When it comes to search engine optimization for large websites, things get so complicated that you need to bring out all your tactics in all its glory. I find it interesting that optimizing large websites for search engines is a real test of how well you know SEO.
How is optimizing large websites different from smaller ones ?
So, first off, is there really a difference between the optimization procedures ? Technically no, if you think about it from the grass root level. But if you think from a strategy perspective, yes ! And a big yes that is.
What is the difference and how to deal with it ?
1. Volume of pages
The most obvious difference is that you’ll be dealing with more number of pages, and things can get complicated as each page needs careful attention. In smaller websites, the number of pages are so low (let’s say below 100) that it is easy to find out what’s important and what’s not, but when it comes to thousands, things can get tricky. How to solve it ? Let’s discuss in point number two.
2. Weight-age and importance of pages
When dealing with large websites, it is mandatory that you define different categories and subsets of pages. And one primary metric to take into consideration while creating categories is to find out how the search engines might consider them important. Based on their page rank, links, and content availability, create different batches of pages, so that you know how to go about dealing with each of them.
3. Taking a step by step approach with the content pyramid
A strategy I follow while dealing with a large number of pages is to divide the entire content into different sets based on their importance (as discussed above) and creating a pyramid, based on the content. I normally select two factors while creating categories. a) Content and b) Importance The pages with the most content, like the landing pages goes to the bottom of the pyramid. They generally form the most part of the website as they tend to be large in number. And the most important pages align above these narrowing down on their volume.
The Pyramid, Bottom Up Approach
The best approach to optimizing large websites is to follow this method by which you follow a step by step method of first mapping out the entire list of pages on the website, then categorizing them into important, less important batches, and then doing the SEO optimization processes based on the content on the pages. The key features are that the large number of pages with the most of content will be dealt with immediately and targeted for long tail keywords which will be as comparable to the number of pages in hand. The idea is to get the low hanging fruits first and get some traction initially on the search engines. Once this phase is in full swing, the focus can be shifted to the second category of pages which are more important than the pyramid base, and has better authority but lesser number of pages and content in place.
The idea is to leverage on the traction gained by the pyramid base and extrapolate the SEO metrics there from. Here, you could target more specific keywords that are close to the primary or competitive keywords reserved for the top level pages. In my opinion, here a lot of onsite optimization has to be done, along with little of internal linking changes and more of offsite optimization. Be careful not to mess up with the website structure too much as we have the top level pages to deal with soon.
Finally, after finishing the bottom and mid level pages, it is now safe to move to the top level pages where a lot of precision and targeting is required. Pick up the reserved competitive keywords, and match it up with the most relevant pages and do the onsite optimization part. But the highlight of this phase is going to be the offsite optimization that you do and the authority you can harness over the time. Mostly, these pages would be the top level, close to domain name pages, which already has a good amount of authority and link juice accrued, so you might also want to consider doing a proper link analysis here and spreading all those link juice evenly and with priority to importance onto other pages below the top level.
While all this action is going on on the top level pages, the earlier optimized bottom and mid level pages would be working well, and giving you results. Based on the study done on their analytics, it might also be worth to tweak certain optimization criteria for certain pages. The idea is to find the relevant information from your goals and analytics.