For the last four years, Google has been pushing harder and harder for an Internet based on content and quality, not links and keywords. They want as many people as possible to find the content they want to see. They don’t want marketers skewing their results using artificial techniques that take advantage of the fact that Google is essentially a giant robot and can’t make qualitative judgments on its own. Until Google develops sentience – which it might, another decade down the line – it’s a battle between marketers and the algorithm.
What this means is that the most common advice is to create content. There are a few problems with this.
This begs the question; can a site rank well without a lot of content? Is it all about scope, size, volume?
There is some evidence to the contrary. Small sites and local businesses are capable of outranking larger sites, even if those larger sites have hundreds of times more content. Where a larger site is like a tidal wave, the small site is a hydrojet, punching through with a more focused approach.
There is, however, a limit to how little content you can have and still rank well.
In order to rank in a Google search, you essentially need two things; valuable content and keywords. Keywords are essential, because without them, Google has no idea what queries your content might apply to.
The thing about keywords is that they can be anything. They’re no different from any other language you use in your posts. In this article, you could pull out “pushing content” as a keyword, or “certain minimum quality” or “how little content”. They’re all phrases used in the text, an that’s all that’s required to be a keyword.
The thing is, none of those keywords have any search volume. You might rank #1 for a weird tertiary keyword, but if no one searches for it, it doesn’t matter.
The sites that have the highest chance of ranking with little content are the most specialized. A small government page hosting a few forms and a brief overview can rank very well, because it has a specialized purpose, though part of that ranking doubtless comes from the hard to get .gov domain.
As your competition grows, it becomes harder to rank with less content. A site in your niche, doing everything you do, with content of the same quality, will out-rank you when they have more content. It’s not a complex equation.
If you want a site with very little content to rank, the content you have needs to be exceedingly high quality, exceedingly valuable and deep. If you pick a subject and see everyone covers it by barely skimming the surface in 1,000-word blog posts, you can dig deep into the underlying science and write a 5,000-word treatise on the topic. You’ll have a pretty good chance of ranking based on the power of links coming in from people using you as a resource.
Links are tricky to build. Google knows how powerful they are, and they regulate them constantly. Links from spam sites are detrimental. Links from unrelated sites are valueless. Links from industry leaders can be incredibly potent. Links from Reddit, Facebook and the like can be the start of an amazing viral surge.
In order to attract this kind of link volume, you need to have depth and quality. Make yourself a valued resource, the place everyone turns to when they have a question about the subject in your niche. As you establish that authority, you gain power and rank higher.
Here’s the thing about content; it’s either timeless or dying. When you make yourself a trusted resource, what you’re doing is building timeless, evergreen content. Content that’s valuable now, will be valuable tomorrow, will be valuable next year and will remain valuable for years to come. That’s the position you’re trying to build.
With this kind of timeless quality, you can snowball your site authority. Each piece of content you publish builds upon the last. Even when you publish content slowly, you’re still publishing content and you’re building up momentum.
The only problem with this strategy is one of volume. As you expand, you’re by necessity covering other topics. This means you become less focused, though you’re still hyper-focused compared to the biggest sites online. At some point, the balance shifts; you can no longer sustain such a slow pace and need to kick it up.
Ideally, by the time this transition happens, you’ll be in a position of such value and authority that you can afford, monetarily, to invest in a backlog of content at a higher rate. You can even maintain your quality standards, though you probably won’t be able to dig quite as deep into every subject.
There are, of course, some kinds of sites that simply can’t rank with very little content. If you’re trying to sell products, for example, you have incredible competition. More importantly, your competition very likely has a larger and more comprehensive content strategy than you do. You have no choice but to compete, even if it means diving into the red with the initial investment.
Some sites, some niches, just don’t work with the slow build. They need to hit the ground running. In every case, however, any original content is better than no content at all.
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