If any organization should nail the fundamentals of SEO, it’s Google. After all, Google wrote the rules behind online search and holds the keys to the algorithm.
It’s a little like knowing the words for a spelling bee before the spelling bee takes place. Sure, it still takes knowledge to win it, but the preparation isn’t nearly as onerous as trying to learn the entire dictionary.
To test this theory, I randomly snagged a post from the Android blog, “Feeling all the feels? There’s an emoji sticker for that.”
Any litmus test for on-page SEO starts with the title tag which tells Google what the heck is on the page.
Here’s how Google puts it:
Accurately describe the page’s content
- Choose a title that reads naturally and effectively communicates the topic of the page’s content.
- Choosing a title that has no relation to the content on the page.
The title tag is valuable real estate. You not only want to describe what’s on the page, but also anticipate how the target audience will search for this content playing to the algorithm. The goals of the title tag differ from the headline which is crafted with a single mission: prompt a human being to keep reading.
If you don’t take the time to insert a title tag, most CMS systems will automatically suck in the headline as a default title tag. That’s exactly what we see in the case of this Google post.
At the risk of slipping into the weeds, note that the H1 tag repeats the title tag mistake and no keywords have been feathered into the Alt tags (to describe images), a missed opportunity for Google Image Search.
Back to the big picture —
The Need for Speed (And a Proper Meta Description)
Speed on mobile devices is also a critical signal in determining whether the search engine will serve up your content. Again, let’s hear directly from Google, this time a 2018 missive on its developers page:
Speed is now used as a ranking factor for mobile searches
Users want to find answers to their questions quickly and data shows that people really care about how quickly their pages load. The Search team announced speed would be a ranking signal for desktop searches in 2010 and as of this month (July 2018), page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches too.
Tapping Google’s own speed tool for mobile devices, I plugged in the post which produced this result:
You would think out of all of those talented engineers, someone could help this blog deliver a speedy experience for the user. BTW, it seems to be an issue with the entire Android blog, not just this single post. I hear Alanis Morissette singing “Isn’t It Ironic” in the background.
On the positive side, Google did take the time to craft a proper description for the post.
The point is, executing the fundamentals to optimize an online page — which includes the quality of the content — will generate what we’ve come to call Earned Search (organic traffic).
What Does Google Say About Length of Post?
SEMrush just published a report based on analyzing over 700,000 blog posts (h/t to Frank Strong), highlighting that posts of 3,000+ words get 3x more traffic, 4x more shares, and 3.5x more backlinks than articles of average length (901 – 1,200 words).
This topic deserves additional context.
We know that Google is keen to deliver high-quality content for online searches. The length of a post can be a sign of research and deep noodling, but there’s no guarantee that’s the case. What the SEMrush study can’t analyze because they don’t have access to the data is the average time on a given post/page, a core signal to Google on the quality of the content and whether to serve it up.
I’ve heard people say that of course longer posts perform better for organic search. It takes longer to consume the content, which in turn generates a higher average time on page. Certainly, the algorithm takes into account that shorter posts will take less time to read.
I just don’t see length as being important. Three-thousand words of bad stuff won’t perform better than 500 words of bad stuff. Instead, it comes back to serving the audience, whether that be insights for their jobs, pure entertainment, or in the case of the Google post, helping consumers gain more enjoyment from an app.
The Google post on emoji stickers came in a “whopping” 265 words. To make sure this wasn’t an outlier, I checked the average word count for the past 10 posts on the Android blog — 549.
Google doesn’t seem to care about word count.
Then again, this is the same company that doesn’t seem to care about title tags either.
Side note: If you enjoyed this post, check out an SEO experiment we conducted in our lab, “Why SEO Is a Natural Fit for the PR Industry.”