

8 steps to increase traffic to your website

8 Steps to Increase Traffic to Your Website

Increase traffic to your website! One of the biggest issues we hear from clients who come to us is that they just don’t have enough traffic to their website.

This may be because their site is very beautiful and the designers were great at creating a good looking website. But when it comes down to functionality, they missed a few tricks.

Here we list eight steps to increase traffic to your website…

1: Have the Right Analytical Tools

Firstly, how do you know that you don’t have enough traffic to your website?

You need to make sure you have the right analytical tools in place and these will help you to analyse the data so that you can make informed decisions going forward.

We recommend that you at least have Google Analytics (GA) and Google Search Console (GSC) set up. We also recommend having Google Tag Manager (GTM) in place so that you can do this on a basic level and then have more advanced tools at a later date.

Top tip: One of the biggest reasons for having GSC installed is that you can see all of the “not provided” organic keyword search terms that GA hides from you.

2: Analyse Your Keywords: Both in Real Life and on Your Website

Everyone obsesses over their Google Analytics data. We know because we do too. It’s very addictive hence why our digital marketing team pore over the figures every day.

However, do the keywords in GA match your keywords in real life? What do people talk about when they discuss or look for your product or service?

If you’re starting up and trying to push an unknown brand name when you’re actually selling purple widgets then you’ll be missing a trick if you never actually mention your purple widgets and only your brand.

3: Audit Your Website

If you really want to increase traffic to your website, in addition to looking at your analytics traffic, your site will really need to have a digital health check.

When you audit your website you’ll see more than just the fact that you don’t have as much traffic as you want, you’ll start to understand why.

A website audit will identify where you may have missing or duplicate titles and descriptions, broken links, both internal and external links, whether you have too much or too little text in your pages and whether your images are marked up correctly.

There are so many things that an audit can highlight so it’s worthwhile running your audit now and regularly to ensure you are chipping away at and reducing all the issues that can slow down your site’s performance, both with users and the search engines.

4: Refresh or Rebuild Your Website

If you have an already fantastic website you may only need to perform some minor modifications to make it more effective.

A UX audit may reveal some issues that you need to address so that your Calls To Action are more obvious or appealing. Your template may need a spring clean.

Deeper problems will need more drastic action. For example; a designer may have removed half your content because they thought your website was “too wordy” and “nobody’s going to read all that”. Yet your traffic plummeted and you lost half your visitors. Now what?

This is where you’ll need a serious look at and a rebuild of your website.

5: Revisit Your Content Strategy – You do Have a Content Strategy Don’t You?

What do you mean you’ve never posted anything new to your website for the past year?

You’ve spent time and effort researching and creating new products and services so you really need to create a content strategy where you can regularly post about what you do and what you’re up to, what the latest news is and why people should speak to you, buy from you.

Everything you do needs to be talked about and that content strategy will feed the appetites of your audience when you tie it in with all your SEO, PPC and social media activity, but more on that next…

6: Keep Doing SEO

When you’ve invested in a solid content strategy you then need to support this with an equally decent content marketing strategy.

The first step is to keep doing SEO. There have been lots of premature predictions over the years that “SEO is dead” but there is no sign of a let up in the skills need to make a website perform well in search. In fact, finding experienced search marketers with the truly right skills is getting harder.

That’s where you need a trusted partner to step in and build upon those years of experience with the latest insights into what does and doesn’t work in getting your website the attention it deserves.

7: Invest in Paid Search (PPC)

What if your brand is new? What if your product is new? What if the re is so much organic competition that you haven’t got a cat in hell’s chance of “ranking number one in Google”?

That’s where Pay Per Click (PPC) comes in and the likes of Google Ads (Previously Google AdWords) and Bing Ads.

By entering what is effectively an auction to rank above the organic listings, you can achieve some great results. Now we have seen some real stinkers off campaigns but we have a good nose for these and can tell you what will work and how much it will cost.

But it is always worth investigating that you invest in paid search and at least run brand campaigns to dominate the search engine results pages.

8: Get Social

Last, but not least, you need to get social.

Social media campaigns will bring you traffic for free if you only take the time to build a relevant and engaged audience and you post the right things at the right time.

Again, just like paid search, you can invest in paid social and get some quite excellent results by paying for targeted Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn traffic.

We took one obscure product from zero to nearly four thousand followers on Facebook recently as a way to build brand awareness. It is the first step on a campaign to create an interested and engaged audience who will hopefully develop brand loyalty as they resonate with the posts and the product.

Clever Marketing - Hampshire Digital AgencySo there you have it. A very top level overview of 8 steps to increase traffic to your website. We will be expanding all of these points so that you can delve in further and understand just what it takes these days to have a successful traffic strategy that will drive visitors to your website.

If you would like to know more about any of these individual items, or the suite of digital services as a whole, then please do give us a call on 01276 534 680 or complete our contact form.

Clever Marketing, digital agency in Hampshire.

How Using Bloggers In Your Content Strategy can Help Broaden your Reach

Ten years ago, all of the big brands were using high budget celebrities to market and promote their products. These days, you’re much more likely to see a completely different type of brand ambassador at the helm; and you’ve probably never heard of them.

What we’re referring to here is the rise of the blogger.

Engaging with bloggers is a growing trend and is an increasingly integral part of online marketing and digital strategy. Brands who’ve yet to get in the ring risk falling behind and appearing irrelevant in the eyes of customers. So how do you work with bloggers, and how can it benefit you? Read on to find out.

How Can I Work with Bloggers?

If you’re new to the world of blogging, let’s recap. Bloggers post online about their specific niche or industry, for example, beauty or cooking, and combine frequent and original content with a distinct tone of voice to amass a number of followers interested in their area.

This makes them a prime target for brands. Say you run a B&B, and as part of your content strategy, you’ve identified a particular blogger who gets 30,000 unique web hits to their travel blog a month. By reaching out to this blogger and offering them a complimentary stay or meal at your B&B in exchange for a blogpost detailing their experience, you expose your business to those 30,000 captive and relevant readers.

The Worlds of SEO and PR are Combining

In last week’s post, we touched on the importance of integrating your SEO and PR strategies. Now more than ever, it’s important to use PR tactics to get people talking about you in order to gain those all-important back links and improve your search rankings. A great way to do this is through the use of influencers.

Traditionally, PR specialists have engaged with journalists to spread the word about a brand and put a positive story out into the industry space. Now we’re in the digital age, bloggers are the new media – only they’re independent and have distinct personalities, as well as hordes of dedicated followers.

Unlike with the traditional press, blog readers get to know their favourite bloggers personally by reading daily updates on their lives, interests and relationships. Therefore, they are much more likely to make purchases and buying decisions based on their favourite blogger’s advice or recommendations.

The essential element here is trust – unlike celebrities, bloggers are seen more as friends, as normal people audiences can relate to. Our recent post on the rise of YouTubers touched on the influential nature of “vloggers” (video bloggers), whose success is owed to their normality and relatability.

Content Creation

Working alongside bloggers not only means you’ll have some influential new PR advocates, but they’ll be doing a lot of the content heavy-lifting for you, too. Blogposts on third party websites, especially relevant and authoritative blogs, can do wonders for your backlink profile and therefore search rankings.

Our recent post on Google’s search algorithm updates discussed how useful, authentic and relevant content is rewarded above all else by search engines. Working with others in your industry to proactively create even more shareable content and buzz around your brand benefits not only your image, but your SEO, too.

Choosing The Right Blogger

Aligning with the right blogger can help bring your product to life. So, the more followers the better, right? Not exactly – hold on just a second before you start going after Zoella or Alfie Deyes. The kind of blogger you work with will depend largely on your industry, goals and budget.

The best partnerships are the ones born from mutual interests. For example, if you offer industrial cleaning and approach a beauty or fashion blogger, it doesn’t matter how many followers they have or how much money you spend – you’re unlikely to see much return on investment as your product just won’t be relevant to their audience. Instead, select the area you’d like to pursue and concentrate on prolific bloggers in that space.

If you’re a small to medium business and don’t have a budget of hundreds of thousands, you’re better off identifying a group of up-and-coming bloggers with just a couple of thousand followers. As well as being cheaper to work with, they’re more likely to work independently rather than under a management company, so you’ll both have more control over the creative direction of your partnership. The blogger you choose also reflects on you and your brand, so make sure your values and interests are similar before starting out.

Who’s Doing It Right?

There are many examples of brands who have successfully identified and worked with bloggers. Fashion brand Uniqlo recently commissioned a number of emerging fashion bloggers to create content around their collaboration with designer Celia Birtwell, effectively expanding their reach into a younger, more fashion-savvy demographic.

Another innovative method of working with bloggers comes from electronics giant Samsung, and their well-conceived “Bloggers Challenge”  running from August – December 2014.  Open to tech bloggers in South Africa, the challenge involves partaking in a series of quirky tasks, such as preparing a list of meals using just a microwave. Obviously, all challenges must be captured using a Samsung Galaxy 4 phone and uploaded to that blogger’s personal blog or channel. This activity increases Samsung’s share of voice and also supports digital content in South Africa.

We can see here that at the core of a successful blogging partnership are shared values and trust. When choosing bloggers and approaching them with ideas, keep in mind that the content you produce should be beneficial for them, as well as you. In this way, you can build a valuable community, as well as a profitable partnership.

Clever Marketing - Hampshire SEO & Digital AgencyIf you’re not using bloggers to boost your content marketing strategy then get in touch with Surrey digital agency, Clever Marketing. We have content writers to cover many areas and the search engine knowledge to ensure that your SEO is up to scratch.

In addition we can drive traffic to your website with PPC campaigns and social media management.

Call us today on 01276 534 680 or complete our contact form.

Digital marketing strategy - why your SEO and PR should be integrated

Why and How your SEO and PR Strategies Should be Integrated

Once completely disparate entities, SEO (search engine optimisation) and PR (public relations) strategies have grown closer over recent years. Modern SEO tactics show a focus on building high authority links – which is essentially about getting brands to talk about and work with you. At its heart this is also what PR is all about, making PR a key component of the “new” search engine optimisation method.

Read more