In this article I am going to talk about a very important part of my online strategy for 2012. And while this article describes my strategy, this strategy is something you should consider for your website as well. The year 2011 has shifted things around quite a bit and while it was already important to have good content on your website, the level of importance has gone up dramatically. I have already started implementing parts of this strategy and will expand on it even further for 2012.
So, what is the content strategy I have in mind for 2012?
Content has to be exceptional good. You probably heard the phrase that content is king, but in 2011 this phrase has turned out to be no longer true. The new mantra is that great and exceptional content is king. In February Google started rolling out a recurring series of updates. Initially the update(s) were labeled as “Farmer Update” because Google started cleaning up its index from low quality content that can be found on so-called content farms. A content farm is a website that recycles content from other websites or that use low-quality content and then optimizes this content for search engines with the only goal to make money from advertising. These content farms did not provide really a great user experience. All these “farmers” wanted was to attract visitors through the search engine optimized content and then have the visitors leave – but through one of the advertisements. Read more about Panda here.
Now I have to say first that I do not consider my websites as content farms and while some of my websites make money for me through advertisement the main goal for me has always been to provide helpful information. However, the Panda Update has affected some of my websites quite a bit and I have lost some income and visitors accordingly. As an example I have a very large web hosting tutorial related website with over 400 pages of content (tutorials, web hosting reviews, etc.). That website has been referenced from many trusted sources (including DMOZ and Wikipedia) and it ranks well in certain areas, but since February I have lost 50% of my visitors due to Panda. Of course Google does not really tell you what is wrong with your website and so you have to read up on what the outcome of Panda has been for many other websites. Anyway, it is important to learn from what Google expects from a good website and to adjust as needed. Google is the main search engine followed by Bing. Bing has implemented similar filters, just not as harsh as Google + traffic from Bing is way lower.
What’s the perfect length of an article to rank well in search engines
About 2 months ago I started experimenting with my content. I write quite a few articles and blog postings per week and in the past it was sufficient have an article length of at least 400 words. 400 words seemed to have been the magic barrier for decent or good Google rankings. So, since then I started expanding first to 600 words minimum per article, then 800 words, and now I am experimenting with articles that go past 1,000 words in length. I am not sure that 1,000 words is the magical number, but I think the sweet spot is definitely 800 words per article or higher.
Writing such long articles requires a different approach to content. It is important to plan articles correctly because you do want to avoid that the quality of the article suffers by trying to extend the length of an article. While certain things can easily be described in 500 words, the same article might look weird and awkward if you expand that article to 1,000 words. Artificially stretching an article will not help you. So, articles need to grow in size and so the new approach to content requires a change.
How to increase the article length without being boring
My content goal for 2012 is to expand my content in such a way that the reader has no other choice to keep reading and reading. Not only is it a good thing for my search engine rankings to keep the visitor longer on my websites, but it also gives me the opportunity to further engage and to connect with the visitor. The more you are able to engage communication with the visitor, the higher the chances to turn a visitor into either a buyer or into a return visitor or into a visitor who sends his or her friends over. So, content needs to be structured well. If I was providing a Top 5 list of certain items I would now expand the list to Top 10 items. Another example would be to take an article from a high level view and turn it into a deep dive review about a certain topic.
Why do you need sub headers
Another important point to consider is how the article is laid out. Finding a good structure in regards to sub-headlines and paragraphs is important. Especially sub-headers can be a key to great success. I have to admit I have not been using sub-headers in articles as much as I probably could have. Now I want to use sub-headlines to further raise the interest of a reader. They also function as a map through the article. You probably know for yourself that many people will skim through an article first before they decide if it’s worth it to read the entire article. Sub-headlines will help to achieve that specific goal. Imagine a visitor skimming through the article and getting caught by sub headers that catch his or her interest. Now imagine the same article without sub headers – all the visitor sees are paragraphs of text – statistics show that most people will click away because it is too much effort to read all that stuff not knowing what one would really get from the article. If you look at this article, go back and only look at the sub headers. Do those sub headers help to make more visible what this article is about? I think they do.
Conclusion: In this article I talked about how important the quality of web content is to avoid ranking issues especially with Google. I also talked about what needs to change and how I am planning on implementing the necessary changes. If you have read the article all the way to the end you have read an article with over 1,100 words. You have read an article that has sub headers and you have read an article that is informative and helpful. It raises the question how your own existing content measures up and if you should consider a similar strategy. Let me know what you think. Please leave a comment below and maybe even share it on Facebook to see what friends and customers have to say about it.