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It's Only Words

There are just three areas of influence available to a Search Commander effecting change to a website through SEO: content, links and traffic. Change just one of these enough and you'll notice a change in your website's rank. However, these tactics are not weighted evenly and none of the SEO tactics may be regarded as quick and easy wins. This post surfaces the experience of a Customer whose website design vision didn't include too many words.

Bee Gees Words holy trinity SEO

The Bee Gees have, in their world-dominating back catalogue, a song entitled Words with a lyric that goes: It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away. For me, this Bee Gees' song represents the holy trinity of SEO. Because, like it or lump it, words are all you have to take your website to the top of Google. Words are the Barry Gibb of SEO. Without words your website has no focus and no meaning.

Web pages without words are like the Bee Gees without Barry Gibb.

Howard Pease Architects' hamburger menu CSS stylingWe recently re-launched a website for Howard Pease Architects. This is the fourth version of the website that Sub@omic's been honoured to have built. The difference with this fourth generation website is that, rather than leaving the website architecture to us, our Customer had a very clear mandate for how this responsive website had to look and function. Howard, the business' principle Architect, had observed friends, family and Customers using social media and realised that people consume media in a linear fashion, continually scrolling up/down a timeline.

The extremely linear website (project-named 'whitehaus') we built under this strong directive is, I have to say, perhaps the cleanest and crispest website we've had the pleasure of producing - we're especially proud of the look of the menu that is presented with a tap of the hamburger menu icon. There was, however, a problem noted shortly after launch. The website that whitehaus replaced had a fair Google ranking but this crisper, cleaner, pared-back website, with its eight pages and a single page scroll approach, had a far smaller surface area and lacked words on the page. In creating a clean, pictoral user experience for website visitors, the website retained its #1 ranking for brand searches but lost visibility for 'product' searches.

The web pages which highlight the characteristic and offer us an opportunity to learn, were the project pages in which the Hertfordshire Architects' new build, extensions and conservation work are displayed. All these pages were headed by a short introductory paragraph, followed by a succession of full-width architectural photographs with no supporting text.

These project pages are regarded by the Architects as their prime selling pages which allow them to show off their design expertise. The characteristic that evolved into a problem was that Google disregarded these project pages and the search engine excluded them from its index. Consequently, the search engine visibility that the architect's practice lost was for search queries containing the concepts of new builds, extensions and conservations.

We'd flagged the unavoidable shrinkage early-on in the build but, as the practice earns much of its work through word-of-mouth recommendation, the characteristic wasn't top priority. Tackling the loss of visibility was scheduled but then COVID-19 hit and priorities changed so that the website was able to work harder and rely upon more than the Architect's good name.

Howard recognised the need to send the website out to work during lockdown and quickly signed-off on the reactive build of 15 optimised landing pages. Central to this website 'extension' was a need to uphold the original design vision of a deep-scroll, image-led website. So the second phase, involving the writing and placement of copy seeded with relevant words, was the building of a click-and-reveal feature into all pages. Rich copy was now included within the page but was placed such that SEO copy didn't interfere with the Architect's original vision for the website.

The Holy Trinity of SEO

So, Howard Pease Architects' website offers us the context to explore the Holy Trinity of SEO. There are different approaches to the optimisation of a website for Google traffic. Content is, very often, tackled last because it's wrongly regarded as the least attractive. No matter how good your link building is and no matter how good your social media content marketing is, neither has the impact or meaning that writing quality content has.

The number of inbound links a website calls its own and the volume of traffic a website entertains are valuable SEO indicators; but both mean next to nothing, in the context of SEO, if Google crawls your website and completely disregards valuable pages because of a lack of content (words). Writing and placing quality content is the prime foundation for SEO. Without words on the pages of your website, Google will have measurably less trust in and confidence about the meaning and purpose of your website.

It's only words...

Writing great website content is the hardest job of all those asked of a Search Commander. Don't shrink away from writing great content - unlike links and traffic, great content has true meaning and genuine value outside of the website. Time spent writing words is time well spent. Don't allow logophobia to creep into your marketing. Words are your website's frontman, the asset that captures and holds attention, the focus of media attention; words are to your website as Barry Gibb is to the Bee Gees. Without words, your website is empty, devoid of meaning and of absolutely no relevance to Google or the searchers she* represents. It's only words, words are all you have, to take their hearts away. Take it away, Barry...

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