Let’s Compare Technical SEO and Quality SEO

Quality SEO and Technical SEO

Picking up from last week’s blog, now that we see how search engines use meta-tags and human reviewers to index pages, let’s compare the results of Technical SEO and Quality SEO.

The search engines discovered in the early 2000s that there were two kinds of searches:

Informational Searches: People are looking for information, such as “what is”, “how to”, “how do I”, and so on. Informational searches are for terms that nobody owns, such as pregnancy, credit cards, publishing, and so on. About 80% of searches are informational searches.

Navigational Searches: About 20% of searches are looking for a website, person, company, product, thing, or place. These items are owned by a person, organization, or government. People are looking for Godiva chocolate, Jerry Seinfeld’s page, the Tesla car, or Yosemite.

Google shows two kinds of results to these searches:

Informational Results: Google shows the best page for that topic. The page has EAT: Expertise, Authority, and Trust. This page is generally neutral (it doesn’t promote a company or product) and non-sales (it doesn’t sell products).

Navigational Results: Google finds the official page for the item and shows it at the top of the search results with the link to that item, such as godiva.com, JerrySeinfeld.com, or Tesla.com.

It’s important to understand the difference so you know what to do:

  • If you have an informational page about a topic, Google will use Quality Raters to review your page. You get to the top if your page has EAT.
  • If your page is the official page about the topic (you own the topic), then you use technical SEO to ensure the search engines can find, index, and show your page. Your page will automatically be #1 at the top of the search results.

How to Use Technical SEO to Win in Navigational Searches

Technical SEO works for concepts and terms that your organization owns: the name of your company, your name, your trademarked products or services, books, videos, and so on. It also works for organizations that are the owners of parks, museums, cities, etc. The web page is the authoritative page for the concept.

If technical SEO is done correctly, a navigational search will bring up this result in the top position on the first page.

Why does this work so well? Because if you’re the owner of the concept, then clearly, your webpage should be the top result for a search. Competitors will never beat your page.

Of course, an organization may not bother to do technical SEO, so you can show up higher than the organization, but eventually, either the search engines will figure this out or the organization will improve its SEO, and you’ll be knocked off position #1. So if you’re #1 for something that you don’t own, don’t count on it. The owner only has to wake up and your page will drop.

This is bad news if you’re selling something for which you don’t have the rights. If your shoe store is selling the Nike Airflex TornadoMax shoe, you’ll never be #1 for it. Nike will be #1 for that term because they own it. You might get position #5 if your company is Footlocker. (The solution is to pay for ads in Google. It’s much better to sell something that you own than to sell another company’s products.

Technical SEO is fairly straightforward task of meta-tags, keywords, formatting, and other items. As I wrote above, it can be a checklist.

How to Use Quality SEO to Win in Informational Searches

As we discussed in my two previous blogs (Quality SEO: Improve the Quality of the Content and Quality Ranking and other Keys to Quality SEO), quality SEO doesn’t use meta-tags, keywords, or links. You can’t use technical SEO to get to the top of an informational search.

The 2015 Google manual states (section 9.2, p. 58): The top three page quality considerations are 1) quality of the content; 2) level of EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trust) (especially for YMYL pages); and 3) reputation of the site. Technical SEO issues aren’t in the list.

It’s the quality of the content, not the quality of the SEO, that counts.

As part of SEO work for my clients, I review informational search results pages. I’ve often seen items show up on page one where the page had no meta-tags or keywords.

You win for informational searches if your page has EAT. You write a webpage that offers information about a topic. This should be as good as a Wikipedia page or a university graduate student’s paper on the topic. It has to be written by persons who have experience in the field and who are seen as authoritative by other significant organizations. The webpage (and website) also has to be trustworthy. The quality of the page also has to attract links from universities, government sites, and major newspapers and magazines. My previous blogs on quality SEO listed many more criteria for the quality reviewers.

This work is not easy (and it’s not cheap) and that’s the point. When people search for information, they want the best results. The search engines want to provide those results. The best pages will be at the top.

There is also the competition. For any topic, there are tens of millions of pages. For pregnancy, there are 261 million pages. To show up on page one for pregnancy, your page has to be one of the ten best out of 261 million pages (that’s 0.000,000,01% of those pages).

Which brings up another problem: the humans at search engines have been reviewing pages since 2005. This means every meaningful or worthwhile topic already has ten pages that are considered the best pages for that topic. For you to get onto page one, your page has to displace a currently existing top page.

That’s the challenge. You’re not just competing against search engines. You’re competing against millions of other very good pages.

Often, a page may rank high but doesn’t meet Google’s quality criteria. Just because your page has been at the top for ten years, it may not be there tomorrow. When Google’s reviewers get around to reviewing your page, they may find better pages, or someone writes a new better page, your page will drop.

In my experience, it can make one or two months of research and writing to create such a page. But there’s no guarantee that the search engines will move it to page one.


Read my next blog, with tips on writing quality content.

Read my last blog, Google Quality Ranking and other Keys to Quality SEO.

Visit my guide: Content Marketing Central, full of insight and actionable tips to improve your content marketing strategy.

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Andreas Ramos

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