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Low Word Count’s Impact on SEO

What issue is this page dealing with?
Learn how to identify pages with low word count, fix them, and prevent publishing pages that lack value. Emphasise providing real value to readers over just increasing word count and consider incorporating different content types like videos for a more engaging experience.

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What I cover here

If you’re writing content on your website, there needs to be enough of it for the page to become substantial. For those amongst you that are pondering, what if the user is searching for a quick answer? Something that doesn’t require a lot of content? Then that is where Google’s rich snippets of data come into play.

Prior to this, you may have had a case but if a user is searching for what is 2 plus 2, is it worth rendering a full website for the answer? This doesn’t mean you have to write War and Peace in order to get your point across but provide something substantial enough to readers, this can help if they have follow-up questions or perhaps need additional context to better understand your topic. This can have an impact in regards to SEO; you are being graded on answering a question or providing information in a well-rounded and informed way; if you leave some information out you may lose ground to some competitors.

Additional content also has secondary benefits, it is highly likely as you expand on a topic you will go into more detail, and this can often open up benefits around long-tail keywords. You can essentially draw in audiences searching for one topic but in multiple ways; it’s a really big advantage when you really drive content on your site in a fulfilling way to the user; perks do come when you invest time in writing well.

How do I find pages with low content on them?

This is often covered by all major SEO auditing tools, providers like Screaming Frog, SiteBulb, SEMRush and Ahrefs provide varying levels of detail into this problem. If you are using a CMS such as WordPress, there are bolt-on plugins such as Yoast which can provide direct feedback on the content you’re writing – grading blog posts and pages based on their SEO ability, this includes both length and tone. I’d always recommend validating the URLs provided by these tools on a case by case basis, sometimes the crawlers can not render the page properly.

A secondary way you can check for pages with low content, although indirectly, is through Google Search Console. I often look for pages within the Coverage > Excluded tab, mainly under both Discovered – Not indexed or Crawled – Not indexed, as there is often an underlying factor and content can be a big player with this.

How do I fix pages with low content?

It’s not as simple as you think; it’s not like an essay for school or college whereby you can just bloat all the content on the page; it’s incredibly important that you look to increase the value of the page and not solely the word count. Are there topics following on from the main discussion point you want to touch on? This can likely satisfy any secondary questions they have, or perhaps some new updates have occurred? Always look at this through the lens of adding further value to the content. It’s not always the best move to try and fill the page with assets like images and videos, which can cause issues with too much HTML too, especially if you are bloating it.

Spend time on building out the content to a minimum of 300 words, don’t fixate on the word count unless it’s very low, and focus on providing real value from the mindset of the reader. Make accompanying information voluntary too – meaning if I want to know a fix on how to change an iPhone setting; I don’t want the history of the iPhone, I want the fix with perhaps the option to read more about it too.

How to prevent publishing pages with low content?

It all comes down to the research, ensure you cover all angles and secondary follow up questions. If the content is fully comprehensive and you’re hovering around the character limit, it’s not a big deal, just consider if your competitors can flesh it out further with more value; if they can work on it some more. If you are really at the limit with nothing more to add, fine – a handful amount of pages with <300 words isn’t going to damage SEO – if you have a track record of putting out thin content on most pages, this will likely be the pressure point that impacts your rankings (against competitors that are really adding more value).

More thoughts on low word counts

  1. Don’t be tempted to go with AI written content; it’s not worth it. The AI bots nowadays can create OK content that can pass sometimes as human but it’s really not worth it on a sustainability front.
  2. Don’t be afraid to hire third-party help with content, let’s say you sell ingredients to bakers, if you have someone who has never baked a loaf of bread in their life writing content on how to bake bread, to people who do it for a living, is going to get very embarrassing very quickly.
  3. Options are always good with content too – video is great partnership with written words, some people prefer reading, some watching; it’s all about that value and satisfying the visitor with the right information.
  4. You may also see this error surface within other tools under a different name, although it is slightly different in nature, I’d recommend becoming familiar with low text to HTML ratio errors.

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