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Google Panda Update: New Advice Directly From Google

23 questions to ask yourself about your content quality

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Google Panda Update: New Advice Directly From Google
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Google’s Panda update left a slew of victims in the wake of its warpath (the war, of course being on shallow and low-quality content). While Google has dropped some hints here and there on its philosophies for what it considers to be low quality, the company has now been clearer than ever as to what it’s looking at.

Do you think Google’s results have improved since the Panda update? Tell us what you think.

“Some publishers have fixated on our prior Panda algorithm change, but Panda was just one of roughly 500 search improvements we expect to roll out to search this year,” writes Google Fellow Amit Singhal on the Google Webmaster Central blog. “In fact, since we launched Panda, we’ve rolled out over a dozen additional tweaks to our ranking algorithms, and some sites have incorrectly assumed that changes in their rankings were related to Panda. Search is a complicated and evolving art and science, so rather than focusing on specific algorithmic tweaks, we encourage you to focus on delivering the best possible experience for users.”

Google lists the following as “questions that one could use to assess the ‘quality’ of a page or an article”:

  • 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?

The company is careful to note that it’s not disclosing actual ranking signals used in its algorithms, but these questions will help you “step into Google’s mindset.” These questions are things that Google says it asks itself as it writes algorithms.

Singhal also reminds webmasters, “One other specific piece of guidance we’ve offered is that low-quality content on some parts of a website can impact the whole site’s rankings, and thus removing low quality pages, merging or improving the content of individual shallow pages into more useful pages, or moving low quality pages to a different domain could eventually help the rankings of your higher-quality content.”

We’ve already seen victims of the update respond by taking this approach. For one, Demand Media announced a big new clean-up initiative, in which it is cleaning house on user-generated content used on its eHow site – deleting some articles, while sending others back through the editorial process.

I’m sure we will be digging into all of this more very soon.

Are there any of Google’s questions that surprise you? Let us know in the comments.

[Image Credit: Stéfan on Flickr]

Google Panda Update: New Advice Directly From Google
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  • http://www.thelittlefoxes.net Lorri

    Thank you for explaining the latest crawl by Google.

    My site, like many others, dropped like a stone. Which not only stressed me out but I didn’t know why. When you know why you can fix it.

    Which I intend to do thanks to this article!

    Thanks!

  • http:/www.mlmwatchdog.com Rod Cook

    Thanks for the great article. It is obvious with Google that everybody must maintain good quality content. I myself find it is not fair (for me the searcher) for a searcher to get junk sites. It is too bad that Google has to be a watchdog on top of providing good search results!

    Rod Cook

  • http://www.replicacafe.com A. Watch

    G results became more unpredictable and meaningless. I see some sites that stopped to exists on october 2010 now are shown on the top of search results

  • http://www.leisurecom.com Shay

    How do you expect an algorithm to answer these questions? Thats ridiculous! A one line answer that answers is worth less than several pages of drivel? Why design websites at all? Just let Google tell us what is relevant to all.

  • http://ultimatemarketingstrategies.net Peter Sundstrom

    I think Google’s approach is to attempt to get website owners to regulate their content more carefully.

    While the list of factors that can be used to determine the quality of the content is good from a human factor, there is no way that the great bulk of them can be algorithmically determined.

    Cheers

    Peter

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      I agree 1,000% with your first sentence.

      With the second, partially. They can’t really 100% determine what is good for a human but they can, over time, determine what humans think of a given page of content. Backlinks and anchor text is one ‘human reaction’ and how fast one backs out of a given page and returns to the SERPs to find other, possibly better information is another. There are many more triggers that could be employed but those two provide some of the main examples of observing human reaction in determining quality and usefulness of content.

      For my ‘money’ and the areas of search I primarily do in Google, it seems they are doing a MUCH better job than human edited directories do, by a long shot. But then again, a search in almost any search engines out-performs DMOZ, in my opinion and experience, for finding what I need when I need it.

      From a rankings point of view, the other side of the coin, I’ve always done well in the SERPs, on pretty much all search engines, so I’ve little to complain about from that side of the mirror either.

  • http://www.puamanawebdesign.com/ puamana

    I think that Google is trying to improve the search experience for the general searching population. That’s a good thing, and while it requires anyone managing a website to know grammar and be fluent in their native language, for some, this may be a problem. The questions highlight how little real education a lot of people have (in America – thanks for that RonnieRaygun). Doing away with sites that are not ‘grammatically’ correct, or with lousy content DOES restrict what one can find when searching on the internet, but for me, quality content is what I want, not an echo chamber, telling me the same thing over and over again in bad grammar – If I want that, I’ll watch FOXNews.

    While I think that the millions and millions of ‘cloned’ sites selling niche markets that have become the latest vogue in ‘internet investment’ will also suffer under this Google algorithm, (and I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing), there are a lot of ‘mom & pop’ sites out there, with which people are supporting themselves and their families by selling a service, downloadables or hard-goods, and many of them have dated or mildly illiterate content. I wonder if Google’s algorithm will still provide a place for them to reach their audience?

    In the end, we must remember that Google gets it’s income from advertising,
    and it can do so because its search results are the most relevant and highest quality, therefore it’s used more for searches than any other. Its aim SHOULD be to improve the search experience, since that’s the basis of its success. If the consumer (searchers) don’t like the results they are getting from Google, they’ll go to Bing or Yahoo, and Google will lose market share.

    It seems to be an experiment by which Google is trying to ‘improve’ the quality of it’s results. If it works, folks will love it. If not, people will migrate to Bing or Yahoo, and Google will quickly modify its algorithm again to lower the ‘weight’ of content again. Ever feel like a lab rat?

  • bill

    The Panda update put alot of companies under.

    Amazon
    Overstock
    Wikipedia

    and the big dogs are just going to get bigger.

    Mom and Pops will go.

    I’ve ran test and content is not the factor.

  • http://www.magellan-solutions.com/customer-call-center.htm customer call center

    We cannot deny to ourselves that google by far is still the best of the search engines out there. Personally my searches are very relevant and healthy with google. So as a web admin myself, it doesnt hurt us to have these requirements. It is actually Pro-user recquirements.

  • http://www.services1223.com Glenn Jewett

    Chris-
    I have written two pieces on “the Panda, and have a discussion forum on site about it. So far I haven’t seen that much attention focused on a particular statement Mr. Cutts made, followed by the creation of a foundation, or initiative, called “Make The Web Faster”. The adjustments, in my eyes are a statisticians response to “social”. Google’s been grappling with this issue for almost a year now. They finally decided how to quantify “social”. You’d recommend a site to a friend if it provided the information you needed, that information was easy to find, AND speed of loading. They have put their chips on the fact that the growth in the Internet over the next 2-3 yrs will come from mobile. The hardware won’t catch up to desktop or laptop speed during that time, so the sites have to change. Lighter is better. Google even has a video with a young woman explaining that 16 color .gifs may be as usable as 252 color ones! In mid construction I threw out all the photo albums, videos and flash and have 22 pages with the heaviest at 218 kb, they all load in .6 sec or under.Forget the eye candy… content, ease of navigation and speed of loading, if you want to rank.

    Glenn

  • http://howtogetridofacnespots.com/acne_and_birth_control_pill.html How to get rid of acne spots

    I personally think some of these points are ridiculous as it locks out the rest of the world. Which rest, you might ask? The rest that don’t have English as their mother tongue.

    This one for an example “Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?”, and there are several others I would debate. If a not English speaker creates a website that use English language they don’t have a chance to get to the top no matter how good or useful the content is because of the above reason.

    I don’t think google panda is as useful to the web community as google wants us to think. I think it’s discriminatory towards other than english speaking websites.

  • Lalit Kumar SEO

    When read closely..Except credit card point …rest pointers are same but presented in diferent form. Google themslves start with presenting simple info in irrelevantly longer descriptive form…So ironical and expects others to be relevantly user centric :)

  • http://www.brain-freeze.org Sina

    This is just not the way. Cause there are so many sites, such as games, pills, poker and even the po*n sites which just simply can not made sites which works with this “rules”.

    I think they still provocate more Spam. Not only the above mentioned sites are Spamming – I run for example an Beautyblog (as well) and I do get comments as well from carsites and silly chinese stuff. Why they are doing this ? Because it is still important to have loads of links. So nevertheless u are running a credit, poker or whatever site – u need links but it is not important where you get it. So u can find loads of Blogs which are mature or non updated in the last year, but they still have the comments open – and the get massive spam comments from all different types of sites – and those sites who are spamming – they are mostly the top leaders of the keys.
    so the old spam methods still working.

    This is one of a few kinds which G* should change. They always saying that this n that is not working – but it does. If you look at the Serps you see that all of the google mentioned “don´t do” things are working well and perfectly.
    Google is getting worse – since years now. They are not getting better. They are still improving the spam

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      Just because people still spam comment sections with robot written replies loaded with links does not mean it still works.

      More than likely it means that people are still selling services and systems to automagically flood comment sections with worthless links and are able to convince the unknowing and unaware that it is still effective.

  • http://www.metanym.com/milton-keynes MarkFL

    Excellent summary, thanks Chris. Web Design Milton Keynes

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      @Sina, See people like MarkFL seem to think it still works for affiliate spamming as well, until the company he is an ‘affiliate’ of gets enough complaints about ‘their’ marketing tactics at which point Makr’s affiliate account with that company will become disabled.

      No problem though, there are plenty of affiliate programs out there waiting to be abused so he can just move on to the next one.

      Meanwhile the sites he’s been spamming all over the place end up getting tanked eventually.

      Short term is great, until you run out.

  • http://www.net-tipps.com NetTippser

    That sounds good to the black sheep among the website owners for once, with its many spam pages from the SERPS to throw. But what about the small private bloggers who make the effort to your private blog? This will probably not meet some of the above points and also be punished by it.

  • http://www.simplyclicks.com Simply Clicks

    I don’t think that many of the article companies have grounds for complaint. The whole content farming business model appears to be based on regurgating low level articles to th widest possible audience.

  • http://www.kebumennews.info/ kebumennews

    Would love to see a video of the program in operation. The sales page is the usual “YOU CAN BOOST YOUR RANK AND BE RICH LIKE ME!” garbage. Showing how the program works would sell anyone educated about this stuff, it’s only the noobs that fall for the 10,000 word sales copy.

  • Jules Worgan

    Google : “You must have relevant and valuable content written by experts to rank well. Alternatively, bung us a few dollars via adwords or boost and we’ll flick a switch to make sure you come up first”

  • http://theblogginguniverse.com/blog Venkatesh Iyer

    Does Google really believe that all people are capable of objectively judging all web pages they access? On issues like “mass-produced content” can the average browser really make out if he is reading a unique piece or one that has been published in 999 other sites?

  • http://www.big-av.co.uk james

    Personally I think anything that improves the quality of the pages that are ranked highest in Google is a good thing.

    Don’t blame Google, all they try to do with their is provide a better experience for their customers (people who search using Google) and if you want to rank highly on Google following their advice will actually mean you provide a better experience for your customers.

    I say Google keep up the good work!

  • http://www.acquistovestitionline.com/ Acquistovestitionline.com

    I think with Panda the Google Results have improved, this is good for the searchers, but I think now it will be much more diffcult for the webmasters. Anyway, nice tips, thank you. Filippo

  • http://www.bestpassiveincomeideas.com Adrienne

    Google left out the most important question of all: “What ELSE can we do give our Adsense program less competition?”

  • http://www.no-bs-marketing.com Paul

    These 23 questions can be boiled down to one simple one; does your web site contain high quality, customer-focused content?

    If you’ve been playing by white hat rules you’ve known this for YEARS. In the past, this was supposed to be insulation against algorithym changes. The whole reason Google why left a “slew of victims in the wake of its warpath” is that they ARE punishing sites that have always been focused on delivering high quality content, while rewarding some very questionable ones (*cough* eHow *cough*).

    What a joke is right.

  • http://www.hedgehogdigital.co.uk/ SEO Bedford

    “Content Still King!”

  • http://jerseysandgear.com Elaine

    I have noticed since the last update on Google that sites that are aged are being returned in a higher placement than a newer site that may have more up to date information. In short Google needs to realize that older does not always mean better!! One many of my searches the results are anywhere from 3 to 5 years old, the information is not relevant to what I searched for, and the usage of the keywords in the site did not match my search terms. Needless to say I am very frustrated with the new updates.

  • http://jerseysandgear.com Elaine

    Interesting checkout http://www.visuallizard.com/blog/2011/05/09/291 it has the exact same “content” as this page!! Who scraped who? Who got dinged for the scrape?

  • Andy

    I gave a search for ‘submit articles’ and I am really stupefied about the new results…

    http://www.google.com/search?q=submit+articles&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

    Sites like ezinearticles, articledashboard, etc… no longer appear but some unknown sites that aren’t at least good or established article directories. Shame on Google.

  • terrance

    I understand the attempt but has google ever surveyed users and asked how they would grade their search experiences. My thought if that the searchers should be able to assess for themselves what is qualified information for them to buy, research or ask elsewhere and not googles. It’s job is to make finding the information in a timely manner. Hell, the safe website badges and BBB can be bought.

  • Ro

    Only Google wins here so that’s one of the reasons the government needs to break them up.

    - Forcing site owners to write more content or they won’t rank or oven disappear from the web.

    - Sites with more content are monetized with Adsense and this content will rank higher. More content means more profits for Google from adsense publishers.

    - Ecommerce sites with short product descriptions disappear from view favoring Google Merchant and other of their properties.

    - List is endless.

    Google needs to be intervened by the government and I mean South Korea style by raiding their offices.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      What???

      - “Forcing site owners to write more content or they won’t rank or oven disappear from the web.”

      You seem to be focusing on individual words too much. The article said, “short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics”, the operative terms are ‘lacking in helpful specifics’.

      A given page can be very short if that is all it takes to convey the information needed. Short or long is not necessarily indicative of quality nor has Google ever punished a given page because of its length, unfortunately at times. ;-)

      - “Sites with more content are monetized with Adsense”

      Sites with little content, even scraped content are monetized with Adsense, so what?

      - “Ecommerce sites with short product descriptions disappear from view favoring Google Merchant and other of their properties.”

      Ecommerce sites which are not local to the one performing the search are more likely to not show up as well. If you have a dozen sites with the same content, is there a need for all of them to be shown? Especially if none of them are in the area where the one performing the search is located.

      - “List is endless.”

      So it seems is the list of complaints by people who seem to think Google OWES them a position on the SERPs.

  • http://www.used-pooltable.com Jeff

    I don’t know about this. I have been ranking with Google for over 10 years with a crappy little site that makes me my living. I hate to say it but Google is my main reason for being able to survive. The only time I suffered any issues was with the Florida update and that was like 100 years ago in web progress. That being said I have to mention that I feel the way we know the web right now is the old web. Technology has changed (I have not) but the web is now evolving and Google is trying to keep up with their grip. I do feel certain that within the next 7-10 years we will all be laughing and asking the question to each other “Do you remember when people and companies actually had web sites?” I do believe we are in the process of major change, like from the record to the CD type of change and Facebook may be the discovery that starts it all, I don’t know if FB will be the major thing because we all get old and tired but it definitely has opened up a new horizon.

  • http://www.majormarketingtools.com Major Marketing Tools

    Seems to me that this just means that you need to focus on quality content, throw in some longer articles now and then and give your visitors what they want. If you can’t tell quality content from crap content, maybe you shouldn’t be blogging or building content sites.

  • http://webhostingreview.info/vps-hosting/ top vps hosting

    thanks for writing this

  • http://www.riverbendtf.com Amy

    Thanks for the insight, Chris. The item that particularly caught my eye was “Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?” I’ve recently started writing a lot more web content for my company, and as a journalist I default to AP style, but wonder if this puts me at a disadvantage somehow. Ditto for grammatical rules such as hyphenating compound adjectives — I do it naturally, but it’s been suggested to me that it might hurt us in search. So the question is, do grammatical sticklers need to RELAX their own rules to be more successful in search? Thanks again for your insight.

  • http://www.electric-reviews.org Mark Demers

    I love your writing and this article is right on. Google finally gives me something to go on. The panda update dropped my site to 2,7 million in Alexa ratings but since then i moved back up to 1,4 million. Yet at the same time Google`s update put me up to #1 and #4 for 2 of my keywords (they used to be 7 and 11) . I guess it helped me one way and hurt me another. Go figure?

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      Part of the change in your Alexa ranking could be that the terms you place well for were not popular search terms during that period.

      SERPs positioning is not the end-all and be-all of web mastering, it is only something that given people are searching for the terms you rank well for, your likelihood of getting traffic is greater.

      One could have the top SERPs position across thousands of possible search terms but if no one is searching for those search terms, SERPs results is a poor consolation.

  • http://fasciasmanchester.com fascias manchester

    I can’t believe they have to change things so drastically, were their results sooo bad prior to this ?

  • http://www.boozebirmingham.co.uk Alcohol Delivery Birmingham

    What if you have a few companies doing the same thing in a few different towns, if you duplicate the website (http://www.boozemanchester.co.uk & http://www.boozebirmingham.co.uk)then google will think its rubbish?

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      If I’m in Manchester searching for a distributor, do I care about distributors in Birmingham that have the same product as what I am looking for?

  • http://www.tonightschedule.com/ Aliza Shehpati

    It’s all a guessing game in my opinion. I know of guys who are doing some crazy link building techniques with duplicate content and are ranking really well. And I know of people who are doing quality articles (100% unique) but aren’t doing too well in SERPs.

  • http://kevincole509.com Kevin Cole

    The biggest surprise to me is that they believe they can construct quantitative analyses of some of the qualitative questions listed above – or at least of “the mindset of Google” that they reference. Maybe they can? Who knows? But the complexity involved blows me away.

  • http://thecablebridge.com Sara Nelson

    How do you ever quantify value on any but an individual basis?

  • http://www.socialcubix.com/services/iphone-developer iPhone Application Developers

    Hey Chris;

    Thank you for loving article.You tell me about Google Panda.What are the benefits of Google Panda search Engine.I wanted to know about this and what are the pros/cons of this.

    Regards
    Roses Mark

  • http://freelanceforseveral;travel,etc. Gail Hunter

    Timing is everything. Read this post this a.m. Last night I notified my publisher I was “retiring” from my author title and would just serve as an editor. My age and handicap prevent me from first hand journalism. I found I was “digging up bones” for content and relying on phone contact with venues for current information. In short, I was stale. I plan on concentrating on what I know – how to survive as a resident of a 65+ home and keep your sense of humor. As such, I can make crusty comments without fear of being called judgmental or discriminatory. To quote Pogo, “We’ve met the enemy, and they is us.”
    Accordingly, I will continue to write for Hubpages – a great interactive community.

  • http://seoguide2u.info Hasmat

    Really, Google doing the right thing.

    There are lot of pages ranked high on search results, which don’t have quality content.

    But it’s also brings disaster to some sites like hubpages, squidoo or helium. So now everyone should be careful about the quality of the content.

  • John Kitzky

    This list is a complete joke. I have seen a few sites with scraped content improve through this update. Just how is that improving the user experience?

  • http://www.theokaynetwork.com Adsense Publisher

    As time goes on I see Google as less and less of an organic search engine. At least our directories have stayed the course of what we intended them to be. An organic network of directory sites where we don’t play these games that Google does to who gets to be displayed first.

  • http://www.unionjacks.org.uk/ Jack

    Interesting point about “low-quality content on some parts of a website can impact the whole site’s rankings…” Some pages of a site naturally have to be “thinner” or even repeat what is elsewhere on the site already. But they are of use to visitors. Should I just get rid of them on account of Google and their rankings whims?

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      You might want to look at your site navigation. Duplication is rarely, if ever, warranted if visitors can find what they are looking for without a lot of trouble.

  • Michael

    Always keep in mind the ‘guideline’ questions above are not hard and fast rules.

    For example, my main competitor is probably untouchable. Their answer to every question in the guideline is No. They have no content (and I really mean NO content), no Google backlinks, no PR, nothing, yet they are ranked in the top 3 for my main keywords. They do have a good URL and use adwords very heavily (not sure why they do considering they rank so high).

    I have a ‘glass half full’ view of Google. I’m not sure they punish sites so much as they just don’t reward them.

    You really need to develope a degree of Google independence. You need repeat business that doesn’t use Google to get back to you.

  • http://webupon.com/web-design/google-keywords-keyword-placement-in-articles-and-online-content/ Sen

    All I’m seeing on the first few pages of results for some search terms are businesses. What happens to the people who want information?

  • http://www.flamencotravel.com/ Mayte Castro

    Some publishers have fixated on our prior Panda algorithm change, but Panda was just one of roughly 500 search improvements we expect to roll out to search this year

  • http://review4bonus.net andre

    These are stupid requirements.I think Google will be dethroned by Bing in the next five years.

  • http://www.ealtbay.com Frank

    Still trying to figure out what to do, as we have an online auction site, and most of our content comes from customers who do have duplicate content, mis-spellings, one line descriptions and we get huge numbers, of soft 404 Google, errors from item listings that have expired. They need a human touch to determine quality –not just dumb computers.

  • http://www.bontemedical.com Tony

    Although I don’t agree on how sites are ranked we all have to live with it. Either your in the “Google Game” or your on the sidelines. Many of my key words are ranked high by some standards but I don’t think it’s fair that E-Zine articles or related articles get so much credit in the rankings. Here is an example it takes less than a day to compile an article and place relevant links in it. Some articles rank in the top 100 keywords or phrases of their content. My site http://www.bontemedical.com has approx 30,000 medical products many with pictures and text, access to 400,000 E-books, another 4,000,000 plus songs and or albums. I have similar content that all major record labels such as Sony and Tower Records. I have my own Amazon store imbedded in my site and thus you can search for millions of Amazon products. I assure you it took more than a day to make the site.
    Frankly I don’t know of any site that has as much consumer ready available purchasing options as my site. Yet Google only wants to rank for a few key words and follows specific algorithms. It’s ridiculous I’m getting better notoriety on Bing and Yahoo links included.
    “It’s just a matter of time and the next Panda revision will soon be coming your way”.

    Tony

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