Google’s Pandas can’t stop breeding!
In the last two weeks there has been four updates to Google’s search algorithm.
The most recent four are (in date introduced):
- Panda algorithm update (September 27th): This was a fairly large update which is designed to target low-quality, spun content and primarily content farms
- Exact Match Domain (EMD) update (September 28th): To reduce the weighting previously given in the search results that exact-match domain names gave
- Penguin update (October 5th): A data refresh (not a specific update to the algorithm)
- Top Heavy update (October 9th): Targeting ad heavy sites with minimal or no real content above the fold
The Panda algorithim update was the major of the four although some sites may have been affected as well by the EMD update on the following day. Not all EMD sites are low-quality and those affected may well have been as a result of the Panda update alone.
Regardless of whether they were Panda, Penguin or EMD (exact match domain) the intention and focus is on returning the highest-quality search results by identifying, weeding out and penalising the lowest-quality content which has plagued search for as many years as SEO has been practiced.
Quality is subjective and Google might have its own idea what it is but their view does need to be considered if you think you have been effected by recent updates or want to improve search page rank.
Luckily, Google, although generally quite secretive about its algorithm, has laid out what it considers to be ‘quality’ and what it’s looking for in your content.
Rules along the content road
Google has pretty much given webmasters the rules of the road, specifically in regard to the Panda update, and last year listed a number of questions that you should consider when assessing the quality of the content on your site or published articles (the takeaway being that if the answer was ‘no’ you might need to to some work!):-
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
- Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- How much quality control is done on content?
- Does the article describe both sides of a story?
- Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
- Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
- Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
- Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
- Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
- Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
- Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
- Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
It would be near impossible for every piece of content published to conform or pass the above test 100% but used as a guide and a checklist of sorts it should help to minimise any possible penalty.
Google uses over 200 signals in its ranking algorithm, and keeps most of them pretty close to its chest, and updates/refreshes them sometimes on a daily basis so when they break ranks and offer some sort of insight it’s worth taking note if it helps you produce better copy.