2017 was the year that technical SEO and content issues really came home to the smaller business world. Since SEO is relative to your competitors, often times, advances that may become necessary in the national and more competitive markets or on content and news sites don’t filter down to the small business world quite as fast, so they get away with breaking the rules for longer. Even as we try to work with our clients or push them to make their content more thorough or clean up their site, sometimes action isn’t taken until we see the traffic drop. Well, with the algorithm updates this spring, the summer led to a lot of tedious work expanding content and working with wordpress sites where indexing got out of hand or caused issues.
Often, small business owners don’t even know what hit them or why. They were doing great on their own and ranking well in their market, when all of the sudden, they noticed calls slowed, and traffic dropped. It was most likely due to thin content or even pages being indexed as thin content that aren’t even meant to rank. Often site owners accidentally have the following pages being indexed and counting against them as thin or sometimes duplicate content.
- a lot of calendar pages with the same basic sentence or two description
- blog tag pages:
- sometimes thin because you have used too many tags and many of them only have one or two post associated with them. The page then lists the tag and only a couple of headlines.
- blog category pages
- Similar issue with tags. It is more common for categories to be a more organized part of site structure so be careful here. They may be important pages. See below Warning.
- author or subsection pages
- I’ve seen author listing pages that worked similar to tag pages and have gotten sites in trouble, especially when the webmaster is always organized as the author and happens to put pages up that are just images or logos, etc. I’ve seen subsections like logos set up as an area of the site that might not necessarily want to get indexed but may be helpful for the users.
Warning: Some sites are organized in a manner where the categories or tags are important content for the site structure and actually are not thin, so you must be careful noindexing an entire section of a site. For example, a client of mine, DK Pittsburgh Sports, uses categories for each team it covers, and these are important pages on the site that should be indexed. The Yoast SEO plugin will allow you to noindex entire sections like the Tags or Categories section if you are not organized in this way, and can sometimes solve all of your thin content issues in one click of a box.
Another frightening aspect of this is that I have even seen clients set pages not to be indexed, only to go back and see the settings have defaulted back to indexing. Now this is a bit advanced and the fact that they even knew to do this was a bit advanced with SEO, so imagine when they did it and it didn’t stick.
With the latest algorithm really hitting home on “thin content”, the average url ranking on the first page of Google has over 2,000 words. Now this is all relative and a lot of these are news sites with long articles, but it also speaks to the fact that you need nice thorough content, which was always necessary, but many have been getting away with ranking without it for years.
I have always said if a product or service is important to you, you should have a page about it. Even if an aspect of a product or services is important such as targeting costs, you should create a page talking about the costs of that product or service. But that is not enough. I tell people now that you need the absolute bare minimum of 350 words on a content page, but even that is dangerous. I would assume at least 500 words and work to make it longer.
Google’s job as a search engine is to provide the best answer for a searcher’s query. Typically, this is a thorough answer that takes some well-written explanation of what your product or service is, the process you use to offer it, and why someone should choose you over your competitors. If you explain all of this on your page, but in a digestible format with pictures and bullets and headers, you will likely be ok. If most of your site is pages with less than 200 words, your whole site is going to drop off into the abyss.
So if you disappeared this summer or are just starting to wonder why your calls dropped off in recent months, it is very possible that this is part of the problem. We are happy to do a deep technical audit for you and pinpoint what issues you need to address. Other technical issues like broken links, poorly executed redirects, slowly loading pages, etc. can also lead to major issues these days. The margin for error for technical SEO is much smaller than it was earlier this year, so you need to understand what types of issues can really destroy your search presence and how to correct them. Give us a call now to stay on top of it.