You may have heard the phrase du jour in internet marketing circles: “Content is King”, and then ran across a home page that ranked well enough that you found it on Google’s first page of search results yet it didn’t have any content to speak of and wondered how that can be. What is that website’s secret sauce for being the exception to what Google has been advising for years regarding giving them good content, and the more the better? How were they able impress Google enough to put your website in front of your intended audience?
Content – Too Much for People, Not Enough for Google?
You may have assessed your own thin content on your home page and decided to add paragraphs of text and then read somewhere that all that text is just going to lose your audience but figured if you don’t please Google first you’re not going to have any audience to lose in the first place so loaded up your front page with tons of information. What you may not have realized is that Google doesn’t expect all that great information to be on your home page. It’s just looking for links from your home page to your content, or links to topical pages or service offerings that in turn link to more pages about that topic or service.
Your Home Page May Rank Better than Your More Relevant Interior Pages
You may put a lot of effort into building up your service pages with links to and from relevant blog posts only to find that the page Google puts up in its results page is your home page, even though it’s rather thin on content regarding that topic, or any topic at all. That’s because Google will defer to the home page figuring the information there provides a better idea of what your whole website is about compared with the one page or article that you have intentionally optimized for the keyword they are searching for. That also answers the question of why a home page with thin content can get ranked even though Google has said they don’t want to dish up thin content. It’s the quality content on the interior pages that Google is looking for to get your site ranked but in many cases it’s the home page that they display on their results page.
One reason Google may prefer a thin content home page to a more relevant and informative service page is because the home page has more authority. This is the page the majority of your inbound links are coming to so has more “votes”, so to speak, than an interior page.
Your Topic or Service Page May Rank Better Than More Relevant Interior Pages
Just as a home page may rank better than a service page for keywords that are more relevant to that service page a service page might rank better than a blog post that better targets that service keyword. For example, I might have a blog post about “guaranteed ranking” but for that term my Guaranteed SEO service page will be the one Google dishes up for those searching for “guaranteed ranking”. In fact, I have several blog posts about “guaranteed ranking” which all have an excerpt on my Guaranteed SEO service page so add to the content for that page. By themselves they don’t have much authority for this topic but when linked to from Guaranteed SEO they each lend a little relevancy and authority to that page. Though those blog posts are more relevant to “guaranteed ranking,” the authority of Guaranteed SEO trumps that relevancy and becomes the favored page in the eyes of Google.
How Does This Translate Into SEO Strategy?
Keep these things in mind when designing your website:
- Content is King – but don’t put much of it on your home page.
- Your home page is for skimmers, not researchers. They will only give you about two and one half seconds to figure out if your site is what they are looking for. Don’t clutter it up.
- Create links to more detailed information through your navigation bar, blog post categories list, latest blog post titles and excerpts (or just titles to reduce clutter), latest Twitter feeds, or other methods to introduce featured or more in-depth content to draw your readers to, for those inclined to be researchers and not just skimmers.
- Divide your site content up in a way that makes sense, such as service pages for a service industry or product categories for ecommerce.
- Categorize your blog posts according to the way you have divided up your content in #4.
- For those individual content divisions you have created viz a viz #4, include blog post excerpts and/or titles (that link to the full post) from that category to increase that page’s authority on that topic. If you are using WordPress or a similar Content Management System it’s easy to find a plugin that will generate excerpts according to whatever blog post categories you want to use for any given page. For example, for my Guaranteed SEO page I have a short introduction to the topic followed by titles and excerpts from the last 20 blog posts I’ve written that I’ve assigned to the category of “guaranteed ranking”, which of course I could have categorized as “guaranteed seo” but had already picked “guaranteed ranking” as a blog category before I decided to improve my ranking for “guaranteed seo” and build a service category page around that topic.
- Organize your site structure in three tiers like this: www.homepage/service category page/detailed post. For some industries it might make good sense to use 4 tiers like this: www.homepage/service category page/detailed page or post/more detailed post. Here’s an example: www.seattlelawoffice/personal-injury/nursing-home-abuse or alternatively: www.seattlelawoffice/service-areas/personal-injury/nursing-home-abuse or even www.seattlelawoffice/service-areas/personal-injury/nursing-home-abuse/local-nursing-homes-sued-for-abuse. Notice that last one is a 5 tiered architecture which is pushing it. I definitely wouldn’t use more than 5 tiers and use a 5th tier only for supporting documents that are not exactly on-topic but relate to the 3rd or 4th tiers in some way. Sometimes more tiers are needed to arrange your site content in an orderly manner but the more tiers you have the more clicks it takes to get to the last tier and at some point Google is going to consider that “too many” clicks for ranking purposes. If you’re not trying to get those pages found in search but are simply added for informational purposes then there isn’t much to worry about.
As you can see just creating a ton of content for your site is not always going to be helpful, even though Content is King. How you arrange that content through linking and site architecture is important to how well. Using site architecture that makes sense enables Google to better recognize your authority on your topics and transfer that authority to your home page and have that page be the one that Google serves up to web surfers looking for what you have to offer.