Is your minimalist blogging an SEO risk?

Short-form 200 word blog articles will likely be penalised by Google

Regularly adding high quality content to your website via a blog is widely recognised as a great way to help users understand and interact with your business, as well as helping with Google search rankings.

We’ve been helping our dental marketing clients with their blogs for the last 6 or 7 years, either by advising and training their staff in how to do it effectively, or where time doesn’t allow, by generating high-quality content on their behalf. Indeed this is a key part of all of our SEO contracts and campaigns.

Google was fairly tolerant of this type of “on-site” SEO in any form for a number of years, and many marketing companies jumped on the blogging band-wagon by offering the service. If you look around the dental website landscape, you will see many blogs of this type, typically filled with very short articles of 200 – 250 words and fairly heavily stuffed with keywords and links. By and large, marketers got away with this type of tactic but more recently, things have started to go wrong. Google has become way more adept at identifying useful content as opposed to that which is just being used for a search engine advantage. In many cases, this “short form” content is now actively being penalised by Google and is destructive rather than constructive.

The effect of Google’s 2018 updates on low-quality, short form blog content

Here at Dental Media, one of the SEO services we offer is Google penalty recovery. This is where we examine websites which have suffered significant ranking drops and then propose strategies to clean them up to re-establish ranking positions. This is quite a tricky exercise in that it is never 100% clear why a website might have been penalised, and in some cases, different penalties can affect the same website. However, we have a lot of experience and tools at our disposal and usually we can be fairly sure why a website has been demoted in Google. Common penalties are often associated with unnatural back-links or blatant spamming techniques on the website itself.

More recently however, Google has started to look far more closely at the quality of content on a website and which sites actually answer user’s search queries best. This is where the “shot form” 200 word blog articles no longer make the grade and where there are many of them which serve no useful purpose, Google actually classes this as “thin” content and can apply site-wide penalties as a result. Moreover, as we recently explained in another blog article, Google is looking at “EAT” parameters in relation to website content i.e. expertise, authority and trust. Sites which demonstrate high “EAT” characteristics typically do well, whereas those with low “EAT” tend to suffer.

With these considerations in mind, it is fairly easy to see why spammy, short-form blog articles are particularly risky.

The evidence

There is a lot of noise in the SEO world together with theories about what works and what doesn’t. Indeed it’s fair to say that nearly everything I’ve said above has never been 100% confirmed or denied by Google directly. However, experimentation and best practice from the search community typically directs us correctly.

A couple of recent examples also help to validate our thoughts, particularly where it comes to spammy blog content. We were recently tasked with site recovery for two new clients who had experienced significant drops in Google under the “care” of another marketing company with a dental focus. A thorough SEO audit of the websites in question strongly suggested that the hundreds of spammy blog articles which had been added over a period of nearly three years, were very likely to blame and had almost certainly resulted in the sites receiving a site-wide penalty and significant search demotion.

Fixing the problem

Using analytical tools, usage data and manual inspection, we were able to determine which of the blog articles were worthy of keeping “as is”, which could be consolidated and which had to go completely. This process was carried out over the period of around six weeks and tools were used to tell Google where blog had been consolidated or completely expunged. This was essential to ensure that the algorithmic penalty was lifted as soon as possible.

The results

The first website quickly re-established its former positions back near the top of Google page one, approximately 8 weeks after the first demotion took effect. Recovery of the second website has taken a little longer but we are now starting to see results returning to page one and traffic increasing weekly. Overall excellent success and validating our initial assumptions about the significant detrimental effect of spammy, short-form blog content.

Summary

Google is getting wiser and wiser all the time and can now easily differentiate between content which is genuinely useful and that which is applied simply to try to gain search engine advantages. Short-form blogs are at high risk of falling into the latter category and should be avoided at all costs. Google will eventually catch up so if your dental marketing agency is using “blogging” as part of their strategy, you really do need to make sure it’s worthwhile and not simply thin content. If you’re going to add a blog to your website, be sure that the content is useful, “long-form” (preferably 1000 words plus) and not duplicated from elsewhere. Your digital agency won’t like you for pulling them up on it, but really you must.

If you’d like to know more about the benefits of blogging for dentists and how to do it properly, please get in touch with the Dental Media content team on 01332 672548 and we’ll be pleased to guide you.