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]