Editor’s note: “Ask an SEO” is a weekly column by technical SEO experts Shelly Fagin, Ryan Jones, Adam Riemer, and Tony Wright. Come up with your hardest SEO question and fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!
This week for “Ask An SEO”, we have a question from Michael in Miami. He asks:
“I just did “automatic SEO site audits” with 5 different SEO sites which offer this as a free service. The top two SEO audits agreed that MANY of my pages have “Low Word Counts”. But it’s perfectly normal for most of my pages to have few words because this is not a blog. 97% of my pages contain Interactive Exercises for foreigners to learn English as a Second Language (ESL), all with 1) Video, 2) Pictures, 3) Audio, and 4) the Quiz itself. There’s text of course, but not very much, not enough to satisfy the analyses, one of which which says that Google wants to see at least a thousand words on each page which would be VERY difficult to do, and also completely meaningless when context is taken into account.
This bothers me a lot because it is marked as having HIGH NEGATIVE IMPACT on my SEO score, preventing me from getting more visitors.”
Great question. The first thing I want to address is “automatic site audits.”
There are no tools that can do this effectively or that you should trust.
A site audit takes a couple of weeks to do and required manual auditing of code, content, structure, rendering and page speed, etc.
Machines and tools cannot do this.
The reason is that these tools are using generic concepts to look for specific things, but those things are not applicable across every website or to all situations.
This is why you are getting these failures.
It doesn’t mean you have an actual problem.
It means the tool isn’t designed to audit for your specific situation.
My personal opinion is that using a quick automated tool is the equivalent of spamming blogs and forums for backlinks.
It is looking for quick short wins without considering your specific situation.
This can also lead to a lot of trouble in the long run.
In your question above, if you start adding tons of content only to appease the tools, you could create a bad user experience and spammy experience for search engines.
You may pass the automated audit but you could also be doing damage to yourself.
Your instincts sound right, but I also don’t know what your website is so I cannot review it to see.
There are spiders like Sitebulb, DeepCrawl, and ScreamingFrog which crawl your website and find potential issues.
The difference with these (especially DeepCrawl and Sitebulb) is that you can define what you are looking for and set boundaries so the spider is in line with your goals and your website’s specific nuances.
You can use these tools to discover potential issues and save time, but you also have to do the work and know what to have them look for.
But just like the “automatic site audit”, they do not know why things are the way they are on your website.
What is an issue for them is not always an issue and could have been done on purpose for SEO.
Basically, don’t freak out if you fail a test.
Take a deep breath and evaluate whether the tool is right.
For your question about your pages have little to no content, let’s jump into the answer.
Most things in SEO are situational and need to be looked at as such – whether it is a tool, or a Googler giving a response to a question.
It probably does not apply to your specific situation, so do not take it to heart and apply the advice.
That is mistake #1 that many people make.
If your pages do not require 1,000 words, then don’t worry about writing 1,000 words.
Instead, write what you need to have to provide a clear and concise experience, and then add in any additional resources or examples that are needed. This includes:
- Word counts.
There is more you can do as well.
Here is a starting point:
- Check to make sure each page has:
- A clear title tag.
- H1 tags that define the page’s main topic.
- Alt tags and descriptions on all of your images.
- Internal links to help guide visitors and search engines to your most important pages.
- Breadcrumbs across the site especially if there are multiple lessons and chapters in your courses.
- Look for schema that matches each of the elements you have on your pages. Without knowing your specific situation, here are a few types you may want to look at:
- Learning resources
- Video (for an embedded video type): There is another video type schema so use the most relevant to your content and page.
- Course: Because you are providing a course, this could be relevant for some of your pages.
- Check your page for speed. It sounds like you’re going to have a lot of requests for resources and files. If you can get any wins with page speed, this should work in your favor.
Low word counts are not always a bad thing.
Sometimes the best result is a simple one to three sentences.
The important thing to remember is that a tool doesn’t know what your website is about, or what should be on your page to provide the best experience.
Tools show warnings as a general best practice, that is why you need to dive in and evaluate each warning or hint on your own.
I hope this helps.