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Google Hummingbird: Does Quantity or Quality Win the Day?

  |  November 13, 2013   |  Comments

SEOs must strive for a combination of both quality and quantity, but there's always a tension between the two. Sometimes it can feel that by focusing on one it means losing ground on the other.

hummingbirdAfter Google announced its new algorithm "Hummingbird" at the end of September, Internet marketers and search engine optimization professionals started to work on their new optimization strategies for the coming year. With all the changes, many professionals are now concentrating on content, authority and trust, as well how the changes will affect keyword relevance and link building. By the way, if these concepts weren't first and foremost on their minds already, they were missing the boat.

The challenge site owners find themselves addressing is the balance of quantity vs. quality. Once again, site owners have to ask themselves, "Do I build more pages? Or do I need better pages?"

Part of the reason to revisit these ideas is due to the recent release of a video from Matt Cutts at Google. Matt reinforces the idea that having more pages doesn't necessarily directly influence your search rankings.

From that, webmasters might infer that websites like Amazon or other big ecommerce sites where it is very common to see many pages about the same product a website with a large number of pages won't automatically rank better than others. From there, some may incorrectly conclude that adding more pages to your website may not help your domain automatically rank better than smaller sites.

However, he inferred that a website with more pages has a greater chance to rank better for a broader set of keywords, achieving a wider number of visitors. Also, a website with more pages has a better chance to get more natural links.

"Now typically if the site does have more pages, it might have more links pointing to it, which means it has higher PageRank," Cutts said. "If that is the case, we might be willing to crawl a little bit deeper into the website and if it has higher PageRank, then we might think it's a little bit of a better match for users queries." This would almost certainly encourage site owners to lean towards a "bigger is better" mindset.

In some cases, it might be necessary to have more pages for the same subject or product/service. While it may be impossible for supporting pages to not overlap, they should have clear separation and stand well on their own. This is established through their keyword focus and optimization. It's also important that site owners are honest with themselves and, where necessary, minimize duplication through the use of elements like canonical tags.

After all, the goal shouldn't be to create more of the same content, but to create content that is compelling and that people might want to link to. Diversity and visual effects are important when producing content.

Quality vs. Quantity

In the end, the best situation is still a combination of both quality and quantity, but there's always a tension between the two. Sometimes it can feel that by focusing on one it means losing focus on the other.

Quantity is by far the easiest road. It is the road someone might take when they lack focus on any topic, are not considering who will visit the website, and simply want to build more links, and so on. The main problem is that if Google decides to punish websites for bad behavior, all the efforts might be lost. After all, Panda, the Google algorithm filter designed to gauge content quality has been around since 2011. That cannot be ignored.

Quality is the safest road, but also the more difficult one to follow. Creating quality content that will be enticing for readers to share and convincing for search engines to rank better at the SERPS takes time. It takes effort, but in the long run it gets rewarded. Over the long run, quality will prove to be more powerful than quantity.

In conclusion, a website with a great number of pages doesn't automatically get higher ranking, but there can be indirect advantages to having a larger website, such as having more quality pages and more potential to acquire natural links to the website, as well as getting overall search traffic on those internal pages. Those things undeniably help SEO. However, it's important to remember quality first, then quantity, to ensure the long range SEO success of your site.


Crispin Sheridan

Crispin Sheridan is the Senior Director, Global Search at SAP. As part of the digital team, he established and leads the search and testing practices at SAP. Crispin is responsible for paid, natural, and mobile search and all online testing. Search and testing at SAP are fully centralized and globally funded and run under a hybrid in-house and agency model.

Crispin has proven that search learnings and keyword insights work hand in hand with social media marketing and together can effectively drive B2B lead generation. Furthermore, the development of the SAP.com Test Lab has contributed significant success to SAP's digital marketing efforts.

A frequent guest speaker at conferences, including SES New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Delhi, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, Crispin was appointed to the SES Advisory Board in December 2009. He has also been a guest speaker at the e-Metrics Summit and ad:Tech, and is a member of Google's B2B Technology Council. You can follow him on Twitter at @crispinsheridan and read his monthly SEO column on ClickZ.

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