The Two ways of SEO: Quantity vs. Quality

The Two ways of SEO: Quantity vs. Quality

25th October 2012

The world of SEO is a world of change.

As I’m typing this I’m having a déjà vu. I think I start almost every post with a quote of this scope. Because it’s true. Our job as SEOs is to anticipate as good on all the changes around as we can.

We need to find the consistencies within these changes and build a strategy around them to be successful. To make it easier for ourselves to adapt to these changes. If we don’t have to reconsider our whole strategy every time something changes we are better able to adapt to essential changes in the world of SEO.

That means our business strategies shouldn’t be fully focused on search and our search strategies shouldn’t be fully focused on one single aspect of SEO, no matter how important it seems. If that aspect is declined in value, you’re basically screwed.

In short there are two ways to implement basic SEO rules: focussed on quantity and focussed on quality. You read it in almost every SEO rule: “Basically, more links are better, but relevant links from authoritative sites are more important.” The best situation is a combination of both, but there’s always a tension between quality and quantity. Focusing on one means losing focus on the other.

The road of quantity

The basic rule of quantity is more = better. For many SEO tactics it works this way (although Google might say it doesn’t). More links are in essence more effective for SEO. More content does increase the chances of getting found. Using more keywords in text does make it easier for search engines to recognize topics.

The benefit of quantity is clear: if you know what works you only have to do more of it. You don’t need any real abilities to be able to walk this road. With the proper resources it can even be automated. It’s scalable. The scalability is an important reason for many SEOs to walk this road. But also the ease with which it can be explained. Everybody understands “more = better”.

But there’s also one important downside of this road. Search engines do not like it, at all. Because of the scalability, because of the risk of automation, because of the lack of identifiers for relevance for the users. They don’t want it to work. Someone using these techniques is not focused on delivering what Google’s users want. At least, that’s the assumption. Correct or not.

That’s why the major updates from search engines focused on improving the quality of search results are targeted at quantity: high amounts of low-quality content, high numbers of keyword rich links, high amounts of keywords stuffed into texts. Al these update focusing on quantity were released to improve the quality of search results.

The road of quality

Then there’s road of quality. The basic rule of quality is if it’s good it will sell. When you focus on quality you will be rewarded. In the case of SEO it’s not about getting more links, it’s about getting better links. It’s not about creating more content, it’s about creating high quality content focused on the needs of your users.

The benefit of quality is that it’s close to what the user wants. Quantity is more about deception and faking quality. Quality is about being relevant. But quality is also harder to convey. How do you indicate quality? Quality is always in the eye of the beholder. Quality is ambiguous. Quantity is not.

That makes quality less scalable than quantity, and more dependent on people. You can’t automate quality. Quality takes time and effort. But there is a risk when focusing on quality that you either have a wrong image of what quality is, that quality isn’t recognized or that there’s simply no need for quality. Yes, quality isn’t always needed. Quality costs money. Cheap doesn’t always need quality.

The major benefit of the road of quality is that you’re following the same road search engines are following. Search engines are always trying to deliver better results, search engines need quality.

Which road?

So which road is the best road for SEO? Well, quantity is the easy road. Definitely. Quantity is the scalable road. But quantity is also an all-in strategy. Everybody can go this road, so more is needed every time. And when Google pulls the plug on the aspect you’re aiming for all your efforts are lost.

Quality is the safe road, but also the tough road. You’re safe for getting hit by any update. But it’s hard to create quality and it’s hard to convince search engines that you’ve created quality. It takes time, it takes effort, but in the long run it gets rewarded.

Quantity or quality? It’s your call.

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Written By
Jeroen van Eck is a consultant search engine marketing at the online marketing company E-Focus in the Netherlands.
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