September 27th, 2019

Quantity or Quality: Which Matters for SEO?

Author: Laura Lynch
Laura Lynch
Director of Marketing

Is your business focused on growing traffic volume or qualified leads?

Many discussions about SEO strategy seem to revolve around the old argument of quantity vs. quality. Is your strategy going to be “the more the merrier,” or “the best of the best?” It’s a tricky problem, because these aren’t mutually exclusive. You can want the best leads out there, but also want more of the best leads out there. You can be focused on creating quality content, and realize that to do so, you need to create a lot of it.

But, you’re also on limited resources, and that means you’re going to have to prioritize. So we’ve broken the quantity vs. quality argument into a few component pieces to better gauge how your SEO strategy should respond.


The quantity argument:

In the early days of SEO, many content writers assumed that short form content was the way to go. The argument went like this: attention spans are limited, no one wants to read thousands of words just to find the answer to a simple question, therefore many short posts are better than one long post.

The quality argument:

A few years, conventional wisdom was turned on its head when studies came out indicating that longer blog posts (over 1000 words) not only ranked better, they also were shared more on social media. In other words, they didn’t just perform better because Google had more content to work with, but because readers found them more helpful and engaging.

The solution:

I favor long-form content over pithy posts that fail to delve into the real meat of a topic. But even I can acknowledge that sometimes shorter is better. Long content doesn’t always mean quality content. In fact, you could say that a quality over quantity strategy would favor a short, well-written post over a poor post with a high word count.

Read our post: How to write longer blogs without losing content quality

In my experience, writing a quality post means doing the research you need to back it up, providing useful insight, and offering a complete answer to the search query. In most cases, that will mean a longer post. And, by being thoughtful about your post content, you usually end up with more ideas about what to blog about. In other words, quality feeds quantity.


The quantity argument:

Preferring quantity when it comes to keywords can stab you in the back on multiple fronts. To start, if you stuff a lot of keywords into your posts without regard for readability, you will get in trouble with Google. And if you focus on search volume for keywords and ignore searcher intent, you may increase your traffic without improving your conversion rate.

Read our post: Black Hat SEO Scams and How to Fix Them

The quality argument:

That said, there are any number of possible keyword combinations out there, and you will need to target lots of them to grow your traffic. Long-tail keywords may have lower search volume, but are of higher quality for your business. There may only be a few people a month searching for your specific search phrase, but if that phrase leads them to you, it’s more likely that your post is what they’re looking for.

The solution:

Long-tail keyword strategies require producing lots of content—just very specific and focused content. This is another case where the pursuit of quality will lead to more quantity as well.


The quantity argument:

As with keywords, trying to improve the SEO on your site by seeding hundreds of low-quality backlinks around the Internet will backfire—and quickly. This is a black-hat strategy that Google is usually pretty quick to catch, and they do not take it kindly when companies abuse their algorithm.

That said, most backlinks are a benefit to your business if you come by them honestly, unless the source is a red flag for Google. There are a lot of backlinks that are low-hanging fruit that are relatively easy to get (such as site directories)—even if they aren’t super high quality. It’s worthwhile to get the ones you can, even if they aren’t the cream of the crop.

The quality argument:

Really high-quality backlinks are tough to come by. These are ones that come from trusted sources, like .gov or .edu websites, or from sites with high traffic volumes and strong ranking. Quality sources mean quality backlinks.

That said, you can put a lot of time into trying to earn these backlinks to no avail, especially if your strategy is to send out lots of emails asking for someone to link back to you. Instead, keep your focus on creating high-quality content people will naturally want to link to, look for guest blogging opportunities, and find other ways to network and build business partnerships that will give you opportunities for earned media.

The solution:

Don’t follow any black hat strategies that will bomb your site with low-quality backlinks, and disavow any links that come from toxic sources. Otherwise, take all the links you can get, and work hard to build your high-quality ones.

Find the balance: quality almost always wins, but volume is important, too.

As we said at the beginning, quantity and quality often go hand-in-hand. If you’re going to improve your SEO game, you have to focus on a broad range of factors. It takes a big investment, and with so many pieces to fit together, it’s hard to do a little bit here or there and see any meaningful progress.

But if you must make a tradeoff, focus on quality. It will get you farther.

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