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Big Sites and Website Authority

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Google’s John Mueller in an Office-hours hangout answered a question about whether a big a site with thousands of indexed pages influences Google’s perception of site quality. John Mueller answered no, it’s not a sign of quality and then provided more information.

SEO Perception of a Big Site Advantage

There is an old idea in the SEO community that big sites have an advantage over smaller sites.

When a smaller site can’t get top rankings some will shrug and write it off that the big site has an advantage because of how big they are.

An article published on Moz in 2012 offers an example of the belief that big brands have an advantage:

“There’s been a lot of debate about how Google, both manually and algorithmically, may favor big brands…

Since the beginning of the internet, the eventual advantage of big brands was only a matter of time.

This post is about why I think that advantage was inevitable, why it’s not going away, and what you can do to compete.”

It was a bleak outlook in 2012 and it is still a defeatist approach to marketing today, peddling the idea that ranking algorithms are rigged against smaller sites.

Despite new algorithms like BERT and MUM, many continue to believe that big sites have an inherent advantage.

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Remove Low Performing Pages?

The person asking the question explained that they wanted to remove old pages that are poorly performing.

But they received pushback from the site developers who asserted that making the site smaller would reduce it’s perceived advantage from being a big site.

This is the question:

“So you’ve recommended several times in the past that large sites, that they focus on a smaller set of pages, I guess.

…The site I’m working on right now, we have a lot of pages that… a lot of pages… like a thousand pages, that don’t get any traffic, that are old, so I’ve been recommending to remove those.

But there’s a question that our dev team
has that they were under the impression that the more pages that Google has indexed of your site, the higher the authority it ascribes to the site…”

The person asking the question goes on to relate that the dev team is reluctant to remove pages because they’re afraid that it will impact the authority of the site.

He then asked John Mueller to “shed some light” on this idea of Google seeing a big site as more authoritative.

Google’s John Mueller Discussing Big Sites and Authority

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller discussing website authority of big sites

Big Sites Are Not Inherently Better

John Mueller popped the bubble on the idea that big sites, by being big, have an advantage over smaller sites.

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John Mueller’s answer about a link between authority and how big a site is unambiguous:

“So it’s definitely not the case that if you have more pages indexed that we think your website is better.

So I think that, at least, is absolutely not the case.

Sometimes it makes sense to have a lot of pages indexed.

Sometimes they’re kind of useful pages to have indexed like that.

But it’s not a sign of quality with regards to how many pages that are indexed.

And especially if you’re talking about something on the order of …1,000, 2,000, 5000 pages, that’s a pretty low number for our systems in general.

And it’s not that we would say, oh, 5,000 pages is better than 1,000 pages.

For us, it’s all kind of like, well, it’s a small website, and we make do with what we can pull out there.

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And of course, like, small website is relative. It’s not like saying it’s an irrelevant website.

It might be small but it might still be very useful.

But it’s certainly not the case that just having more pages indexed is a sign of quality.”

Big is Not an Advantage

A lot of this doesn’t take much thinking to pop a hole in the idea that big sites have an advantage.

I and many of my ecommerce clients regularly outrank big brands retailers.

Some might say that brands are able to leverage their popularity to push their web pages higher. But if those sites have a over a million pages, how much “push” do they really have to leverage?

We are deep into the new era of natural language processing where AI, machine learning and algorithms like BERT, Neural Matching, RankBrain, MUM all work together to use website words and images themselves to rank websites, lessening the influence of less reliable signals like links.

So it makes sense that Mueller discourages the idea that having more pages indexed is an advantage in the current phase of search technology.

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More Web Pages Indexed Means Higher Authority in Google?

Watch at the 3:45 Minute Mark

Searchenginejournal.com

GOOGLE

5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy

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With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?

With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:

1. Start early.

Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.

Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.

2. Make research an even bigger priority.

With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.

With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?

3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.

To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.

Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition. 

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4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.

Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.

Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as Amazon.com, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!

5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.

The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”

The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.

Marcus Pentzek is chief SEO consultant at Searchmetrics, the global provider of search data, software and consulting solutions.

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