Does Google Still Need Text?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That might be true when you’re trolling your ex-wife’s Facebook page, but it’s not true for Googlebot, the software Google uses to crawl, index, and rank websites. If you want your website to rank well on Google, you better make sure that you have a decent volume of relevant, well-written content on every page of your site. Don’t believe me? Check out this video of Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam, talking about the importance of having text on your site:
In the video, Cutts explicitly says that Google still wants plain text. Although their technology is constantly improving, they’re not going to use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) any time soon to translate the text in the images on your website.
What We Know About Text and Organic Rankings
In late 2012, we created a piece of software that crawls the web and analyzes websites. Our software reviews and analyzes every single measurable component of a website— from which analytics technologies the site is using to SEO related factors like the uniqueness of the title and meta description tags and the site speed. The software then generates an SEO score, which is based on everything we know about how the search engines rank websites organically.
We have a lot of clients in the home service industry, so the first two analyses we performed were of the HVAC/plumbing and the window/door industry. All in all, we’ve reviewed more than 9,000 HVAC/plumbing company websites and over 3,000 window and door websites. As you might expect, this process has yielded some amazing insights. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve uncovered more about HVAC/plumbing and window/door industry websites than just about any other online marketing company in the world will ever know!
One of the things we found is that websites that rank well organically tend to have a lot of text-based content on each page of their website. The highest ranking HVAC and plumbing websites have, on average, nearly 900 words per page. Content appears to be even more important in the window and door industry. The highest ranking window and door sites had, on average, just north of 1,600 words per page.
Adding Text without Destroying Conversion Rates
A lot of business owners and web designers mistakenly assume that lots of on-page text equals an ugly, cluttered website. With proper coding, nothing could be further from the truth. By utilizing modern coding techniques (HTML5, JQuery, etc.), it is possible to make great looking websites that also include a lot of plain text (which can be useful for Google AND human visitors alike).
Take a look at Sealy’s website:
How many words would you guess are on the page above? Would you have guessed 1,027? It’s true — Sealy’s homepage has over 1,000 words on the page! Most people guess 150-200 because they don’t realize that Sealy’s web team is using a combination of a well-formated mega-drop down menu and a JQuery slider in the footer to elegantly conceal* most of the content on the page.
*It’s worth noting that hidden content done incorrectly can get your website penalized by Google. Before you hide text, be sure to consult Google Webmaster Guidelines and/or a web designer/developer that is very up to date SEO best practices.
Here’s another example of a site that uses JQuery to increase the text on the page without killing conversion rates.
Take a look at Window Nation’s website:
Window Nation uses a tabbed area to add text-based content to their homepage without adding clutter.
Closing Thoughts & Takeaways
A picture that might be worth a thousand words to you isn’t worth squat to old man Googlebot. In a way, you have to treat Googlebot like a brilliant kid that lacks common sense. We’ve analyzed more than 100,000 websites from an SEO perspective and there appears to be a very strong correlation between the amount of text-based content on the site and how well it ranks on Google.
Adding text to your website doesn’t have to make your site look like crap. With modern website coding techniques such as HTML5 and JQuery, you can hide text in a way that is beneficial to visitors without Google penalizing your site.
Contact us to learn more about redesigning your website for SEO and improved conversions or submit your URL / web address below and let our team do a free analysis of your website:
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
View more blogs by Ben Landers
“We are very pleased not only with the end result, but with the entire process of working with Blue Corona. The amount of patience, guidance, and knowledge that they displayed throughout the whole process made them a very easy and enjoyable partner to work with. We are thrilled with our new website, mobile site, and content management system. We would recommend Blue Corona for any website development or redesign project. ”
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