In reading a Search Engine Land article about Jason Calacanis’ remarks during “Ending the Content Arms Race” at Signal LA this passage caught my eye:
Calacanis shows a “How to cook a turkey” page on Mahalo which he says has tons of good video content, then decries it has to compete against 17 different articles from eHow on every variation of how someone might want to cook a turkey. “Do you guys understand now why I’m going insane?”
eHow and Demand Media’s reputation for creating large volumes of low quality content are well known so no need to go into that here. But a more practical topic for content publishers is when it comes to keyword targeting, how many variations is too many?
As I covered in my post on editorial SEO tactics mapping out the keyword universe around a particular topic and making sure that all aspects of it are being effectively covered is a worthwhile effort. It is particularly helpful for sites with a lot of evergreen content. But that is very different from recycling what is essentially the same information on multiple pages in an effort to target several keyword variations.
So what’s the right approach? Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. If there is not enough unique content to warrant a separate article, don’t make one. In such cases a single high-quality page is better for users and ultimately better for SEO. It avoids keyword cannibalization and allows internal and inbound links to be focused on a single URL.
In cases where there is enough unique content to warrant multiple articles, then smart keyword targeting combined with an effective internal linking strategy offers good opportunities to increase the search engine visibility of all of the pages.
For help with targeting multiple keywords on one page vs. several pages see When Keyword Targeting Gets Tough and Keyword Targeting: How to Employ Multiple Keywords for SEO & Conversions from SEOmoz.
Let’s go back to the “how to cook a turkey” example. There is little benefit to recycling the same basic instructions on multiple pages with slightly different keyword targets. However, there are in fact a lot of different ways to cook a turkey and many different turkey recipes out there.
So having a reasonable number of unique pages focused on different ways to cook turkey is ultimately helpful to users and allows a site to go after a variety of different keyword targets. It’s just a matter of striking a proper balance.
Finally, Jason Calacanis might not want to throw too many stones at eHow. As of today Mahalo has 123 pages in Google’s index with “cook” and “turkey” in the title tag. And 53 of them have been filtered out by Google for being very similar to other pages:
Be sure to check out the comments; there’s a good discussion going between Jason and several others on the quality of eHow vs. Mahalo and Mahalo’s plans for improvement.