The concept of the HTML/and the web is lots of small chunks.
If you look at what is the ‘correct length’ of a blog post, it is often listed at 400-800 words. This is typically 5-8 paragraphs to cover a single idea in a bite sized chunk. It is a singe idea, and the blogs are set up to have each post be their own page.
So when you are designing your site, map it out by focusing on what you are trying to accomplish. Then outline your site with separate pages for each idea. Each page should have a clear purpose. This makes it easy for your visitors to understand what you are trying to communicate to them. It makes it easier to accomplish your purpose and for your visitors to be in sync with what you are trying to accomplish.
Of course, your ‘number 1’ visitor is the Google spider – so these ‘rules’ for your human visitors also apply to Google’s spider. If you design for good human readability, then more often than not, you will have good Google readability and Google will reward you with high rankings accordingly. If your page is focused on a single idea, then Google will more likely see your keyword phrases and understand your page is concerned about that and rank it higher than a page that is focused on 5-6 ideas and is crammed with various keyword phrases. Google will ‘read’ your page and rank it lower for multiple keyword phrases. There are exceptions, but trying to ‘trick’ Google these days is a hard way to build traffic, and you run the risk of Google shifting its formulas and bouncing way down.
So don’t try to boil the ocean with one fire, create separate pages that have single purposes. It is easier for your readers, it is easier for Google. It will get you more traffic.
Break up your Page
James Michener wrote novels that were great for those wanting a single summer read. They were long and full of detail. They carried a lot of ideas interwoven together. They had great plots that kept you following along for hours and hours, page after page. You got great value from all the details painting the complex pictures of his topics and themes.
But the web is not designed for reading long sections of text sequentially. It is designed for chunking – lots of breaks. Those breaks are headlines, and pages. In fact, that is how Google determines what is important – if you label something as an H1 heading-that is your headline, it assumes that those words are more important than the little footnote at the bottom of the page. The H1 heading is specific, do not just use a relative larger font for a few reasons:
- It is sloppy coding that will often come back to haunt you.
- Google prefers the H1 heading to clearly identify what the Heading is on the page.
- It displays more consistently across the various browsers including mobile browsers.
By putting a single idea on a page, it makes it easier for the reader to plan their reading – they can see how big the page is, they can see the topic and determine how in depth you will be going for that topic. Google also has an easier time ranking your site’s page for that specific topic.
Thanks to Hubspot.com for inspiring this idea.
One of the challenges for many people trying to create a website is the sense of scarcity of space on the Internet. This goes back to the days of printing when each impression on each sheet of paper was a significant effort.
The world of the web is different. Space is just about free. Sure there are some hosting plans that charge a slight increase to have more pages, but if that is preventing you from effectively communicating your messages, then you need to reevaluate your hosting (another post). The amount of server space you are taking up with most well designed pages is minimal (if the pages are big enough to measure, they will be too slow to load. Make them smaller in graphics, or optimize your code).
So unlike a book or article printed on paper where ‘white space’ feels like a waste, on a website ‘white space’ is a sign of focus and professionalism. This also makes it easier for the reader to get a single idea at a time. Use the page as a way to segment ideas. You will notice that complex manuals use this concept because it improves effectiveness and comprehension. Complex manuals break the ideas into separate pages because it allows for cohesiveness within a concept being communicated.
And guess what – Google and other search engines do well with this. They understand and appreciate a page that is trying to communicate one idea better than a page that is about 15 ideas and all over the place. When you review search engine analysis programs like WebPosition and other tools, they talk about the precise number of words, how often to repeat the keyword phrases, the percentage of keyword phrases to total text and further formulas. But when you get down to it, if you write at a reasonable grade level of understanding, and cover a single idea rather than a bunch, these numbers magically fall into place. Search engine analysis tools are great tools for tweaking, but following 1 idea per page solves a ton of tweaking work later.
So, don’t be stingy with your use of individual pages. Don’t create one long page that covers it all – it is confusing for your visitors and for Google. Create lots of pages, there’s plenty of room in web-space!