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SEO experiment: does webpage text position influence keyword rankings?

SEO experiment: does webpage text position influence keyword rankings?

SEO experiment: does webpage text position influence keyword rankings?

home / WordPress

Text content is one of the fundamental elements of on-page SEO.

In the SEO industry, we often speculate about possible unconfirmed factors used in Google’s ranking algorithm, however it’s clear that the search engine tends to favour sites with high-quality text content.

Though it’s undoubtedly true that text content is important, the qualities needed for text to have the greatest SEO impact are less obvious.

There are many questions around text content that remain unanswered: How much does the amount of text on a page influence rankings? What is the ideal length of text content? How much do spelling, grammar and overall readability factor into how Google treats a webpage?

Alongside these questions around the qualities of text content, another area which receives a lot of speculation involves the position of text content on a page. SEO and web development professionals often use the phrase ‘above the fold’ to describe content which is within the browser window when viewing a webpage, without needing to scroll down.

Content which is contained ‘above the fold’ has been widely speculated as having more impact on SEO than content contained further down. In practice, this would mean that keywords contained here would have greater impact on a page’s rankings. However, the validity of this speculation is still relatively unknown.

On one occasion, when asked whether Google treats pages differently depending on the position of content, John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, responded that it, in fact, did not:

However, on a separate occasion, Gary Illyes, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, stated that where content is placed on a page can impact rankings. He noted the impact on mobile devices specifically, where text displays differently on mobile and desktop devices:

With this confusion in mind, we set out to answer one of the most asked questions around text content in SEO… Does the position of on-page text content have an influence on SEO rankings?

our method

To answer this question, we decided to conduct an experiment.

This was designed to test a specific hypothesis: that text content containing keywords, which begins further down a webpage (especially out of the user viewpoint), will be penalised by Google in terms of keyword rankings, and will rank lower than webpages where text content starts at the top of the page.

If this hypothesis is proved to be correct, then we would know that the location of key text content is a Google ranking factor.

choosing keywords

To conduct this experiment, we began by creating a keyword that did not have any pages ranking in Google’s search results. This was done so that Google would have little information about the term used and users would not be searching for it, thus ensuring our experiment results would be fair.

We created the word ‘larantigranolo’, a fictional new product, as our keyword. Our next step was to create a series of websites to serve as test environments, in order to observe the SEO impact of text content placement.

We created five new WordPress websites, each with 300-word articles about larantigranolo. The content on these sites treated larantigranolo as a new type of coffee that “everyone is raving about”:

Each website’s content also included a mention of the fictional, made-up region larantigranolo coffee comes from, ‘heventizazar’, as a secondary keyword to track.

All five websites contained the same number of keywords mentions, with the two target keywords positioned in similar locations throughout. The only significant difference between the sites was the position of the heading and text content.

The target keywords used to measure results were as follows:

  • larantigranolo coffee
  • larantigranolo
  • heventizazar

You can see the content for the experiment websites at the addresses below:

  • prekenolosusa.uk
  • wendevantoi.uk
  • hajinadanlo.uk
  • narimatoos.uk
  • pasrengenio.uk

It’s important that we point out the caveats to our experiment. As with all SEO studies, the order in which each site was indexed by Google may have impacted the end results, although all domains were registered on the same date and content was published on the same date. No domain had any prior history before we conducted this experiment.

To ensure that we kept each site on an even footing, we avoided ever clicking through to the sites from Google’s search results, and no links were built to any of the sites. In addition, each website had only a single page, to ensure no other content influenced the rankings of the studied pages. All sites also used the same WordPress design and structure.

results

To determine whether our hypothesis was correct, we tracked the keyword rankings of each of our five websites. Over the course of two months, we monitored which websites gained visibility for each term.

The top performing site in terms of rankings was prekenolosusa.uk. This now ranks first for both ‘larantigranolo coffee’ and ‘heventizazar’. This is also the website where the first keyword mention within the text content is highest on the page.

These rankings were verified using rank tracking software which emulates different locations, as well as manual, incognito browser checks.

The prekenolosusa.uk domain started to rank well for our target keywords in May 2021, eventually reaching number one positions in June:

Based on the performance of this site, our hypothesis seems to be correct – that content which begins higher up on a page ranks better in terms of SEO for relevant keywords.

However, other domains in the experiment are not directly in-line with our hypothesis.

To show this, we have created the tables below, comparing how far down text content is on each page against the ranking for each tracked keyword. For ‘position on page’, 1 is highest on the page and 5 is lowest on the page.

For the keyword ‘heventizazar’:

For the keyword ‘larantigranolo coffee’:

For the keyword ‘larantigranolo’:

Although not every domain’s ranking correlates with the position of text content on their page, the page with the highest-positioned content does rank higher than all other domains for two thirds (two out of three) of the tracked keywords.

Below, we show how mentioning the keyword earlier in the text content also correlates with rankings for our target keywords.

In this chart, first/second/third paragraph refers to where each site had its first keyword mention in the text content. The site with keywords in the first paragraph ranks in position one for both ‘larantigranolo coffee’ and ‘heventizaar’.

In the chart below, we show how this performance changes when the average position of all three keywords is taken into account. Here again, the ‘first paragraph’ website still ranks at the highest average position.

However, in both charts, we can see that the site which had its first keyword mention in the fourth paragraph of text is ranking higher than we would expect.

This may be due to factors other than on-page text. Although we registered all the domains and published content on the same date, it’s possible that Google discovered this website earlier than others, and has treated it differently as a result.

In addition, although the amount of text content is the same and the structure is similar across our five experiment websites, the use of language or sentence structure may have had an unforeseen impact on keyword rankings.

In any case, our overall results confirm that the often-used logic, that keyword mentions ‘above the fold’ and as early as possible within text content, is sound.

putting the results into practice

The findings from this experiment results can be used to inform how webpages are created and designed from an SEO perspective.

For long-term SEO strategy, website designers and content producers should bear in mind that ‘above the fold’ text content containing target keywords is likely to result in improved rankings.

It would be prudent to consider whether image carousels, videos or graphics are best placed at the top of webpages. The results of our content experiment suggest that textual elements, containing keywords – such as paragraphs and bullet point lists – should be placed highest on the page to maximise SEO performance.

Over time, perhaps we will gain further clarity from Google around how text content placement influences its ranking algorithm.

This study was conducted by Pedalo WordPress agency.

WordPress website launch checklist

WordPress website launch checklist

WordPress website launch checklist

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Are you launching a new WordPress website?

We know how daunting the process can be, and how easy it is to forget something. So we’ve put together this handy 10-point checklist to make sure your WordPress website gets off to the best start!

1. check your objectives

If you’re reading this blog, your WordPress website is probably nearly ready to launch, and your initial plans and goals may have evolved and changed dramatically.

So, now is the perfect time to go back to your original objectives and check that your new WordPress design is fit for purpose. Why are you building a new site? What do you want your website to achieve?

Make sure your WordPress website is meeting your needs, including conveying your key messages and appealing to your target audience.

2. configure Google Analytics

Google Analytics is an invaluable tool which tracks website data and provides stats including visitor numbers, the most popular pages, user demographics and much more.

By collecting this information, you can base any decisions about content and website updates on real data. It’s therefore vital to set up Google Analytics on your WordPress site before you go live, so you can monitor performance from day one.

3. set a launch date

Although unforeseen circumstances can, of course, throw things off track, it’s a good idea to set a realistic deadline for launching your WordPress website – and then to stick to it!

This will keep your project moving forwards and ensure all stakeholders are on the same page. It also means you can schedule in time for training, marketing and other important website launch-related tasks.

4. check content

A website isn’t a website without content! Make sure to discuss with your web agency whether they’ll input content as part of the design process or if you’ll need to do it yourself.

It’s worth making a list of all content needed (including text, images and videos) and ticking it off as it’s added to your new WordPress site. We also recommend including a second, proofreading check – ideally by someone who isn’t familiar with the website, as they’ll have ‘fresh eyes’ to spot any errors.

5. complete training

As WordPress is a very user-friendly system, you’ll probably want to make edits and add content yourself once your new site is live.

Ask your web agency to provide training to show you (and any other team members) how to add and amend content, check site security, access plugins and do anything else that might be useful. This will ensure you can enhance and update your WordPress website post-launch.

6. get indexed

In order for your WordPress site to appear in organic searches, you’ll need to ensure it’s indexed by search engines. Google does this automatically, but you can help speed-up the process by submitting a sitemap or asking Google to re-crawl your website.

We also recommend setting up Google Search Console, which analyses website and SEO performance and suggests improvements. For more info on getting your WordPress site indexed, check out the advice on Google Search Central.

7. spread the word

When your new website launches, you’ll want to encourage as many people as possible to visit. As well as giving you immediate web traffic and engagement, this also helps with search engine rankings.

Make sure to spread the word about your new site using social media, email newsletters and any other marketing channels you have. You may also want to write a blog or article about your website and submit this to other sites as a press release or guest post.

8. check speed

As soon as your new WordPress site is live, we recommend checking site speed. You can do this with Google PageSpeed, a free online tool which includes mobile and desktop scores plus detailed recommendations for speed improvements.

With rapid loading an important factor for both SEO and user experience, hopefully your new site will have been designed with speed in mind. It’s good to get initial scores which you can benchmark over time and as you make website changes.

9. schedule backups

A backup is essential in case your site ever gets hacked, infected or encounters another major problem. Therefore, it’s important to schedule regular backups as soon as you launch your new WordPress site.

WordPress backups can be scheduled automatically either with a plugin or through your WordPress agency or hosting provider. For more information, read our blog about how to backup on WordPress.

10. plan ongoing maintenance

Your WordPress website needs ongoing maintenance to keep it up-to-date and functioning optimally. WordPress maintenance tasks include scanning for security issues, cleaning your database, updating WordPress software, and checking SEO performance.

WordPress maintenance should be planned and scheduled regularly in your diary. Alternatively, you may prefer hire an agency to provide WordPress support and maintenance services for you.

 

Good luck with your WordPress website launch! Please do share your WordPress web links with us – we’d love to see them.

For more expert WordPress tips, check out our Ultimate WordPress Optimisation Guide and other WordPress blogs.

improve your WordPress bounce rate

improve your WordPress bounce rate

improve your WordPress bounce rate

home / WordPress

Would you like to improve your WordPress website bounce rate? Read on…

what is bounce rate?

A bounce is a single-page visit to a website.

Bounce rate is therefore the percentage of single-page visits on a particular website. In other words, it’s the number of website visitors who don’t navigate around or explore any further than the page they landed on.

For example, imagine you have three visitors to your WordPress site homepage. Two click onto other pages in your menu but one exits straight from the homepage. Your bounce rate would be 1/3 or 33%.

Since most website-owners want people to stay on their site and browse multiple pages, a lower bounce rate is generally considered better. A high bounce rate may suggest that your content isn’t interesting or engaging, and that visitors want to exit your site quickly.

how do I check bounce rate in WordPress?

The best way to check and monitor your WordPress website bounce rate is through Google Analytics.

You can add Google Analytics to your site with either a plugin or tracking code. For more information, read this blog about how to add Google Analytics on WordPress.

Once you have Google Analytics set up, you can either visit your account dashboard or go to ‘Insights’ in your WordPress back-end to check your bounce rate stats.

does a high bounce rate matter?

It all depends on what your site is trying to do, and why people are ‘bouncing’.

A well-designed WordPress website with lots of interesting content is more likely to keep users engaged. This means that users are more likely to click-through to other pages, thus keeping your bounce rate low.

If your site relies on people looking at multiple pages – for example, browsing events and then clicking through to book – then the lower your WordPress site bounce rate, the better. In this case, a high bounce rate should definitely be investigated and improved.

However, if your users only need to visit one page – for example, to read a particular blog article or check your opening times – then a higher bounce rate might not be a problem.

It could mean that users are finding exactly what they want without having to navigate around your site. Alternatively, it might mean that users are not seeing relevant information (for example, if you have advertising targeted towards the wrong keywords) or that your WordPress site is difficult to use.

how to improve bounce rate on WordPress

Here are our top tips to improve the bounce rate on your WordPress website:

1) Add interesting content

Just like a good book keeps readers turning the pages, a WordPress website with exciting and interesting content is more likely to entice visitors to click-through and keep browsing.

It’s a good idea to add internal links to related blog posts, the latest news and/or other useful information to encourage users to keep engaging with your site.

2) Make messages clear

Ensure your most important information, including any calls to action, is displayed above the fold. This will help users know they’re in the right place and ensure they can complete relevant actions (such as making purchases or bookings) rapidly.

3) Maximise page speed

One of the most common reasons for users exiting websites is slow loading. In today’s busy world, users expect to be able to access information instantly – if your webpages take a long time to appear, they’ll find another, faster site instead.

Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to increase speed on your WordPress website. Our top recommendations are to optimise images, enable caching and minify website files.

4) Keep checking analytics

Finally, keep monitoring your Google Analytics data! This will help you understand how users are behaving, and therefore to update and optimise your WordPress website over time.

need help?

We provide award-winning WordPress support and maintenanceget in touch for further details. We also have loads more WordPress advice and tips in our Ultimate WordPress Optimisation Guide and other WordPress blogs.

design the perfect WordPress 404 page: 5 top tips

design the perfect WordPress 404 page: 5 top tips

design the perfect WordPress 404 page: 5 top tips

home / WordPress

When a link on your WordPress site can’t be found, users will be redirected to a 404 page. This can be extremely frustrating, leaving people likely to exit your site before finding the content they need.

It’s easy to add and update your 404 message page via your WordPress dashboard, under Appearance > 404 Error Page.

But what should your page say? How can you engage your users and encourage them to stay on your WordPress site?

In this article, we give our top tips for perfecting your WordPress 404 error page:

1. prevent users reaching the page

As the old adage says, prevention is better than cure.

Have you done everything you can to reduce broken links on your WordPress site? The best strategy is always to prevent users reaching your 404 page in the first place.

Make sure to check regularly for broken links on your site, and to add redirects whenever you delete content or update URLs.

2. acknowledge the mistake

Reaching a 404 error page isn’t the user’s fault, so it’s a good idea to admit responsibility for the problem and apologise.

A simply ‘sorry’ is often all that’s needed to maintain a positive relationship and encourage users to stay on your WordPress site.

3. provide links

To avoid users exiting, your 404 error page needs to make it as easy as possible to continue browsing. Encountering the words ‘file not found’ or similar is definitely not going to convince users to stay around!

Make sure that your 404 page includes links to your homepage and any other popular content, as this will encourage users to click through. If possible, including a search box will also help users find the content they’re looking for.

4. think about design

Although your 404 page can’t be found within your WordPress website menu, it’s still part of your overall web design and style.

Whatever text and graphics you use for your 404 page, make sure they fit in with your brand’s colour palette, tone of voice and house style. You should also ensure your logo and any website headers/footers appear, so that the page is consistent with the rest of your site.

5.  consider using humour

A 404 page is a brilliant opportunity to showcase the more creative and playful side of your organisation. Including something silly or humorous can help keep users a good mood and reduce the frustration of clicking on a broken link.

For example, for the Pedalo 404 error page, we have a graphic of an astronaut floating in space, with the message ‘Don’t panic, we’ll guide you back’.

need help or inspiration?

If you’re still not sure how to craft the perfect 404 page, these nine awesome 404 error page examples are great for inspiration!

If you’d like on-demand help with this or any other aspect of WordPress website management, please get in touch.

how to find & remove broken links in WordPress

how to find & remove broken links in WordPress

how to find & remove broken links in WordPress

home / WordPress

Not sure how to fix broken links on WordPress? Don’t worry – we’ll explain how to reduce the number of frustrating 404 error messages appearing on your site.

what are broken links?

A broken link is when a URL doesn’t exist. This means that when a user clicks on the URL, they’ll find a 404 error message, rather than the web page they were looking for.

A URL may not exist for several reasons – it may be because a webpage has been removed, when the address is mistyped, or because the URL has been updated. It may also occur when content has restricted access – such as needing a password.

Broken links can cause major problems on your WordPress site because:

  • They’re frustrating for users: It ruins your website user experience when people get error messages instead of content. Disgruntled users are likely to exit your WordPress site, resulting in decreased traffic and conversions.
  • They affect SEO: Google and other search engines don’t like broken links. This means that the more you have, the more your WordPress site’s search engine rankings will be negatively affected.

That’s why finding and fixing or removing broken links is so important.

how to find broken links on WordPress

Finding broken links on your WordPress site is easier than most people think. You can do it with a free online tool such as:

This will highlight the URL of any broken link(s) on your site, and give you the status/reason for the problem. We recommend scheduling a reminder to check for broken links at least once every 2-3 months.

how to remove & fix broken links

Try the following steps to rid your WordPress site of pesky broken links:

1. Update links manually

Go to any relevant webpages on your WordPress website, and manually update or remove any broken links. Simply highlight the relevant text and change or remove the linked web address.

2. Set up 301 redirects

It’s a good idea to install a redirect plugin on your WordPress website, as this will enable you to redirect users when content changes URL.

Whenever you delete or update a page address, simply add both the old link and the new link (or an alternative page) to the plugin. This will mean that users clicking on the old link are automatically redirected to relevant information, rather than ending up at a 404 error message.

3. Use simple URLs

When creating new blogs or pages, try to use a simple URL structure to make it easier for users to find and reduce the possibility of mistakes.

WordPress generates URLs for content automatically, but you can amend these by clicking ‘Edit’, next to the ‘Permalink’, underneath the title box. For example, co.uk/wordpress-tips is better than webpage.co.uk/xgohpfngae5629.

4. Test links before publishing

Just as you proofread your content’s text for accurate grammar, spelling and readability, it’s a good idea to test links too. This means clicking on them and making sure they’re working – thus avoiding any mistyped URLs.

It’s also worth double-checking the accuracy of printed or marketing materials where you give out your web address – such as flyers, posters and business cards.

do I need a 404 error page?

It’s best to avoid having broken links on your WordPress site, but it’s essential to create an appealing 404 error page just in case. You can do this easily in your WordPress dashboard by going to Appearance > 404 Error Page.

When a user tries to reach a broken link on your site, they’ll automatically be directed to your 404 page. If it’s friendly, informative and well-designed, it can keep users happy and mean they stay on your WordPress site for longer.

For tips and advice, make sure to read our blog about how to design the perfect WordPress 404 page. Many websites also choose to go with humorous messages – here are a few of our favourite 404 error pages.

thanks for reading

We provide expert, on-demand WordPress maintenance services – give us a call on 020 8747 3274 to find out how we can support your site.

For more WordPress insights and tips, check out our Ultimate WordPress Optimisation Guide and other WordPress blogs.

WordPress website maintenance checklist

WordPress website maintenance checklist

WordPress website maintenance checklist

home / WordPress

Your WordPress website needs regular maintenance to stay up-to-date and performing optimally.

We’ve created this 10-point checklist to help you complete all the most important WordPress maintenance tasks. We recommend scheduling this in your diary so your website is always in tip-top condition.

Even if you can’t complete the full checklist, making small maintenance checks and improvements regularly is still beneficial to improve WordPress performance and results. For more detail on how to do each of the tasks listed, make sure to read our Ultimate WordPress Optimisation Guide.

If you have any questions or need support, don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

1. update software

WordPress software is regularly updated to fix issues, patch security weaknesses and generally improve website performance.

For the WordPress core, you can apply automatic updates (although this only works with minor releases). Plugins and themes need also need to be updated as soon as they are available – just look out for messages on your WordPress dashboard.

As always, before making any major site changes, don’t forget to backup your WordPress site first.

2. scan for security issues

It’s important to scan your WordPress site regularly for security issues such as malware, viruses and suspicious code.

We recommend installing the free Wordfence plugin, which includes a range of security features. To undertake a security scan, simply go to Wordfence > Scan and clicking ‘Start new scan’.

If your WordPress site has any security issues, Wordfence will suggest ways to fix them. Our ‘How to secure WordPress’ blog also has lots of tips.

3. monitor site speed

In today’s fast-paced world, a rapidly-loading WordPress website is essential. Speed is important not only for good user experience but also to maximise your search engine rankings.

As part of your regular site maintenance, we recommend checking your site speed with Google PageSpeed. This is a free online tool which includes mobile and desktop scores plus detailed recommendations for site speed improvements.

It’s worth making a note of your scores and trying to improve them over time. We’ve got lots of advice about how to improve WordPress website speed on our blog.

4. verify backups

It’s vital to backup your WordPress site regularly in case it ever gets hacked, infected with a virus or encounters another major problem that causes it to stop working. It’s therefore worth checking and verifying your site backups as part of your WordPress maintenance.

To do this, double check that all your site date is being copied and stored, that you have backups saved in different locations, and that files are not corrupted. Better to find out about any backup problems before the worst happens!

5. check SEO

If organic traffic is important for your company or organisation, then it’s a good idea to give your WordPress site regular SEO healthchecks. You can do this using the free Ubersuggest SEO analyser or another similar tool.

With Ubersuggest, type in your web address, select the relevant language/country and click ‘Search’. A report will be generated showing your monthly organic traffic, domain score and number of organic keywords.

In the ‘Site Audit’ section, you can also find a more detailed SEO analysis, including a list of issues which need attention. For example, pages with a low word-count or poorly-formatted URL may be highlighted.

Keep an eye on your site’s SEO and try to improve performance over time – we’ve got lots of tips in our WordPress SEO Beginner’s Guide.

6. review Google Analytics

With Google Analytics on your WordPress site, you gain lots of useful data about your users and their behaviour. It’s important to monitor this analytics data regularly so you can see patterns and make data-driven decisions to optimise website performance.

As part of your regular WordPress maintenance, we advise logging into Google Analytics and considering what’s working well and what content may need improvement.

7. moderate comments

Whenever a user comments on your WordPress website, the comment is held in moderation. It’s therefore a good idea to check the ‘Comments’ section of your WordPress dashboard regularly.

Publishing useful comments, replying to questions and deleting spam will help you keep your WordPress site clean and up-to-date, whilst also helping build rapport with users.

8. check mobile compatibility

To check website performance on mobile, try Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. This will show how your WordPress site appears on mobile screens and advise whether or not it’s easy to use.

With around 50% of all internet browsing taking place on mobile, a mobile-friendly website will ensure you don’t alienate or lose large numbers of potential visitors. Mobile optimisation is also an SEO factor, with Google prioritising mobile-friendly sites in its search results.

If your site needs to be more mobile-friendly, this article has a lot of useful advice for WordPress mobile optimisation.

9. monitor uptime

Uptime is the percentage of time that your website is online and available for users. It should be at 100% – demonstrating that your site is always available for users.

It’s worth monitoring your WordPress website’s uptime on isitwp (or another similar tool) as part of your regular maintenance. Where it’s falling below 100%, contact your hosting provider or WordPress agency to identify any problems and resolve them.

10. have a clean-up

The more you update and edit your WordPress site, the more it becomes clogged-up with old content, images and files. As this slows your site down, it’s worth giving your website a clean-up as part of your WordPress maintenance.

For imagery and content, you’ll need to go into your Media Library and Posts to delete any old, unused or duplicate items manually. Fortunately, for your WordPress database, it’s super-easy to schedule regular, automatic clean-ups with a plugin like WP-Sweep.

thanks for reading

Of course, this is just the beginning of WordPress website maintenance – for more tips and advice, check out our ultimate WordPress optimisation guide. Or, for on-demand WordPress support from an award-winning agency, please get in touch.