On a call with a client recently, I got asked a question that highlighted how poorly many “Top 10/20/30 Tips To SEO” guides are done. The question was entirely logical, but if we as SEO bloggers (i.e. teachers) were doing a little more thinking and a little less rehashing, I’d have never had a client confused about this. The client asked:
“There are two SEO principles that are conflicting for me, and I don’t know which one to follow.
On the one hand, I’m told that I need a lot of content, because Google likes content. On the other hand, I’m told that I need to concentrate my PageRank by using good information architecture.
The problem is that the more content I have, the more links I need to put on my pages so that it’s all accessible to search engines. And that dilutes the PageRank flowing in any direction.
What do I do?”
Answer: Cut the crap. Err, I mean content.
When people say that you need content on your site, there are two reasons for that.
1) So that you can show the search engines you’re relevant, by including keywords on the page.
2) To attract links.
There’s also a circular, nonsensical reason given:
3) Having more content makes you rank better. (Sometimes simplistically phrased as “Googlebot loves fresh content.” That’s a bit different though, as I’ll explain in a minute.)
It’s that last reason that is particularly insidious, and repeated so frequently and so often without explanations that it makes me noxious.
If you have sufficient PageRank and you regularly publish new content – yes, Googlebot will return frequently to your site to crawl your articles, which will then be indexed. But if you just have plenty of content – even if you publish 5 new unique, original articles a day – Google doesn’t care. No one hears your tree falling…
After you’ve crossed the threshold of reason 1 with your content – eg providing enough text for Google to understand what your page is about – what you need is links.
Now, in certain specific circumstances, more content can make you rank “better.”
- If you add more content to an existing page that already has more than a bare minimum of content, to attract longtail search traffic, you will rank better in the sense of getting more visitors. You won’t see a difference in the rankings for your shorttail keywords.
- If your page is light on content (eg under 50 words), it might make a slight difference if you bulk things up a bit. You’re improving the user experience, generally, when you clarify things. And we know Google’s algorithms aim to reward good user experience.
- If you publish a fresh content on a given topic on which Google considers that the ‘query deserves freshness,’ (via Dave’s coverage of QDF) you might get a boost initially, which fades over time.
But adding content in and of itself does NOTHING BENEFICIAL for your rankings. Go ahead and split test it if you don’t believe me. If anything, as in the case of my client, your extra content may even be hurting your rankings because you water down your navigation with links to every new page you create.
Gab Goldenberg also writes his own search marketing blog for serious SEOs, as well as providing personalized seo consultations for entrepreneurs and SMBs that need more traffic.