Running any type of blog or website requires written content. Without content, search engines have no way of judging the relative value of your site, nor can they rank it accordingly for things like search terms, informational value, etc.
So most website owners invest time and/or money into content marketing, and look for tools or tricks that will help them rank higher in search engines. The problem is that many web owners have taken a thoroughly unscientific approach to copywriting, and while they may experience some success, they are essentially spreading myths that could be holding them back from creating a quality, well ranked website.
The best way to understand this problem is by understanding why researchers control variables in their research studies. For example, let’s say I’m testing out whether or not coffee causes an increase in blood sugar. To do that, I have one group refrain from coffee altogether, and I have another group drink as much coffee as they want at their leisure, encouraging them to drink coffee, and coffee related beverages etc.
In 5 years check their blood sugar and I find that the experimental group (the group that drinks coffee) has higher blood sugar on average than the control group. I assume this means that coffee causes an increase in blood sugar, and that’s the conclusion I draw. But in reality, coffee probably doesn’t cause any increase in blood sugar. Rather, the increase in blood sugar is caused by:
- The sugar people add to coffee.
- The cream, chocolate, etc. that people add to coffee.
- The pastries people buy at the coffee shop when they get their coffee.
I didn’t control for any of these variables, and all of these are far more likely to be the reason for the increase in blood sugar.
This is the same type of issue that has occurred in the content writing world, and it’s caused dozens of copywriting myths that many people still believe to this day. My personal favorite example came when I was contracted out to do writing for an SEO company. The company asked me to conform to their own “proven” standards. The standards were as follows:
- Write 50 pages per month.
- Use at least 5 subheadings.
- Bold the keyword.
- Use a keyword density of between 2 and 3 percent, no more or less.
- Write a minimum 500 words.
Etc. The list went on. They’d been marketing for years to their clients that they’d cracked the code to what Google values in terms of content writing. And, indeed, they had a great deal of success. They even wrote a book claiming the above list was necessary to reach highly in Google.
This Subheading is Apparently Important
But look at the list again. Google, and other search engines, are designed to provide users with the information they need. Their goal is to ensure that they are a valuable tool for helping others find the information they need via their keyword.
The SEO company assumed that the reasons for their success was all of the above list. But realistically, why would Google care about a bold keyword? Why would Google care about 5 subheadings? Why would Google punish a page for being 450 words instead of 500?
The reality is that this SEO company essentially believed their own fake science. In all likelihood, the websites they made were successful because they had 50 pages per month added of quality content, because content supplies information and search engines like websites that provide information to others. The bold text, the subheadings, and to a lesser extent the word count and density – none of these mean that a website has more or less information than any other website, so the likelihood that they bring any value is slim to none.
These websites didn’t test normal text vs. bold text. They didn’t test 500 words to 499 words. They didn’t test 5 subheadings to 4 subheadings. They simply through it altogether, saw success, and believed that they cracked some super-secret code.
The truth is that search engines want websites that provide the readers with value, and the only thing that contributes to that is quality, well written content. The rest is simply pseudoscience in action.
Author Bio: Micah Abraham is a content writer for Great Leap Studios – www.greatleapstudios.com.