Quality content provides for a great user experience, but how much content is needed to support your SEO? Is more content a good thing for SEO or not? Google webmasters on their SEO Mythbusting show go into detail to answer these questions. Let us take a look!
The specific topics discussed include:
Updating the same type of content each year vs creating a new one.
Introduction to the episode.
How much content should I have and to what extent does this help my performance?
Does having a blog / producing new content help my performance on Google?
Updating older pieces of content.
Is there any way that Google tells us if there’s ‘too much content’ or maybe that content is underperforming?
Underperforming content and the overall trustworthiness or authority.
Grouping and consolidation of one’s content.
Is the word count a ranking factor?
Specific keywords and word count.
Auto-generated content & canonicalization.
How does Google determine duplicate content?
Updating the Same Type of Content Each Year vs. Creating New Content
LILY RAY: So what would you say for a publisher type of website that might talk about the same topic every year, maybe the content is a little bit different, but it’s largely the same conversation? Like, let’s say they’re talking about a certain type of skincare treatment. And they talk about it in 2017 and 2018, and 2019.
MARTIN SPLITT: Right.
LILY RAY: Do you think they should take the same piece of content and update it each year, or should they have three different pages for that topic?
MARTIN SPLITT: Well, if it’s– it depends on if it’s an incremental change that happened, as in, like, if the skincare routine is pretty much the same as it was last year, you can maybe rephrase it a little bit. But I would say you update the existing page and maybe just reposition it somewhere more prominently on your website for the visitors to see. But I wouldn’t create a new page that basically says the same thing because, especially when they’re really similar, we might just think one is a duplication of the other and then canonicalize them together, no matter what you’re doing canonical tags.
Hello and welcome to SEO Mythbusting. In this episode, my guest is Lily Ray, SEO Director at Path Interactive, and we’re going to discuss an interesting topic that you might want to learn more about. What is it that you brought for us today?
LILY RAY: We’re going to talk about if too much content is a good thing for SEO or not.
How much Content Should I Have and to What Extent does this Help my Performance?
MARTIN SPLITT: Hmm. All right. So what is it that people believe about this? What is the questions that you keep hearing and wonder about?
LILY RAY: Yeah. I think a lot of companies think that maybe content is good for SEO, so we should produce a lot of it because it will help us rank for a lot of different keywords. And maybe we should put out a new blog post every single week to the point where their website has thousands of blog posts, and maybe they’re not performing really well. So I think a lot of people have a question about how much content should I really have and to what extent does this actually help my performance.
MARTIN SPLITT: That’s a really good question. So I think, just going back to the basics, your key is to provide information to your users, right? How much content is good for that depends a little bit on what you’re doing. If you’re a news site, then sure, cover as much of the happenings that you can, but if your website is about a specific product, then there is only so much you can say about it. And just keeping rambling on in a single page is not helping you much.
LILY RAY: Right. So you would think that maybe having a blog that talks about industry updates or things that are relevant for that company is worthwhile, but maybe not to just produce content for the sake of producing content.
MARTIN SPLITT: Not for the sake of producing content. If you have something like if you have a product that is very versatile, and different users or different customers are using it in very different ways, then this would be an interesting thing to provide, basically say, like, oh, look, our product can be used for this. Our product can be used for that. But just for the sake of content, that’s basically the same as having light content or useless content, really, and then you’re just spending– crawling, and you’re spending resources on things that are not performing much.
Does having a Blog/Producing New Content Help my Performance on Google?
LILY RAY: Right. Is, like, the presence of a blog and showing Google that you’re producing new content something that helps your performance overall, as a kind of site-wide factor?
MARTIN SPLITT: Not necessarily. I mean, it is not a site-wide factor, but if, again, your blog or your website is about something that is basically happening on a regular basis or it has a lot of updates to it, then that can help you bring relevant content to users that would otherwise maybe not find your website, especially if your users don’t know about what you’re doing, then the blog that reports on current events or developments can actually help people understand that, oh, there’s this company that does this interesting thing.
LILY RAY: Right.
MARTIN SPLITT: But it doesn’t change your search performance or ranking or anything. It’s just providing something relevant and useful to users that is going to help you. If you’re just putting it out to have a blog or if you’re just like, hey, we will just have content that keeps updating and changing without actually giving value to the user, then that’s not helping much.
Updating Older Pieces of Content
LILY RAY: So if you have an older piece of content, would you recommend that if it’s a high-quality piece of content, do you need to go back in there and make updates? Or should you only do that when something significant has changed?
MARTIN SPLITT: I think you should update it if something significant has changed for sure. If nothing has really changed, what you can do instead is you can write something different, new content, have a fresh piece of content, and just link that other piece of content to say, like, hey, by the way, this is referring00 this is not about, necessarily, search relevancy or anything, but it’s more helping the user understand that there is other interesting content for them. And it’s keeping them on your website, making sure that they get the information they were looking for.
Is there any way that Google Tells Us if there’s “Too Much Content” or maybe that Content is Underperforming?
LILY RAY: Definitely. Is there any way that Google tells us if there’s too much content, or maybe that content’s underperforming? Can we look at our crawl stats to figure something like that out?
MARTIN SPLITT: So crawl stats are a bad place to look at this. Because the fact that we are not crawling something again does not mean that we are thinking it’s bad or it’s good if we’re crawling it often. What’s more interesting would be to look at the Performance Report, for instance, in Search Console. If you are seeing that you get a lot of impressions but not that many clicks, you might want to change something about the content. If you are getting a lot of clicks through it, but then you see in your analytics that actually not much action happens, then you can ask yourself, is the traffic worth it? Or do I need to change my content there? There’s no such thing as too much content. It’s just– again, think from the user’s perspective. What is the thing that I want the user to understand, and is the user interested in spending time on a page where they need 27 minutes to read everything?
LILY RAY: Right.
MARTIN SPLITT: You get to decide.
Underperforming Content and the Overall Trustworthiness or Authority
LILY RAY: Definitely. If there’s a lot of content that’s not necessarily performing well on the website, could that be something that kind of brings down the overall trustworthiness or authority of the website from Google’s perspective?
MARTIN SPLITT: That depends a bit on what is the reason for it not performing. If it’s spammy content, if it’s very thin content, then that can bring you down a little bit in terms of, we might just spend crawl budget on pages that are not performing or not even being indexed anymore. And you might actually want to avoid having spammy content and bad content, especially if you get penalties or manual actions; you want to definitely clean up there. But besides that, it is usually a good idea to see, oh, this piece of content really does not perform well. Let’s take it down or at least change it, right?
Grouping and Consolidation of One’s Content
LILY RAY: Sure. And what would you think for companies that have something like a help center, where there’s a lot of content that answers very specific questions, but maybe it’s only one or two sentences per page, and maybe they have 500 pages of that nature? Would you say that’s something that they should remain indexed on Google, or how does Google treat those types of pages?
MARTIN SPLITT: That’s a really good question. That might be treated as light content, as like thin content, and not necessarily useful. I would try to group these things and structure them in a meaningful way. If it’s a question about a specific range of products, then you can group all these questions together to one page. Or, if you have questions in the category of troubleshooting or operating the thing that you’re trying to sell, try to group this together to have more dense and helpful pages in one go. Because how likely is it that I have exactly one question?
LILY RAY: Right.
MARTIN SPLITT: If I have one question, I might have a follow-up question, or I might have a similar question. So putting these all together is a good idea.
LILY RAY: So grouping it together. I think that’s one common theme that we talk about a lot in the SEO world now, is kind of consolidation.
MARTIN SPLITT: Yes.
LILY RAY: So do you think there’s a case to be made for one– maybe you have two pieces of pretty similar content, and they would be better as one single article. So doing a lot of merging and redirecting.
MARTIN SPLITT: Definitely.
LILY RAY: That’s something that Google’s kind of appreciative when we do those types of things?
MARTIN SPLITT: We have less crawling to do. That’s great. We also know where to send the users, then. And there’s a chance that if you have similar things, that these come from organizational reasons. Like it’s one department thinks about it and another department thinks about it, and none of these two talk to each other. So if you consolidate that, you bundle more relevancy and information in one place, and that makes it easier for us to figure out, oh, yeah. This is a good site. Check this out. And get the user this information, rather than cannibalizing each other or just like being duplication.
Is Word Count a Ranking Factor?
LILY RAY: And what about word count? SEOs are always asking, is word count a ranking factor, which I think Google’s talked about quite a bit recently.
MARTIN SPLITT: We’ve talked about this quite a lot. And it’s not a ranking factor. If you can say what the user needs to know in 50 words, that is fantastic. If you need 100 words, that’s cool. If you need 2,000 words, that’s also absolutely acceptable. It’s, again, about trying to figure out what’s the intention. If you see yourself repeating yourself multiple times and saying the same things over and over again in the same document or on the same page, what’s the point?
Specific Keywords and Word Count
LILY RAY: Yeah. Well, let’s say you’re in a situation where you’ve written 500 words for a specific topic or keyword that you’re trying to rank for, and you see all your competitors have 4,000 words or something like that. Even though word count’s not technically a ranking factor, that’s probably a good indication that you need longer content, right?
MARTIN SPLITT: I mean, it depends. Just because other people are doing it doesn’t mean that they’re doing it right.
LILY RAY: Right.
MARTIN SPLITT: Right? So if you see them rank high, that might not continue to be that way just because they have a high word count. Again, try to understand what is it that the users need. Maybe the larger word count just accidentally hits the right bits of information that people are looking for and actually fits the query intention of the user better than what you’re writing. In this case, if you can reformulate it so that your 500 words are better, then go with that. Don’t be the school kid that goes like, furthermore, as I was saying, just, like, to fill in–
Auto-Generated Content and Canonicalization
LILY RAY: Unnecessary language, yeah.[LAUGHTER] And what’s the criteria for determining if something is spammy or auto-generated? So take, for example, if you have 50 location pages for 50 states and you want to talk about the business, which is largely the same in all those places, but you basically just swap out the name of the city and maybe add a couple of facts about that city, for example, how does Google perceive those pages?
MARTIN SPLITT: That’s a really tricky one. Because either they work or they don’t.
LILY RAY: Right.
MARTIN SPLITT: So generally speaking, if you are using generated content and that is really relevant and good, and a human sees this and goes, oh, I like this, you’re probably on the right track.That can work for these pages where you have different information for different cities, but it’s pretty much the same kind of formula behind it. If you have enough facts around it and there’s relevant information in there that changes city to city, that might really work. It might also not. If it’s too similar, and you basically– we see that in places like Germany, sometimes, that there are literally two sides of a river. And then they are having two different pages for this, but they say pretty much the exact same things. Maybe, like, five words are different or something like that, and maybe a few numbers here and there, like a different number of people there, or whatever. Then we might just consider one a duplication of the other and not put it in the index. We might de-dupe it and eliminate it from the index. And then there’s not much you can do. If we think it’s the same kind of content, then what’s the point? Why would we show the same content on multiple URLs? Then we come back to canonicalization, really. But if you have information that is good enough and different enough from the other bits and pieces, go for it.
LILY RAY: OK. So you would encourage businesses
that are in that position where they do need to target highly localized keywords, that it’s OK to have those pages, but really invest in making them as unique as possible.
MARTIN SPLITT: Make them relevant and helpful for the user. The user is the key here, really. And if you’re just copying data over from one place to another, is that that helpful?
LILY RAY: Not exactly.
MARTIN SPLITT: Not exactly.
How does Google Determine Duplicate Content?
LILY RAY: Can you talk a little bit more about how Google treats or how does Google determine what duplicate content is? What’s the threshold for duplication?
MARTIN SPLITT: I’m actually not sure what the threshold really is, but I know that we are basically fingerprinting the content, and the fingerprint is done in a way that allows us to say how similar is it. use different similarity metrics and figure out, OK, so this is pretty much– 95% of this is the same thing. We see– Again, we see that in the German-speaking countries a lot where, for instance, a shop operates in Switzerland and Germany and Austria. All of this is in German, and then they have the same products, and the price is slightly different due to whatever reason. Switzerland has a different currency, but that’s pretty much the entire difference. Maybe they use a few different words because the local dialects are different.
LILY RAY: Sure.
MARTIN SPLITT: So you have 1,000 words in each of the product descriptions, maybe, and reviews and whatnot. But the price is different, the currency might be different if in Switzerland, and there might be like five different words or something like that. We consider them all to be the same. And then you can actually shoot yourself in the foot when you are trying to canonicalize all of them, because we’re like, that’s not a helpful signal. Because we determined that what you think is individual pieces of content is actually kind of the same thing. But hreflang and help, again, and make sure that we are surfacing the right version. So we might only be indexing and canonicalizing one of them. But we will be showing the different versions of these, depending on where the person who’s searching is located.
LILY RAY: Got it. So use hreflang. There’s different dialects and different regions–
MARTIN SPLITT: Definitely, if that’s your issue, but if it’s literally just the content is slightly different because maybe you have different prices or something like that, then we would consider that the same content.
LILY RAY: Got it.
MARTIN SPLITT: Thank you so much for being here and talking with me through all these questions regarding content and what is good content and what’s too much and what’s not enough content. And this was really helpful and interesting, and thanks so much for making it here.
LILY RAY: Thanks for having me. I think you answered a lot of questions that I have and my clients have. So I really appreciate it.
MARTIN SPLITT: Hopefully, this will be useful for everyone out there, and thank you very much for watching.
LILY RAY: Thank you.
MARTIN SPLITT: So the next episode we have Barry Schwartz visiting, and we’re going to be talking about SEO community and Google and how we can, you know, make the relationship better, hopefully.
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