When creating copy for your website, it’s important to remember that spiders and robots cannot make assumptions like a human. Fun wording and branding DO NOT help you rank in the search engines. This confuses the spiders and takes away from your relevance. Doing that also means you will, at some point, lose your rankings to a competitor that wants to provide a relevant experience. This is one of the reasons websites that clearly state the purpose and the intent of the page can rank better. But let’s explore that a bit.
I talk with a lot of engineers from multiple search engines at conferences and outside of work (like doing a shark swim in Belize), and there is one thing in common with virtually all algorithm engineers I’ve met. They are logical. If it doesn’t serve a purpose or have a reason for performing a task, the engineer doesn’t understand why they should have to do it. This is one of the most important distinctions between programmers, coders and engineers who work on algorithms and ones that work on websites.
A prime example was at a recent conference where shark and alligator swims got brought up. Someone mentioned to the engineer that “sharks have teeth”. The engineer said “dogs have teeth too”. In the mind of the engineer, a dog and a shark are the same because they both have teeth, which means they can both bite, both cause damage to you, and both animals can kill you.
You were probably raised around dogs and are thinking about a pet that is commonly referred to as man’s best friend. You may also picture a killer shark eating flesh and pools of blood when you hear sharks have teeth. But that is because you are human and can make assumptions. Let’s think about this from an algorithm developed by engineers who follow logic.
Teeth on it’s own will generate an image, or at least a concept that needs a response. But teeth on their own are not enough to determine the intent of the person searching for them. That is where the engineer who programs a search engine spider and algorithm comes in.
Is it a single tooth, or a set of teeth, and what is the user looking for:
- A definition
- What they are made of
- Are they sharp, flat or a mix
- How are they used
- Do they grow back
- Facts about them
- Illnesses based on them
- What is the size
- Does it have a specific color
You pictured something inside your head, but the algorithm has to think about what it means, why it’s there and what the person is searching for. So it uses what it knows about you. This is one of the reasons cookies and tracking is important…so quit blocking them,,,especially if you’re frustrated with not finding good answers in search engines.).
Next it takes what it can learn and applies some filters to the search results. But remember, the algorithm can only learn from what it knows including past search history, pages you went to (including those pages titles because you clicked through, the content, etc…).
We’ll stick with the example above and use “sharks teeth”. By adding shark to the query “teeth” the algorithm is given a new task but still needs to make decisions about what to display and how.
Should it show:
- Images for them
- Videos for them
- Content for them
- Merchandise like jewelry, fossils or diagrams
- Diagrams and infographic information
- Audio clips
- Live streams
- News articles
Maybe the intent is for content. That takes the search engine spider to the next step.
Is the person looking for:
- How often they regenerate
- How many rows of them are in a specific shark’s mouth
- Is it a comparison between species
- Where they can find them or go digging
- What the damage looks like when one bites
- Can it cut through X or Y material
- The sizes and shapes by type of shark or ocean
- FAQs about them
Now it needs to go to another level.
- Who wrote this content and why should it be trusted
- Is the experience of the content formatted properly and easy to locate within the page
- Does the page have the best possible explanation
- Will the person reading understand the language or is it written in latin, an alternate language if they search both in English and Spanish for example, or with jargon and scientific explanations for a PHD or marine biologist
Then the algorithm makes other logical assumptions based on the single query. These assumptions happen quick, seamlessly and again, are based on what the search engine can gather, but this is also based on the collective minds of the engineers who write the algorithm’s code. So if you think about the phrase “a shark has teeth”, and “so does a dog”, get rid of your assumption that one is friendlier than the other.
Both have sharp teeth. Both are hunters that eat meat. Both can rip you apart, eat you and never think twice about it. That is how you must think about your copy.
- Is it branded and fluffy or do you clearly explain the content whether it is a product for sale, a service or an answer?
- Have you given the best possible experience contextually from words to videos and images to code?
- Will something that cannot make assumptions or understand what you are saying and clearly know when, to whom and how to display it?
- Have you defined expertise or given reasons this is authoritative and trustworthy? ( how to do this is for another post)
If the above is even remotely questionable, then there’s a good chance that is why your content isn’t ranking well. This is where I start when doing content audits for sites whose pages have great code and load times, but they don’t rank. Below is what I look for at the beginning of each audit by the type of page.
Does the content define what the product is, and talk about what the product or does? Or does the content talk about the product mix within the page and focus on getting the person into the sales funnel? If yes, to the first question, then you are hurting yourself. A category page is for shopping. The person already knows the product.
If you sell accessories like a case for an electronic, don’t write about the electronic, write about the experience the user will have with the case that is designed for it. Talk about how the case’s features are designed to enhance the experience of the product. You then want to write modify the tone, tense and directive of the content so the goal becomes getting them into your sales funnel. If there are sub categories or other options, use internal links to define how to find them.
This part needs repeating! If you sell an accessory for a product, don’t talk about the product, talk about how your accessory works with it. People who want accessories already have the product, they want to know if your addons are compatible and meet their needs. This issue is more common than you’d think.
Ask yourself, “do the answers give an actual answer or are they blog posts?”. If the question is “how much does it cost”, do you say XY costs $ABC or has a price range of DEF. If it is a product specific question, don’t say “Our” or your brand name. Answer in general. If you add “your brand” or “ours” to the content, you’ve changed the intent of the content and who would be searching for this specific answer. It is now only for people who have shopped for your products (because you said our or your own brand) and it is not the best possible response for people currently shopping who haven’t purchased.
The next issue with FAQs is that content writers include fluff and branding. This is the worst thing you can do to it. Questions and answers are meant to provide a quick, fast and clear solution. If you don’t do this asap, or you add in fluff, the chances of you keeping a ranking or getting an answer box are slim to none. You’ll also have a competitor that eventually finds someone like me who redoes their content, takes over your answer boxes, then takes your rankings, and all because we focused on the consumer and their needs, not branding and fluff.
Do you talk about the product, the solutions and make it clear the person can purchase from this page? If you’re talking about anything else, then you are not providing a good experience. All content on these pages should be specific to the product including specs, compatibility, unique reviews and ratings, alternates if there is a common one, etc… After writing the content, think about the topic. If the topic could be more general, and is not about the specific product and its benefits, then it belongs on a more general page like a category.
There are other types of pages like lists, blog posts, author pages, bios, about us, locations, etc… If you’d like me to do an audit of your site’s content and SEO, or if you are an affiliate manager and want an audit of your affiliate program’s partner sites to help scale it, use the contact form here and I’ll get you a quote. BTW, I rarely edit my own writing, especially on this blog. The content clients get is much, much better lol. But if you made it this far, you probably already know that.