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.

6: Keep Doing SEO

8 Steps to Increase Traffic to Your Website: Part Six

Keep doing SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) because, you’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again…

SEO is dead.

Long live SEO.

The Reports of my Death are Greatly Exaggerated.

As Mark Twain so eloquently put it, just because people have said “SEO is dead” it doesn’t mean that it’s true.

We heard this term many years ago and we are hearing it again. And for many reasons too.

1. AI Can Do SEO

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been touted as the “next big thing” including threats that it will “take our jobs away”.

Well, bots and AI might well be answering initial customer enquiries, as they have for many years now. You call your insurance company, you are met with an automated service. Eventually, after hopefully not going round in circles, you end up talking to a real human being in a UK call centre who answers your query in an efficient and friendly manner.

In the web business AI has also been touted as being able to “do your PPC” for you. Well, we’ve tested that out and we still don’t believe Google’s PPC bots can do a better job of managing an AdWords account than a real human does.

The same goes for SEO. How can a bot log in to your website, scan all your text & code and then, most importantly, make the right changes in the right places that make sense, read well and get you results? They can’t.

A person with 20 years experience of designing and building websites, writing eloquent text, editing it and marketing it through every digital channel can do a much better job than a bot. And that’s just one member of our talented digital team here at Clever Marketing.

2. Google Steals Using Featured Snippets

Years ago you used to ask Google “convert litres to gallons” and you’d get a list of the top ten websites that provided you with that answer.

Now Google will just present that answer themselves. Try it. Look up “convert litres to gallons”.

That is Google’s own engine delivering the result. You don’t need to go to anyone’s website for that result, not like you used to. This is all part of their “knowledge graph” and what amounts to “zero click searches” where a result will have appeared in the search but there was no click through to a website and no organic traffic (Because Google took the answer and displayed it for itself).

It’s the same for “what is SEO?: Big G pulls it’s own dictionary reference.

(Google did use it’s own definition but, 10 months after we published this post, that ad changed for a Wikipedia article)

If Google aren’t displaying a result from their own fold then they’re stealing yours. Ask it “what are featured snippets?” and the result is pulled from Sistrix’ website. But at least the search giant gives the credit for the source and a link too.

So just because Google pulls results into featured snippets doesn’t mean that SEO is dead. Far from it. In fact optimising your website for search is more important than ever.

3. SEO is Evolving

All that has happened is that search has evolved, especially with the world’s biggest search engine.

Of course it can be frustrating when Google crawls the web, picks the best answer for a question and displays the full solution in their own results.

Ultimately this serves the client, the user, the searcher and, if they’re not satisfied with the answer, they can at least keep searching or click a link that Google has been kind enough to provide.

But within this threat lies that golden opportunity. Keep doing SEO.

Because if you do all the hard work and your site gets chosen to be the featured snippet then that is kudos in itself. You didn’t get to the “number one slot” you went above that – you ranked in the “position zero”.

And besides, if other website owners believe that “SEO is dead”, then what exactly are they going to do? Give up SEO? Great, that’s an advantage you can leverage. Use PPC instead? That’s fine. Keep doing your PPC and do your SEO. You can then set about to get your site in the coveted Cost Per Click (CPC) slots and ranked high in the organic Search Engine Ranking Pages (SERPs) too.

A Final Word About SEO

SEO will never die. You will always need to optimise your web content.

Every time you publish a web page you will need to ensure your title tag is correct and that the meta description accurately and enticingly sets you apart from the surrounding results.

Does your document have correct structure? Is there just one h1 tag supplemented by hierarchical h2s and h3s etc?

Have you written enough about your subject matter? When I hear the words “That’s too long, nobody reads that” I always say that the anecdote needs to be backed up by the data.

We saw a recent horror story where a designer said this very same thing and had a website owner poised to jettison 60 pages of authoritative content. It was only when our digital agency stepped in and raised an objection that the website’s rankings would plummet and so would the traffic that 16,000 page views and 20% of their organic traffic was saved.

Besides, an experienced SEO team had spent two years optimising that website and a design team were going to bin all that hard work (and many thousands of pounds worth of financial investment).

So, where would that website have gone with a slick design and no content? Down the pan most probably and no amount of SEO work would have saved the meagre thin content left behind.

Get Us to Do Your SEO for You

So keep doing SEO. It still works. And if you don’t have the time then call us and ask us to do it for you. We always get positive results and we generate leads from your traffic too.

Keep doing SEO - Hampshire SEO company Clever MarketingWe’re one of the best SEO agencies in Hampshire so your business will benefit massively from tapping into our wealth of expertise (Our Digital Marketing Manager has been doing SEO since 1998)

So call Hampshire SEO company Clever Marketing on 01276 534 680 or fill in the really easy contact form and we will be more than happy to pass on our expertise.

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.

5 SEO Myths Debunked - Hampshire SEO agency Clever Marketing

5 SEO Myths Debunked

Starting a business isn’t always easy, especially when you’re looking to expand and grow. In order to develop your business you need to make sure you have a strong digital presence, and that means  “playing ball” with the search engines. This can feel like an uphill battle at first, especially if you don’t really know what you need to do – just that you need to do something. To help you out, we’ve put together a myth-busting blog post all about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Read more

Google Mobile-first indexing

Google Starts Indexing Mobile-First

The Google search engine has always crawled and indexed desktop sites. For a long time that’s how we all consumed websites – on once-expensive desk-bound Personal Computers.

Then when laptops became affordable, they started to become the new desktop machines [I’ve got two on my desk right now – Ed]

The mobile web took longer to take off as the technology needed time to catch up. Think about the first phones you used to browse the web – Our Digital Marketing Manager had a Nokia 7110 phone which was WAP enabled. He could browse a few lines of monochrome text-only versions of websites, if they existed, using his phone’s numeric keypad and a scroll wheel. That was 1999 when The Matrix was in cinemas.

It took quite a few years for phones to really be useful enough for web browsing. The full-screen experience of the iPhone wasn’t around until 2007 but that was when the marketing blurb said:

“Apple reinvents the phone”

The iPhone was really a glorified iPod touch with phone functionality but it revolutionised the world of mobile phones. We could now see a full-colour full-size screen with more than those few lines of monochrome LCD.

Fast forward to December 2009 and we saw predictions from Morgan Stanley that mobile would “eclipse desktop internet” within 5 years.

By November 2016  we had the statistical data to prove that mobile and tablet internet usage had indeed exceeded desktop for the first time.

However, it has taken the search giant Google until March 2018 to finally say that they are now rolling out “mobile-first” indexing. In a Webmaster Central Blog post, Google said they’d been “carefully experimenting” for a year and a half and were now ready to start indexing.

Why is Mobile-First Important?

Because we had historically built websites for desktop PCs, mobile versions were once an afterthought. It was a right pain as well because designers would have to create a pared-down version of a “full fat” website and serve the version dependent on who was visiting from which device. The markup language was also different so websites were effectively produced twice, once for desktop and then the other version for mobile, often text-only in the days of WAP. [We’re back to that with Google AMP – Ed]

Then we started to see “mobile-first web development”. It meant we had to consider mobile users first and build websites to address these limitations. Websites designed for the desktop are often full of text and images and this doesn’t always transpose well to mobile. Then there are the file sizes, big images, the size of the text, do you have to pinch and zoom to read, are the links so close together that you could click the wrong button and are you scrolling sideways to read a webpage? Not so good is it?

Mobile-first design addressed this by making sure that pages were designed in such a way that all these issues were dealt with so that both mobile and desktop users were satisfied.

Personally I think we’ve gone so far that we quite often see websites on desktop that are so obviously built for mobile but just happen to be served up on “the big screen”. The telltale signs are utter simplicity, no clutter, clear links and that giveaway “burger menu” icon.

What’s so Important about Mobile-First Indexing?

Because mobile is now the dominant mode of search, desktop takes a backseat there too. Google used to crawl the web, visit your website, look at the desktop version and then index that site in the search results.

The problem with this is that not everybody has kept abreast of developments and there are a great many websites that still don’t provide a good experience for mobile users. However, the most important sites have caught up and any brand or developer worth their salt has produced mobile-friendly websites.

What this means for website owners without the knowledge, the budget or the means is that they will now start to see more visits to their website from Smartphone Googlebot. Mobile versions of websites will be indexed first and foremost, including Google’s cached versions.

If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website then your desktop version will still be indexed. However, Google is now urging webmasters to start making the move to mobile because, reading between the lines, this “amnesty” isn’t going to last for ever. Sooner or later the desktop versions of websites will start to suffer in the SERPs and that can only mean one thing – Your traffic will go down.

When your traffic goes down you’ll lose leads and sales will be affected and, in general, your website will not be as effective as it has been in the “golden years”. But this is a new age and it pays to keep up.

So, website owners, it really is time to start going over to mobile.

Clever Marketing - Hampshire Digital Agency - SEO & PPCDo you need help with going mobile? Clever Marketing aren’t just a premier Hampshire digital marketing agency but also your first choice when it comes to web design and development.

We will be happy to discuss the next mobile-friendly version of your website and you can be sure that we’ll give it our utmost attention when it comes to making it SEO-friendly too.

So call us now on 01276 534 680 or fill in our easy contact form.

How do I Rank Higher on Google?

How Do I Rank Higher on Google?

That’s a good question, and you’ve definitely come to the right place to find the answer. As Farnborough’s premier digital marketing agency, our Digital Marketing Manager alone has nearly 20 years’ worth of experience in the field of Search Engine Optimisation, so let’s hear from him…

Read more

Build it and they will come - doesn't work if you don't SEO your website

What, Your Web Designer didn’t SEO your Website?

“What, Your Web Designer didn’t SEO your Website?” might sound like a flippant remark, but it’s quite common for us to say it. The situation usually goes something like this…

We’ll be talking with business owners about how things are going…

CMUK: “How’s your website doing?”
Client: “Very good, thank you, everyone loves how it looks.”

CMUK: “Are you getting much traffic?”
Client: “Oh, it’s halved since the new design went live last year!”

CMUK: “Is it generating leads?”
Client: “No, it never did and it’s not now! Please help!”

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 tell-tale 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 tell-tale signs for another blog post but first, let’s look at the whys and wherefores.

Why Didn’t They SEO Your Website?

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 “ahs” 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 before, and 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?

OK, So What Now?

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” theme or 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 and Hampshire SEO agency with a great many years of experience, we have a solution for you.

Clever Marketing - Hampshire SEO & Digital AgencyPick up the phone and give us a call on 01276 534 680 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 and an SEO audit 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?

Every Business Needs a Website, Right?

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? Read more