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SEO is increasingly becoming a data-driven tool for growing your online presence – but what type of data reigns supreme?

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Data – Why Not Both for SEO?

David Bosley

For many people, phrases like quantitative data, qualitative data, and search engine optimization sound like someone is speaking Greek. They are words that may not ordinarily come up in ordinary conversations. At least not outside of high-level math and science circles for the first two and internet marketing circles for the last.

SEO and content still remain king, but to deliver the right kind of content to make search engine optimization work in your favor you need data. Lots of it. While there are some who will argue that quantitative data or qualitative data is more important, the truth is that both are necessary to launch successful campaigns on the World Wide Web.

If you are someone who engages in internet marketing, you know how important Search Engine Optimization (SEO), happens to be. This means you now need to make the terms quantitative data and qualitative data your new best friends. Here’s what you need to know about both.

What is Quantitative Data?

Crunching numbers to draw informed conclusions is what quantitative data is all about.
Quantitative data, as the name implies, has to do with quantities. It involves things that can be measured, counted, or presented in a numerical fashion. Operating on the internet today, for those who want to do so successfully is a wholly different ballgame from what it was 10 or 15 years ago.

Quantitative data is all about crunching numbers. There are all kinds of numbers that matter when it comes to SEO, such as:

-Number of clicks

-Number of seconds people linger on the website

-Number of visitors in a 24-hour window

-Number of unique visitors

-Frequency with which repeat visitors return

-Number of leads generated (and where those leads originated)

-Cost per lead

-Revenue earned

-Number of legitimate comments

-Social media shares

But it is so much more than that. You can use quantitative data to determine how well your products are received by customers, how visitors respond to small changes in your website design, and even whether they like the font you’ve chosen for your website or not. Almost everything can be counted or measured in some way. While these things may not necessarily determine where you will rank in SERPs they can lead to changes that will help you do the following:

-Build more backlinks

-Sell more products

-Get more page views

-Encourage visitor interaction

-Each one of these critical things can help you improve SEO for your site

How do You Obtain Quantitative Data?

In many ways, this is the easiest data to generate. You can do it through various analytics programs that are widely available with web building software and tools as well as the search engines themselves.

They understand that your success and theirs are intertwined and want to help provide you with the information you need to grow your web presence. While they won’t give away the precise algorithms they operate under, they will help you see how your site is doing in the grand scheme of things, leaving you to draw conclusions based on their data.

Other options for you to drive the data collection involve:

-Surveys

-Experiments

-Polls

-Technical analysis

-A/B or split testing

-Market reports

It all comes down to crunching the numbers so that you can make informed decisions about everything from product creation and customer service to website design and the types of content you use on your website. At least, that is the case when using quantitative data as a tool for building better SEO.

Putting Quantitative Data into Practice?

It’s not all about gathering data. If you want to improve your SEO, it’s about using the data you’ve collected to make meaningful changes on your websites and other internet properties.

Even things like content digestibility can be measured to help you determine the success of your latest content. For instance, internet audiences increasingly gravitate toward long-form content. But where is the magical sweet spot for delivering just the right amount of content?

You discover the answer to this through quantitative data. A 2012 serpIQ study determined that the average content length for all their top 10 search results was greater than 2,000 words with the number one spot weighing in at 2,416 words and the number 10 spot at 2,032. Even Google has hinted that long-form blog content, provided that the content is useful, can help your SEO efforts.

What does that reveal to website owners?

It reveals that long-form content is king. But it’s important to remember that quality matters in the content. You can’t simply add words to make the content more valuable. The content must also be meaningful to have a strong impact on your SEO. It must also be easily digestible.

How do you make content easily digestible when writing so many words?

There is an art to it. It’s not all about large blocks of informative text. When you right that way, the juicy bits get lost along the way.

It’s about breaking up the large blocks of text with things like:

-Bullet points

-Numbered lists

-Graphics

-Headers

-Tables

-Charts

-Quotes

You want to draw the eye to the “juicy bits” so that those who want to skim can do so, while those who are looking for greater details have the option to read the full test. Offering long-form content that is informative and visually appealing, with plenty of “white spaces” and abundant techniques to break up the information makes your content more attractive.

How do we know this about readers and content?

It’s all thanks to quantitative research and data!

What is Qualitative Data?

Now we make the move to qualitative data. It’s true the information on quantitative data for SEO is compelling. But that doesn’t make it the only tool you need to aid you in your efforts to improve SEO for your web properties. Qualitative data is different. Rather than being precise, structures, and measured, qualitative data is more interpretive in nature.

Rather than counting or measuring, qualitative data seeks to identify specific qualities in the data. It accounts for all the information gathered that you can’t count or measure.

It’s a little more difficult for number crunchers to wrap their heads around but provides information that is no less valuable than the information derived by facts, figures, and measurements.

When it comes to content, for instance, qualitative research would focus on the content itself rather than the number of words. It would evaluate for information such as:

-Topics addressed in the content

-Value of the information contained within the content

-Readability of the content

-Mobile-friendliness of the content

These are things that cannot easily be measured or counted but are extremely important for the readers, and, as a result, for the search engines.

How is Qualitative Research Conducted?

Qualitative research is an important tool for improving SEO for all types of websites.

Qualitative data requires a little more study and effort that quantitative research that can be largely automated. This type of data is derived from things like:

-Texts books

-Documents

-Audio or video recordings

-Interview transcripts

-Focus groups

-Personal observations

-Personal notes or by reading the notes of others

Many people skip this part because it isn’t as easy as gathering numerical data. Some people make the mistake in dismissing the value because it can’t be quantified. To do so, when attempting to improve your search engine rankings, would be detrimental at best. It could prove to land you in search engine banishment because you don’t fully understand what is expected of you.

Qualitative research can also give you an idea of things that can’t ultimately be measured such as user satisfaction, user experience, alternate solutions for common problems, and how people feel about the images, content, etc. on your website. Things like images, content, etc. weigh heavily in the SEO process making qualitative data essential for sound SEO practices.

Putting Qualitative and Quantitative Data Together for Better SEO

It is not only possible but necessary to put the two together to create web properties that are upwardly mobile when it comes to search engine ranking. The goal of having a website is to improve traffic, build better branding, and make greater profits. That can’t happen if your websites are left to languish in the ethers of the internet.

Using the data you’ve generated from qualitative research and quantitative analysis, you can create a website that is user friendly, readable, contains volumes of useful information in bite-sized-bits, and encourages social media sharing, thoughtful commentary, and greater study by visitors – many of whom will become “repeat customers” for the information you provide as well as the products you sell.

You can even use a combination of qualitative and quantitative data to generate impressive content curation on your website as well. This can help you boost your SEO rankings even further. The key is to use both types of data in all your SEO efforts to get more mileage from your efforts and enjoy far better results.

You never want to view your data generating efforts as an either/or proposition. Instead, you want to use both types of data for a well-rounded website that appeals to humans and search engines without alienating either.