Everyone talks about authority sites, but how big is too big when it comes to creating rankings? Where is the point where having too much content can cause a website to sag under its own weight and lose relevance?
How many pages do you really need online to cross the virtual SEO tipping point for your desired keywords and step into the top 10 spotlight? Is it 200, 2000, 20,000 or 200,000 pages?
There are a surprising number of authority sites replete with high page rank with ten to hundreds of thousands of pages that rank for a virtual cornucopia of mid-tail keywords, but simply can’t parse the top 10 for the top tier competitive one word or two word trophy phrase.
So, aside from sheer size and magnatude alone, what is holding them back?
When Typical Metrics Fail
Is it content, links, structure, or the lack of any of all of those variables? First, you have to understand that rankings take time, and instead of trying to pigeonhole a website or retrofit it into a competitive keyword vertical, you need to integrate purpose from the onset and build a suitable ontology.
Also note, that if left unchecked a site can grow to bulbous amounts of irrelevance and compromise the ability to zero in on specific keywords and key phrases.
When I say purpose, I mean really integrate all of the proper signals to signify to search engines and users alike “through language” that the scope and breadth of your website is capable of creating appeal and facilitating engagement on multiple dimensions.
There is nothing worse than people abusing or wearing out dated SEO techniques such as keyword density (stuffing keywords on a page) in an attempt to fool search engines into scoring or ranking their content higher.
In fact, it is better to have a wider array of topical semantic indicators for your content to facilitate keyword stemming and each page taking on its own persona. You should let the site architecture and internal linking do the heavy lifting and consume your competitive keywords over time.
Finding the Tipping Point then Moving On
Each keyword has a tipping point, but when you manage hundreds or thousands of keywords simultaneously from tactful implementation such as theming and siloing the rules of the game change swiftly.
The idea for each page in your website should be to reach the top 3 rankings for something relevant to that page, the top 10 just isn’t good enough unless you page is above the fold (the top 5 results). This way, each and every page that you add becomes an instant asset that produces short-term value as well as long term gain.
We have become experts at identifying the proper signals of search and giving search engines the proper foundation to nourish relevance. Despite the popular opinion that “it’s all about backlinks”, it’s not; we have sites with less than 500-1000 links ranking for keywords with millions of competing pages in “phrase match” and just a few hundred pages of content.
Ironically, the other sites which occupy the top 10 positions for the same keywords have anywhere from 10 to 20 times the links and or pages to accomplish the same thing; which makes me want to rally back to the point mentioned above.
Don’t let your website get bloated
When is it time to prune a site and extract those signals of trust into something tangible that can dynamically infuse new content with verve and zest? How much is too much when it comes to acquiring a top ranking position?
Do you really need 40K links pointing at one page or 10,000 pages on the same topic to push a keyword to the top? It depends on your approach and how broad your semantic footprint is along the way.
Without going too far into specifics (which you can do by following the links provided in the suggested reading section at the footer of this post), is boils down to cultivating content and authority simultaneously.
But once you acquire that stance in any given vertical or niche, it is almost as if the algorithm spreads out, then becomes buoyant. Meaning, a website has the tendency to extract the range of semantic signals that emanate from the content, fulfill the long-tail and mid-tail rankings as a result of happenstance and unique search queries.
If you don’t believe me, just look at your server logs and see what kind of unique keywords are dropping off traffic to your pages. It is not surprising that most websites receive 20% of their traffic from their top 10 most prominent keywords and the remaining 80% of their traffic from mid-tail and long-tail keyword variations.
Naturally over time, websites have a tendency to move up to acquire more competitive keywords and respective phrases, but not magically of their own accord (they need guidance and sculpting like clay). The entire process sometimes happens so gradually that you may or may not know that it is happening.
This ascent of relevance is the process of homogenization whereby the fusion of pages, content, links, popularity and engagement all produce a unique signal. First you may have 20-30 visits per day, then 50-100, before you know it your site is attracting thousands of visitors per day as each page passes the threshold of relevance.
If you understand that this synergy is a systematic reaction based on cause and effect it is possible to augment specific outcomes based on a structured series of preferences (such as toppling a competitive keyword).
Understanding the Hierarchy of Relevance
Before you run, you must learn to crawl and then learn to walk and in this instance, the analogy refers to understanding how the tip of the iceberg is extremely important to cultivate. Your topic is the apex and the content you use to shore it up should also contain relevant pears to tie the theme together.
With the vast array of information available at break neck speeds, there are no shortages of options for users online. The takeaway here is, stay on topic, but learn to see past just trying to rank for keywords. Ultimately it is about dominating market share, attention and conversion when it boils down to commerce.
Social media is great as the glue, but search engines prefer structure and keeping balance when assessing on page and off page signals of relevance.
Now for Solutions
- Dated content from the past is a treasure trove to extract ranking factor. You can look for its degree of impact and if it still serves the purpose of your website or brand or recycle that link equity into laser-like sub domains or site segments to receive dividends tenfold.
- To infuse new pages with vitality just create a link from an old page to the new page with a keyword rich anchor (preferably closer to the top of the page). This is called virtual theming and the less links you have leaving a page the better.
- Try to avoid redundancy in titles, tags or taxonomy. After seeing the same content, a barren page barely capable of being distinguishable as unique aside from the same shingles in the template is only going to make search engines give up.
- The more unique each page is, the better, as long as the parent theme is nurtured. This is where images (with keyword rich alt attributes can be used, or secondary navigation, breadcrumbs or footer links can aid SEO).
- Sweep your site for broken links and outbound links and seal them up with nofollow tags, or just use noindex, follow or the robots txt file to block link loss from sapping your internal pages. This applies to dated and less relevant content (so you can spend your link equity wisely).
- Keep your content unique and look for the commercial value of harnessing present-tense videos in place of long, drawn out text to revitalize dated pages of use them as springboards to newer, fresher content.
- If you know a page is ranking for a competitive keyword, rewrite or re-purpose the content with a video or a call to action above the fold instead to funnel that traffic to a more appropriate region for conversion.
- Make sure each page gets a share of the link flow in a site. No need to choke of regions from lack of links.
- If you have Google Webmaster Tools installed, you can always look at the internal link percentages to see if your pages have a balanced link profile (both internal and external links).
- The more pages you have, the more opportunity your site has to hemorrhage relevance. Content is a double edged sword, it can work for you or against you when it comes to rankings.
- If there is too much of the same (in the titles or tags), then search engines will trim the fat and de-index redundant pages.
- On the contrary, if those pages are pulling decent traffic, then you may want to reconsider using them another way as hub pages to segue consumers to higher ground (such as a category page presented with enticing offers).
- Use sitemaps and deep link to them to spread link flow to pages in need. This alone can ensure SERP (search engine result page) longevity for larger websites which have the need to supplement buoyancy and augment hang time in search engines.
- Minimize the use of URL parameters when possible or implement pretty URL’s closer to the root folder to improve ranking position.
- Instead of being a victim of a rigid CMS, use rewrites as a proxy to position each page as a relevant destination.
- Ensure there are sufficient deep links to critical pages (5 or more) to get a page on the map and when you reach over a few hundred links pointing at an individual page, then those links can transcend the anchor text and act like a ranking credit to augment other pages in the site.
- The more pages you have, the less links each page needs to rank for something. Keep content fresh and build a relationship with the spiders. The fresh content and fresh link factor make a difference.
- While it may be fine to let certain pages age and gain authority like fine wine, keep adding new content regularly and link to aged content to entice search engines.
- You can leverage the power of RSS feeds to accomplish this #5 and #7 simultaneously as well as to encourage search engine spiders to crawl deeper and keep stemmed results relevant and vertically mobile.
- Superior SEO Web Design
- Building Website Authority
- SEO for Large Websites Part I
- SEO for Large Websites Part II
- SEO for Large Websites Part III
- How to Optimize Titles, Meta Tags and Descriptions