Last week I presented about SEO for Large Sites at IMC Vancouver 2010. While writing the content and creating the slides some differences between the approach to a SEO campaign for a medium-small site and the one for a large site arose.
I didn’t go deep into that comparison then but this is a good moment and place to do it.
For a start, we should say that all the standard SEO rules and principles apply for large sites as well, but here are some notable divergences.
Search engines, your competitors
Yes, it is an important part of your strategy to analyze competitors, though when you are big and relevant, Search Engines are more sensitive to changes made in the website you manage.
Doing some bad URL re-directions in a small site can damage your rankings, sure, but on a bigger scale can be a complete disaster sending your organic traffic to purgatory–half or quarter of what it used to be–for weeks, even months.
There’s no room for mistakes, so making some tests anddoing gradual implementations are a must for large sites.
Your strategy as SEO consultant
Take a look at this table, don’t take it too seriously but it will give to you a certain idea of what we are talking about when comparing both scenarios.
Exaggerating a bit, it could be said that all the tasks included in the right column could represent most of the 5% of Practice in the left one.
Working on a small project makes you are a little army of one. In other words, from a pure professional perspective, your strategy has got to be really different, since the battle field is going to be so large.
‘Google is God and SEO’s his prophets’. Always, but while playing in the major league you will end using clergy collar in a pilgrimage from department to department. Marketing, sales, business development, IT and who knows where else you will be in your evangelism effort.
If there is a discipline related to SEO that would make a difference from small to big (besides the main and general strategy), it is Information Architecture (IA).
IA is almost always an invisible one on every project but it stands out, or it should, on sites with thousands of pages and daily unique visitors.
Organizing tons of content and making it indexable while keeping a simple navigation and great user experience is quite a challenge, especially when everybody in the company seems to be an expert–from accountants to cleaning service guys.
User driven content sites
Keyword research, analysis and content optimization is crucial for any project. In small-medium ones, if done properly, it is a grateful task to do for the obvious benefits in traffic and rankings it yields.
On top of it all, if your huge site is one of those where a big chunk of the content is generated by users like job classifieds, online auction or any other, the effort you have to make to come up with solutions so as to optimize as much as possible is tremendous, bordering on black hat minded and risky SEO approaches.
Complete different type of animals
To make it more graphic, ‘SEO for small sites’ is a cat and the one for big sites a jaguar. You cannot handle a pet and a powerful wild feline the same way.
You have been advised.