Frequent web users may noticed the trend that many of the same sites are always populating the top search results. The same names come up over and over. These sites are huge; hundreds or thousands of pages and posts, millions of words of valuable content, income and budgets that put small businesses the shame.
This leads to the impression that if you want to compete in the world of SEO, you need to have a huge page with hundreds or thousands of posts. You need to become one of those huge sites if you want to have any chance of ranking in the top few spots. For some competitive niches, you’d need that to even reach the first page.
The truth is, you don’t need a huge site with a lot of indexed pages in order to rank in the top few spots in Google. In fact, many of the large sites currently dominating search results got there from a position as a small site. They were able to leverage their success to grow, in a cycle that has brought them to their current ranks.
The good news is that you too can reach that level. A smaller niche, a lower level of competition and a more focused specialty all help, but they aren’t completely essential. How does it all work?
The size of a site, as measured by the number of pages it has, is not the sole deciding factor in Google’s algorithm. Obviously, Google doesn’t want a spam site with thousands of pages to outrank a good site with under 100 posts.
Size is a factor, however, because Google can very often state with confidence that a site with only a small handful of pages is not going to be more valuable than a site with more pages. Small, personal sites don’t need to rank for queries that have commercial applications. Web forum communities generally don’t need to rank for many common phrases, though occasionally they are the best available resource.
Quality is important for ranking, more so than the number of pages on a given site. Consider two hypothetical sites, both with 100 published posts. One site has almost entirely high quality posts, with a few pages here and there that maybe don’t meet the current standards and don’t get much traffic. The other site writes about the same topics, but doesn’t cover them as deeply or include as much detail. Which site is going to rank higher? All other things being equal, the site with the higher quality content will obviously come out on top.
Quality is the deciding factor between two equal sites, but it’s also a powerful influence between unequal sites. A site with only 100 pages, all of which are extremely high quality, will have a very good chance of ranking higher than a site with 1,000 pages, most of which are poor quality.
There’s another aspect of SEO – another search ranking factor – that can make a site with fewer pages outrank a site with more. That’s the power of the link.
Links, and PageRank as a measure of their number and quality, are a powerful ranking factor. They may have gone downhill in recent years, but they still hold a significant amount of sway. Consider again two example sites. In this case, both of them have 100 pages and they both maintain high quality standards. The site with the most incoming links from ranking sites will rank higher itself.
That’s the kicker. Links themselves aren’t all created equal. Some links are more potent and more valuable than others. If those two identical example sites had the same number of incoming links, the site with the best links would win.
All of this combines with a host of other minor factors to create your ranking for any given query. Number of pages is just one factor among many, and it’s not even the most important factor. A small site, if it has better links and higher quality content than the competition in the niche, will rank better.
The key here is to consider every piece of content an opportunity for success. Each piece of content is a chance for one or more incoming links of varying degrees of quality. Each piece of content is a chance to show Google that you’re capable of producing something valuable. Each piece of content is a potential takeoff point for a viral explosion in traffic.
Each piece of content is another chance to write about a new topic. Each topic is a different query that you’re making your site relevant within. More relevance in a broader spectrum – with in reason, Google doesn’t like jack-of-all-trades sites – leads to a higher overall ranking, which means higher specific rankings for specific queries.
A small site with 100 pages has 100 opportunities to rank highly for individual topics. Making use of all 100 of those opportunities, bringing in quality backlinks and building valuable traffic, makes your site outrank other sites in the same niche. Meanwhile a site with 1,000 pages has 1,000 opportunities to rank highly, but if that site squanders their chances, they won’t build an audience or the links. The site with 100 well-used opportunities will outrank the site with 1,000 missed chances.
Small businesses tend to have small sites. It’s a fact of life that creating a regular stream of content requires resources that many small businesses just don’t have. They can build up to that point, but it’s a long, difficult road. How can you ensure your business stays on the right track and can outrank larger, more dominant sites in the niche?
• Provide quality content. Quality is more important than quantity right away. Only expand your volume of production when you can guarantee high quality standards for the new posts.
• Make any other minor SEO changes you can to avoid SEO penalties. A well-coded site with good navigation is a one-time expense that will become a gift that keeps on giving.
• Perform research on your competitors. Given the choice, it’s harder to rank against existing content, particularly on larger sites that maintain good ranks. Identifying their blind spots and taking advantage of them puts you ahead.
• Avoid or disavow links coming from spam and low quality sites; conversely, encourage links from high quality sites.
• Avoid copying content at all costs. Copied content – or bad links, covered by the point above – leads to a search penalty. Penalties can be deadly to small businesses and damaging to large sites alike.
If you put in the time and effort, it’s entirely possible to outrank much larger sites. You just need to do what you do better than they do.