How to Think About Content Like A Forest, Not A Weed

If there is one thing I've learned in the search biz, it's that quality wins for the long term; but even further along than that, a higher quantity of higher quality content is best.  Which brings me to another proven, yet highly overlooked area of content development, publishing and SEO:  The topic of building content depth, and unique pages within a site, as opposed to just pages.  

In SEO, more thought is usually given to content at the page level, rather than the unique page count depth, because this is where seemingly most of an SEO's knowledge can be applied.  Copywriting, keyword selection and page elements are all a core part of this process.  But the problem is that focusing too much on an individual area ultimately neglects an even bigger issue.   This involves scaling content in a way that a search engine can recognize a site as being a substantial resource, one that may potentially become an authority in its category and tend to trump all other sites in its direct and non-direct competitive search space.



Big Site, Big Authority, Big Search Returns

The problem with hand-tailoring and measuring content is that it is difficult to scale on a massive level, and a massive level is needed in most competitive categories of search. Most brands  seem to lack a deeper publishing strategy.

Simply put, search engines like big sites with quality content, and a lot of linkage and social buzz around that content.  It also comes back to engaging those users in a meaningful way through your content, and all of these factors translate to success in search against business goals, or against competitors. 

I have frequently measured the competitive set for a given keyword list at the domain level, and often find that one of the single characteristics of a dominating player is a higher volume of quality content within its domain.  Quality can be measured in the following ways, among many others:

-        How well it is written.

-        Page word count.

-        Keyword focus and theme.

-        How engaging the content is (can be measured by re-tweets, comments on the page, traffic, likes, etc.).

-        And, (possibly even most important) how many quality unique pages are on the site compared to the competitive set.


Just take a look and see for yourself.  In most cases, the dominating site in any particular category has a substantially higher number of high quality pages than its competitors. 

So if you are an SEO who is only looking at a finite number of pages within a site that is not quite as big as its competitors' sites, you might be well suited to building out volume rather than tending a smaller garden to push things over the top a little.  An even greater opportunity may exist for SEOs who already have a big site, but only focus on a handful of landing pages.  "Big" is a relative term, but let's say if you are only tending to 300 pages of a 50,000 page site, you may be missing out on a bigger opportunity.  The solutions are often very subjective, but here are some ideas:

-        Do a full audit of the content on your site to simply know what is out there.

-        Identify any duplicate content areas, and ping the various engines to learn how many unique pages they have de-duped and indexed on your site at the domain level.

-        Perform a full content gap analysis to see where supporting content is lacking for your target term set.  Go broad with your keyword list for this assessment.  If you don't have at least one keyword focused page for your target term or phrase, you're not even in the game.

-        Look offline and see if you or your client has any relevant content that can be digitalized to increase content depth.

-        When scaling up, always have a plan and strategy in mind.

The bottom line here is that whether you are crafting content at the page level, or building up a high volume of high quality pages within your domain -- both are imperative for good SEO performance.

1 comment about "How to Think About Content Like A Forest, Not A Weed".
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  1. Peter Herring from TTW Systems, October 27, 2010 at 2:19 p.m.

    Very good article and, BTW, good subject line - I interrupted a very busy morning to read it, and I get tons of these. As a strategist and copywriter, I get a wee tired of answering clients - and business partners - when they look at the depth of pages I suggest and declare, nobody is going to read all that! There is a really funny New Yorker cartoon I keep around; an AE is making a pitch to a client and he as several boards (for you digital age people, we used to lay out comps on boards...), the last board he showed in leaning against the desk. It reads, Buy it, Asshole! And the client is saying, Could I see that last one again? A lot of clients seem to feel that a webpage should be like that. True, nobody is going to read all that, but lots of somebodies are going to read some of it, comment on it, and search engines are going to notice. Thanks, I'm actually sending this article to some select clients and colleagues.

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