Prune, Don't Purge

There's a worrying trend for 'good copywriting' sites and blogs to advise heavy-handed pruning of your content, in order to get it to the minimum necessary number of words that still carries your desired message.

Now, pruning is no bad thing - in fact I'd say it's a fundamental part of the proofreading and editing process. Shortening sentences helps to keep them readable and enhances clarity (generally speaking).

But purging - ridding your copy of every last word that might be deemed extraneous - raises the risk of ambiguity and can vastly cut down on the number of search-visible words and phrases your website contains.

Check out Google's general guidelines for sites with little or no original content.

Your site is at risk of a punitive ranking effect if it contains:

  • scraped content from other sites

  • keyword-heavy content created purely for search robots

  • primarily ads or unoriginal affiliate content

  • automatically generated content
Google specifically suggests that affiliate sites might want to add original content to their pages - reviews, product comparisons etc.

eFoliage

If each page of your site is a branch, then words are the leaves that grow upon it.

In search terms, little else is, as yet, easily visible to the search engines - images are indexed based largely on their captions, alt and title attributes, and other media formats need extra data to be included in order to be associated with the desired key words (search 'microdata' on Google for more about that).

By adding text, though, you create content that is easily search visible, fast to download and, if written well, engaging to users.

Authority and Authenticity

Google increasingly makes quality assessments of page content - rather than simply ranking longer pages higher, for example - so some pruning is still prudent.

Rather than minimising your word count, though, look at ways of using the space on each page more creatively.

Reviews and comparisons are good for affiliate sites, but for others they may not be quite right.

You could, if you wanted, use the spare room to answer some frequently asked questions - keeping visitors to your site on the product order page, rather than burying them in pages full of information, but with no way to spend money.

Alternatively, give a more in-depth description of your company and its commitments, and you could raise confidence levels among your visitors, putting at ease any concerns they might have about negative environmental impacts from your operations, or other such worries.

Grafting and Splicing

Finally, it's worth remembering that not all visitors to your site will arrive at the homepage.

Produce your landing page content carefully, and you can create microsites for different target audiences, multiple branches connected to the same central trunk.

Areas of your site can be targeted to specific geographical regions, others can focus on special offers and your cheapest (or 'best value') products, while others can highlight your premium products or services to those looking for something extra-special.

For all of the above reasons and more, there is nothing wrong with having a substantial number of words on your website. Search-visible, visitor-relevant information should not be needlessly pruned.

Instead, ensure that the words you do have are used wisely, incorporating a broad range of short-tail and long-tail keywords, covering all of the relevant product or service points, and encouraging your potential customers to make a purchase.

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