What it is
Underperforming content is content that isn’t:
- having the effect or impact you thought it would have
- getting as much traffic as you would expect for its subject matter
It may also be that users are not spending much time on the page, are exiting without clicking on anything or are leaving feedback to say that they haven’t found what they’re looking for.
Why it’s important
Underperforming content may appear in fewer search results, meaning that fewer people will find your site.
Those who do view your page may not be satisfied with the content they see and may leave feeling frustrated or confused.
Negative user experiences with your page are likely to impact on users’ decisions to view other content on your site if it appears as a result in future search queries.
How to do it
Gathering on-page feedback from your users is a quick and easy way to tell if a page is performing well. Looking for trends in the type of issues users have with a page can help you make meaningful improvements.
There are a range of analytical tools which can also help you track the quantity and experiences of users who visit your site. Many of these tools (such as Google Analytics) are free to use and come with online tutorials.
Analytics can help you identify a range of common problems:
Using the wrong keywords
The keywords in your article may not the same as those used by users, so your page does not appear as a search result for their query.
For example, you have an article about ‘national entitlement cards’ which gives information about free travel for the over 60s. Using analytics tools, you find that most users are searching for the term ‘free bus pass’ when they want to access this information. If ‘free bus pass’ is not mentioned somewhere in your article, then your page may not appear in their search results, even though your content is relevant to their query.
Suggested tools: Google Trends
The keywords in your article are too popular
You may have correctly identified and used keywords which are relevant to your content but find your page is still appearing very low in search results.
This may mean that the keywords associated with your content are very popular and are being used by sites with much higher traffic than your own.
It can be difficult to draw traffic away from much larger sites. In a marketing example, a small online shop uses the keyword “men’s shoes” in their content to draw in customers.
The shop finds that it appears very low in the search results for this item and so is not receiving much traffic. To overcome this, the shop decides to change its keywords to “men’s green velvet shoes”. This more specific phrase is less in demand and so allows the shop to appear higher in search results when people search for this particular query.
If your site is for marketing or has a commercial side, you may pay for services like Google AdWords which allow you to appear in search results for a given phrase.
Your meta description is too short
Search engines use meta descriptions to match queries to results and provide users with a helpful summary of the content on your page.
If your meta description is not long enough, Google will often grab other sections of text from your page to bulk out the summary section (displayed under the title of your page in a search result).
These pieces of text may not be the key messages of your content, and so may misrepresent the focus of your article.
Links and actions are too far down the page
If the purpose of your page is for users to do something (apply, register, etc.), you should clearly display how they should do this within the first section of your page.
Mouse tracking and heatmap tools show us that most users do not scroll to the bottom of a page and that, unless an action is clearly marked, it is likely to be overlooked.
Suggested tools: Hotjar
Too few links to your page
Asking any relevant organisations, charities or groups to link from their website to your content will increase traffic.
The more links a page has to it, especially those from other reputable websites, increases the value search engines place onto your site which also improves where you appear in search results.
Digital First Service Standard
This article offers guidance relevant to the following criteria from the Digital First service standard:
- Continuous improvement
- Data driven