Google’s Matt Cutts posted a very amusing head-only, bodiless video of himself to emphasise the importance of the ‘body’ on your website as well as the ‘head’, and how the two should match. It might sound like good old common sense to many of us, and possibly that’s why he didn’t labour the point, but clearly he thought it needed to be brought to site owners’ attention as a reminder.
The body versus the head
So, while the head (title tags, headings and so on) is pretty clear, what is the body? Well basically in this context, Matt Cutts is referring to site content. Despite the constant emphasis these days on quality content being a core metric used by search engines, it seems that not everyone is getting the message about the importance of body content to SEO. And even among those who are, sometimes a few extra pointers are needed.
The overarching point regarding site content is that of recognising that you are creating it for real people and not for Googlebots, and that all your content should be user-centric. This should always be the starting point, before anything else is tackled. So how do you go about getting your body, or your website content, right? Here are a few tips, and things to keep in mind:
Quality of written text:
- Make sure all your content is unique. Avoid duplicate and auto-generated content at all costs.
- All site content should be information-rich, relevant to your business, and useful to your audience. For ideas on creating great content, see our previous article on this topic.
- Always use correct grammar and make sure all text is free of spelling errors and typos. If you find this difficult to tackle or you don’t have the time, consider hiring the services of a professional content writer.
- Make your text concise, and get to the point quickly. If you take too long to reach the punchline, people might get bored and switch off.
- Make sure blog posts are not too long, and don’t contain a lot of padding or wasted words to get the word-count up.
- Keywords are important, but don’t overdo them or make them sound unnatural in the text. No stuffing!
- Use plain language. You are writing to everyday people here – not trying to win a literary prize.
- Pay attention to visual aspects such as formatting, fonts, text-size, margins, colours, and spacing. These can make or break the readability of content.
- When reading online people often tend to skim text to get the gist. Break up content into digestible chunks and make use of sub-headers and bullet points to facilitate this.
- Headers and sub-headers should also be unique, concise, eye-catching and information-rich.
- When writing numbers, use numerical rather than word formats.
- How you set out written content is important. Start with the most important information at the top then break it down underneath that.
- Make use of graphs, charts and/or infographics to reiterate or summarise sections of text.
Other page matters:
- Avoid too many links on the page, and don’t have irrelevant links. It’s also important to remove broken links.
- Use testing tools to check out the readability of your content.
- Test your site on different browsers to see how it looks and works.
- Use A/B testing or Google Experiments to test different page layouts.
- Check out other websites to make note of the features that make it user-friendly, readable and attractive, and use this information to improve your own site.
- Familiarise yourself with Google’s guidelines on site quality and content.
Basically it all comes down to seeing your website from the perspective of your users. Think about what you want to offer, and how you want to present it so that it is most appealing. Another way of putting it is to say that you should create content almost as if search engines don’t exist, but you still want to offer your audience the best, and you take great pride in your business and its activities. Think about it that way, and you won’t go wrong!