Have you heard of the term “thin content” in the world of Search Engine Marketing?
It’s when websites contain very short articles, in their blogs, news channels, or even on main pages and the word count is extremely low.
Once upon a time (think 2008), websites stuffed full of content would rank well in the search engines. The high traffic volumes they attracted would then have display ads thrown at them and the website owners would make a nice income.
In fact, for the likes of some websites, their entire business model was built around producing high volumes of low-quality content. It didn’t matter how poor the content was or whether there were numerous and ever-so-slightly different versions of the same piece, each built to draw in organic traffic around a specific keyword. All the website owners were interested in was cheap content, high traffic and earning the revenue from displaying ads.
These websites were called “content farms” or “content mills” and they drove down the value of written content. Writers were paid peanuts and many didn’t complain because they weren’t even professional writers, they simply made extra money on the side.
Some of the websites and blogs built around this model even earned their own name – Made For AdSense (MFA) sites. They had “thin content” and lots of display ads, usually through Google’s AdSense platform.
It was around this time that Google started to get fed up with the poor quality content. Advertisers were unhappy and so were web users too. I remember well, Google’s then CEO Eric Schmidt, calling the Intenret a “cesspool” and telling publishers to up their game.
And so, ten years ago, that was what happened; Users got a button on their SERPs to vote down poor quality content and websites with “thin content” started to slip down the rankings, lose traffic and miss out on ad revenue. Some very big content farms went from public flotation on the New York Stock Exchange to relative obscurity. Smaller businesses based on this model disappeared completely.
A word count of 300 words is generally considered “thin content”. That’s about as many words as you’ve read up to this point.
You’ve already learned the background of what thin content is and why there was a crackdown. As a business owner, it’s good to know this background but there’s more…
There have been studies that have also looked at the perfect length of an article. A recent piece indicated that, of a survey of over 1,000 bloggers, the average blog post was 1,142 words.
Working as webmaster for a well-known cycling charity, our own most popular piece of organic content was an article with a word count of around 1,500 words. The Marketing Manager always hated that article and said it was far too long. However, Google Analytics data showed that it was consistently the best-performing page on the whole website, earning many more sessions than the next best pieces.
So, word counts nearing 1,000 words seem to be about right.
That doesn’t mean that you have to write 1,000 words because your subject matter or knowledge of it may not reach that far, but at least that’s a focus point against which to be measured.
In fact, the Ranking Factors 2017 report from SEMrush says that the highest ranking websites tend to have content with a higher word count and indicates that the optimal word count is around the 750 mark.
It’s also worth bearing in mind the context of a web page content too. In their own Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (PDF) Google says:
A High quality page on a broad topic with a lot of available information will have more content than a High quality page on a narrower topic.
And in any page you publish in your website you need to demonstrate, as Google says, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
Now not every content manager or website owner will know all the content on their website. They may have inherited the site from a previous manager or editor and be unaware of the ins-and-outs of the content.
One way to check for thin content is to use Screaming Frog SEO Spider, a tool that can crawl a website and extract all manner of useful data from it. This data can be such as the titles, descriptions, h1s, h2s on every page.
This is all really useful information for content managers and digital marketers, but the data we’re interested in is the word count.
The raw word count will include all the words on a page so you need to take into account all the menu systems, sidebars, boxes, pull quotes etc.
The best way to work out the actual word count is to take a blank page and crawl that for its word count. Or, if that’s not an option, find a page with the least amount of text on it, copy and paste the body text into your favourite desktop word processing package and run a word count there.
Then subtract your body word count from the overall word count of a page in the SEO Spider and you now know what the word count is of menus, navigation etc.
For example, one webpage we looked at had a word count of 304 words and, when we investigated, there was virtually no content – Only an 8-word heading and single word of body copy! That means there were 296 words in every template that were part of the nav etc.
If you now export your SEO Spider data as a spreadsheet you can then filter your pages by the word count to see which pages you need to focus on. You can add more content, or completely rewrite pages to make them more useful to users.
From our example above, we would use our baseline of 296 words, add the 300 minimum count to that and filter any pages of fewer than 596 word count. We can then focus our attention on improving these “thin pages” and make the website far more useful for visitors.
So there you have it – a simple way to crawl your website and identify thin content so that you can upgrade or rewrite any old articles to make them more successful.
If you like our insights into SEO then feel free to use them or, if you’ve not got the time to deep-dive into your data, please do let us know – we can be an extension of your business and act as your digital marketing department. We also do tons of copywriting and Pay Per Click so we’re happy to write content and mange PPC accounts for you too.
And in case you were wondering, this article is 1,142 words.
This might sound like a silly remark, but it’s quite common for us to utter it. The situation goes something like this…
We’ll be talking with business owners about how things are going…
How’s your website doing?
Is it bringing in any new leads?
Are you getting much traffic?
The answer to all these questions usually leads us to look at the website in question and within just a couple of minutes there are the usual telltale signs that the website looks good and has a lot of great features and functions, but underneath the bonnet…
…the designers did nothing to SEO your website!
We’ll save these telltale signs for another blog post but first, let’s look at the whys and wherefores.
Sometimes, a great website design is just that – a great website design. It looks good. It has the wow factor and everyone who sees it loves it. But that’s not enough. How many people are actually seeing it?
Did all the “oohs” and “aahs” come from people in your business? Did everyone who was involved in signing it off love it? Then that’s great. But if those are the only people who see your website then what’s the point?
Now the first reason you’ve got a website without any SEO functionality is that the web designers did just that – design. Web design is a sophisticated mix of art and science and specialists are very good at building good-looking websites.
But it takes the input of digital marketing specialists at the time of build to make sure that your site is created properly. If there is no SEO/SEM, no content management nor social media involvement with the design then it falls flat on its face.
Maybe the designers do not have the resource. Maybe they don’t have the skills. Well, that’s an issue because, in our opinion, every website absolutely MUST have SEO baked in from the very start.
What if they do but the client doesn’t have the budget for SEO and decided to go for the cheaper option, cutting out the SEO features and functions?
Again, there really is no excuse. If you build a site that has not been SEO’d then it will probably fail.
The old line from the film “Field of Dreams” comes to mind here…
“Build it and they will come”
Well, in our experience that isn’t the case.
If you have a website built but nobody knows it’s there, then how is anybody going to find out about it?
It’s never too late to apply SEO techniques to your business’ website but you have been at a disadvantage having to do it so late in the game. You have probably missed an increase in traffic at the launch of your new site. When was that? Last month? Not so bad. Last year? Oh, that’s not good. A few years ago? OK, now that’s a problem.
But don’t worry.
SEO is best talked about and integrated during the website conceptualisation and build phase and, if you’re lucky, it can still be fully applied at this late stage.
However, be aware that some things cannot be undone or fixed immediately. For instance, you could be on the “wrong” Content Management System (CMS), have the “incorrect” templates or be held back by the fact that the e-commerce plugin is not the most SEO-friendly or customisable one.
Also, your information architecture might be a bit of a mess, your content might be a bit “thin” and the supporting social media structures could be somewhat flimsy if not non-existent.
But again, don’t worry.
As a digital marketing agency with a great many years of experience, we have a solution for you.
Pick up the phone and give us a call on 020 3146 4341 and we’ll have a chat about your website.
We’re happy to give you our insights into what we can do now, in the medium term and for your long-term traffic strategy.
We’ll probably perform a website audit for you so that you can see what’s wrong and what needs to be done.
Then you can look forward to the peace of mind that your site really is in ship shape and you’re getting the traffic you’ve worked hard to earn.
Every Business Needs a Website, Right?
Of course, we are going to say that, aren’t we? We’ll tell you that you need funky business cards, glossy brochures, a nice prospectus, cool flyers, wicked posters, eye-catching bumper stickers, a shiny new website and some SEO and PPC services thrown in to boot, right?
Well, yes. We do all that. And more. We are Clever Marketing.
But we are not going to advise your business to do everything, especially if, in our experience, we can see it’s not an essential for you. Not every business will need brochures and flyers, posters and stickers.
However, every business needs a website, right?
Cast your mind back 25 years…
It’s 1992. John Major is the British Prime Minister, the Sierra is still Ford’s family car, Diana is going through that rocky patch with Prince Charles and the “rave scene” is in decline as the country’s moral champions tackle the corruption of our youth (despite Mr Blobby riding high in the UK singles chart). The Black Wednesday stock market crash is real, a pint of bitter costs just £1.31, petrol is around 48p per litre and you can still buy a house for around £40,000.
You need a plumber. Where do find one?
Easy – You’ve got a big fat copy of The Yellow Pages or the blue book called the Thomson Local that sit in the cupboard or shelf under your telephone. You look up “P for Plumber” and you browse the ads, both text-only and graphic, for the purveyors of plumbing principles that somehow attract your attention. You ring around, you get quotes and then you decide upon which one meets your criteria. Job done.
Back in 1992 that was the best option you had of finding a business, almost the only one. That local phone book was quite a large volume, whilst today’s tome is a shadow of its former self and there’s a very good reason for that…
We’ve seen online directories come and go. They were once where the Internet saw the future of business being – hard-coded lists of firms in a flat HTML site. But directories are no more. Even the once-mighty DMOZ is dead now.
Yellow Pages and Thomson both migrated from analogue to digital. But ask yourself this – if you want to find a business, what do you do? You “Google it”, right?! Or are you the sort who likes to “Bing and Decide”?
And so, if anyone is going to Google a product or service, where do you think you need to be?
For your business to have any credibility in today’s world, you need to be on the web and you need your own website.
As a business, you will already have an address and a telephone number but those alone don’t work in 2017. Potential customers will be looking to see who you are and what you do as a business. They will want to take a good look at your “shop window” but, without the constraints of High Street opening times, they will step right in and browse. In addition, potential clients can see reviews and case studies, check out your portfolio, read testimonials and get a really good understanding of how and why you are the right business for them.
A phone number and an address don’t do that. A half page ad doesn’t do that.
A web page, however, does ALL of that and more. A LOT more.
You can show off your products, provide information on everything you do, sell goods and services 24 hours a day and even allow interested clients to register for updates and receive your regular email newsletter.
Web addresses are everywhere these days, showing just how significant websites are to businesses in the 21st century. You’ll see www addresses on the side of vans, posters, bus shelters, TV ads, on business cards, even hear them on the radio.
So, if you want to have a business that can provide information and services 24 hours a day, that can collect information from prospects and save enquiries to a database whilst you’re busy or away, then you’ll need to get your website in order.
Blogs are an essential element of the digital marketing mix as each post drives traffic to your website. It’s relatively easy to set a blog up and build a following but it takes time to ensure it receives regular traffic.
Successful blogs deliver quality content on a regular basis, which means they’re crawled more often by Google with the opportunity to generate potential leads higher. We take a look at what you can do to maximise your visibility and drive more traffic to your blog.
Your target audience can make a huge difference to the popularity of your posts. So do consider what kind of content is relevant to them and how you can make your posts more shareable. Evergreen content like “how to” guides, tips or education based posts are often popular choices although they’re not for everyone.
Content should be a key part of any digital marketing strategy. Having an editorial plan in place will result in greater consistency, whether posts are focused on a specific theme, topic or style for example. Google Analytics is, of course, essential to finding out where your visitors are from, their demographic profile and what kind of content is most popular among other things.
There are a number of ways you can ensure your blog is SEO friendly starting with how it’s structured, what headings you use and which signal words are included. You should always optimise the length of your posts so they’re over 300 words and make sure you link to previous content where relevant.
Your featured keyword, which will help people find you, should appear in your post heading, title, URL, content and meta description. Consider what terms and phrases your target audience might type into Google when looking for the information they require. This will help you identify the best keywords to use. Research can also be conducted using tools like the Adwords Keyword Planner.
Readers appreciate blog posts with useful links so you should reference relevant content where appropriate, whether it’s a post of your own or someone else’s. Links to relevant content are well received if they’re in context and provide value. They should never link to top-level web pages and any anchor text must be natural.
It might be worth creating a list of internal content for the purpose of blogging. If you haven’t already catalogued your own site’s content, consider an SEO audit or a website audit where a crawl will identify all your assets.
Let us know if you need a full website crawl, we can offer this as a standalone service or as part of a free website audit including performance, security, SEO and mobile-friendliness
Leveraging your most effective social media channels is a fundamental way to boost traffic to your blog. Curating others’ content is great for encouraging people to share your content and interact. As well as the major social networking sites, consider social community sites such as StumbleUpon, Reddit or Pinterest as well. You will need to add value to these sites to get the return but the same applies to any social network. You get out what you put in.
Do you know who your influencers are? If not, you can easily create a Twitter list for example with the most relevant so you can start to build relationships. Joining relevant communities and Twitter chats is a great way to find new topics for discussion too. You should also research which hashtags are most appropriate to your industry. Including relevant @mentions in social media posts will also help increase your reach and visibility.
These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about how you can drive traffic to your blog. For further information, contact our Digital Marketing Manager, Paul Mackenzie Ross, at Woking’s Design Agency Clever Marketing on 020 3146 4341.
The New Year is all about re-evaluating and that means it’s the perfect time to refresh your website. A lot can change in the space of 12 months so it’s a great opportunity to ensure you’re attracting and retaining the right kind of customers. January is an ideal time to review your website and how it’s performing so it’s in line with your business objectives. Here are our top tips to refresh your website so you can position yourself ahead of the competition.
Your first port of call has to be an audit. Think about your target market, how you attract new clients and encourage repeat or lapsed customers. Consider what clients and prospective clients visit your website for.
Review the content on your website to see what copy, images or keywords should be updated. Links should also be looked at to ensure none are broken and functionality must be tested across all browsers. Consider how you drive traffic to your site, generate leads and whether your website accurately reflects your business goals for 2017. This might also include updating case studies, asking clients for testimonials and creating an editorial calendar for blog post content.
If you need professional assistance with an audit, we can perform a free website audit to assess your performance, mobile-friendliness, SEO and security,
Once you’ve undertaken a review of your website, you need to take a look at the typical customer journey. Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective client and imagine what information you might be looking for.
Is your website easy to navigate from the landing page or will prospects need to hunt around for what they require?
They might click away if they’re time short. Ask colleagues and friends who are not familiar with your website to review the customer journey too. More often than not they’ll spot things which could really improve your website usability. Your website should always be refreshed with your target audience in mind. At the very least, they will want to know what your approach is, whether you have the necessary expertise and how knowledgeable your team is.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is fundamental to the success of your website. As search engines refer users to websites that have the most relevant information, content, performance and authority really are critical. Consider the text, titles and descriptions on your pages, the speed of your website and how easy it is to navigate.Authority is also a key factor – are you considered an authority in your field and does your website reflect this? As a specialist, you’re expected to reflect that level of expertise and, if your site has enough in-depth information, it can be considered an authority site.
Authority is also a key factor – are you considered an authority in your field and does your website reflect this? As a specialist, you’re expected to reflect that level of expertise and, if your website has enough in-depth information, it can be considered an authority site or at least have authority pages and these URLs are the ones that top the search engines results pages (SERPs).
One example is this page about cycle tyre sizes – Written by the former CTC’s technical officer, it was often remarked about as “being far too long” and “nobody’s going to read that” but then it was their top traffic page for years!
Many of you will have reviewed Google Analytics data on an ongoing basis. At this time of year, it’s important to understand how your website has performed over the last 12 months. This should include the number of visitors and dwell time plus how many pages have been visited, most popular pages and conversion rates. This information can help drive your content moving forward.
Using Analytics you can segment your visitors to see:
Look at what has changed over the past year, you’ll probably notice that mobile traffic is on the increase. This will give you insights into where you need to channel your efforts in order to stay customer-focused.
Before you embark on a website refresh, it’s essential you conduct a competitor review so you can identify your point of difference. Consider how each competitor is positioned, how easy their websites are to navigate and how up-to-date the content is. Evaluate what works and what doesn’t as well as noting specialisms and location. You can also get a feel for what they’re like through case studies, a blog and social media channels.
Again, if you were thinking of performing a website audit on your own site, see if you have time to audit thecompetition. A professional audit can take time, so consider outsourcing the task to your friendly local design agency…
Once you’ve reviewed your website, you’re ready to refresh it for the year ahead. If you have any design, digital or search requirements, feel free to contact Woking web agency Clever Marketing on 020 3146 4341. We are more than happy to do the heavy lifting and be your digital marketing department, providing expertise in SEO and PPC to increase your visibility and boost your traffic.
In our first post tackling common SEO problems and how to overcome them, we covered:
These being just some of the technical issues faced on-page and off-page. In part 2, we take a look at another 5 SEO issues and what you can do to resolve them.
Alt attributes (commonly and mistakenly called ALT tags – ALT is an attribute of an IMG tag) help search engines like Google understand what an image is about. If the attributes associated with that image are missing and there’s no description, it can cause SEO problems. Image alt attributes should include your keywords to ensure they’re categorised in the right way. We covered broken links in our last post – broken images cause similar issues in that they can lead to a poor user experience. Both these issues can be overcome by ensuring your alt attributes accurately describe your images. That way they will be properly indexed in search results too.
You can increase the speed of your site by removing code that’s not needed. Also, move inline scripts and styles to separate files and add relevant on page text where it’s required.Other aspects you might want to check include removing white spaces, using CSS for styling and formatting, resizing images (removing those you don’t need) and keeping the size of your page under 300kb.
Other aspects you might want to check include removing white spaces, using CSS for styling and formatting, resizing images (removing those you don’t need) and keeping the size of your page under 300kb.
A title tag is what appears in your search results with an H1 tag what visitors to your website see on a page. While multiple H1 tags can appear on a page, it’s important to get the hierarchy right to ensure your website is indexed in the right way. H1s should be consistent with title tags but not the same. Ideally, you should use one H1 tag per page with H2 tags breaking up the content.
When Google introduced its Panda updates way back in 2011, the idea was to reduce the amount of “thin content” in the search results. Around this time the notion that web pages should contain a minimum of 300 words came about and that thought still persists today with even the popular Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress still touting the “recommended minimum 300 words”.
While there is no set word count to rank with a search engine, the preference is long-form pages with the text including keywords and phrases. Google is known for ranking websites with more depth and longer content. Equally, visitors to your website want to see content that is relevant to the topic they searched for. Even if you’re sharing an image-led post or infographic, it will need some context behind it. Evergreen content is often popular with lists, tips and how to guides the most well-received.
So remember – google likes high-quality content. In its own words:
“…sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”
While all websites will include on-page links, having too many links is unnatural and can dilute the value of a page. It’s important therefore that links are relevant and useful. This way you can ensure your website will rank well and have a natural link profile. If you remove the low-quality links from your website, you will provide a better user experience particularly for those accessing your website via a mobile and table. High-quality links will improve your SEO ranking.
There are so many ranking signals that Google considers for SEO, which are constantly changing and evolving. If you or your company needs help navigating the minefield is that search engine optimisation, feel free to get in touch and ask for a free SEO audit. Better still, you can let us evaluate your website speed & performance, security, mobile-friendliness and SEO in a complete website audit – claim your free website audit now.
If you need further help and assistance, with your 10 SEO problems, get in touch with Woking web agency Clever Marketing on 020 3146 4341.
Our Digital Marketing Manager alone has nearly 20 years of SEO, SEO, PPC and content marketing experience so he’ll be able to help you out.
If you have a great website and you’re generating regular content but not getting discovered by prospective clients, it’s likely you’ll need to improve your search results. The most effective way to achieve higher visibility is to seek out the services of an experienced Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) agency. But what do you need to consider when selecting the right agency? And how can an SEO agency achieve the desired impact on your natural search results?
First of all, before you start to consider what an SEO agency can do for you, you need to establish what you need.Typically, there are a number of factors to take into consideration such as the technical side that incorporates the structure of a site, on page optimisation (through keywords, labels and metadata for example) and off page optimisation through backlinks from other sites. If you’re not sure what you need, think about the task – is it about increasing your page rank, local search results or sales growth?
Typically, there are a number of factors to take into consideration such as the technical side that incorporates the structure of a site, on page optimisation (through keywords, labels and metadata for example) and off page optimisation through backlinks from other sites. If you’re not sure what you need, think about the task – is it about increasing your page rank, local search results or sales growth?
As with any industry, experience is key. Who have they worked with previously? A quality SEO agency will have a portfolio of clients – either in a single category or across a range of categories. If the breadth of an SEO agency’s client list is predominantly within a specific category, this demonstrates expertise in that field with a more varied client spread highlighting their ability to adopt varied SEO tactics. Regardless of their clients, both current and historical, any SEO agency must be willing to share success stories and testimonials.
It’s important to understand the tenure of an SEO agency’s clients too. How long have they worked with this SEO agency? Typically clients that have remained with the same agency for a period of time, either retained or on a project basis, will have great trust in each other, ensuring a better partnership which in turn leads to a more measurable return on investment. On the flip side, SEO agencies that do not deliver results will have a low retention rate.
It’s important to have realistic expectations and goals when looking for an SEO agency. Agencies offering a guarantee they can get you on page 1 of Google, not adhering to Google’s webmaster best practices and not willing to share methodologies should be avoided.
You can always do your own research and see where an SEO agency appears in search rankings. It takes time to climb search engine results and it’s competitive.Think about the size and locality of your SEO agency too as they will dictate fee level. Fees should be transparent so find out exactly what you’ll get for your budget.
Think about the size and locality of your SEO agency too as they will dictate fee level. Fees should be transparent so find out exactly what you’ll get for your budget.
An SEO agency should have a clearly defined process that is implemented following strategic thought based on an analysis of your needs – not an ‘off the shelf’ solution.An agency of note should be able to talk you through their approach and how they’re going to achieve your objectives. Their methodology should leverage all SEO angles such as the structure of your site and on page optimization like keywords, labels and metadata to off page backlinks which raise awareness of your content on other websites. Find out if the SEO agency has expertise in maximising visibility at a local level too.
An agency of note should be able to talk you through their approach and how they’re going to achieve your objectives. Their methodology should leverage all SEO angles such as the structure of your site and on page optimisation like keywords, labels and metadata to off-page backlinks which raise awareness of your content on other websites.Find out if the SEO agency has expertise in maximising visibility at a local level too.
Find out if the SEO agency has expertise in maximising visibility at a local level too.
Your SEO agency should agree on measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) with you. These should include SEO campaigns goals you agree on with a technical review at the outset.
Performance and Return On Investment (ROI) should be reported regularly (ie; monthly) using the likes of Google Analytics to track improvements. If there’s a drop in search engine rankings, this can then be tracked with measures put in place to push it back up. Search strategies often require frequent content updates so it’s important your SEO agency is accessible and able to offer guidance where required.
An SEO agency plays a vital role in that it should educate and inform, providing you with a greater understanding of the process, in turn enabling you to work closely to ensure overall objectives are achieved.
A good SEO agency will also be able to help develop external relationships such as other site owners and influencers.