Google basically called out Suite101 as the poster child site of what its “Panda” algorithm update was aimed at. Reports have found the site to be one of the hardest hit, and while the site has often been mentioned in the same breath as sites like eHow in the past, eHow has apparently gained from the update.
When asked about it in a recent Wired interview, Google’s Matt Cutts said, “I feel pretty confident about the algorithm on Suite 101.”
We had reached out to Suite101 prior to the publication of that article, but only since it was published, have we heard back. A representative for Suite101 pointed us to an open letter to Matt Cutt from CEO Peter Berger, in response to the comments from the Wired piece. Here is a sample of the letter (read the whole thing in its entirety here):
We have certainly noticed that within the last week Google has stopped sending our content as many readers as it had in the past, resulting in a decline of 30% in overall traffic. We have been working to understand what separates successful content on our site from negatively impacted content, and have also tried to compare how other sites on the web rank for given Google queries.
We do not get the sense that this “Panda” algorithm update is about filtering out “low quality” content. We do appreciate that Google is constantly trying to improve immediate user relevance for given search queries. That means that Google has to experiment with evaluating measurable properties of content in alternative ways. Engineers might refer to these properties or signals as “quality” (within the context of a given search query), but please do understand that when a representative of Google describes entire sites as “low quality” outside of engineering circles, this can be perceived as insulting by people who associate “quality” rather with an individual piece’s execution, angle and craft, and who have taken great pride in creating it.
We take it that concise, high quality writing is a signal that Google de-emphasized with its algorithm update. That is a legitimate business decision, even if some of the content we currently publish does not benefit from it. Other factors have become more important, and we will try to understand them, and work to help those of our writers who feel that Google is the best distribution channel for their thoughts to improve their articles.
For the sake of the web as the rich ecosystem it is, we hope that Google stays committed to:
* a page-by-page evaluation of the web’s content, emphasizing its actual “content” over its display and polish
* respect of copyright, diligently ensuring original content is not outranked by scraped content
* impartiality in terms of content’s ownership, including treating publicly listed corporations’ as well as Google’s own content not differently from the rest of the web
Another level of depth may be added to this discussion if the word “quality” were more fully defined. “Quality” without much more precisely defining it, especially when the quality mentioned does only seem to be a quality signal relating to a given search query, leaves a lot still misunderstood…
We spoke with Berger last year, long before this update was realized, but during a time when search quality was really starting to come into question as content farm sites were really on the rise.
Berger told us, “Every week, several thousand people apply to become Suite101 writers. While we only accept a portion of applicants based on our non-negotiable quality standards, we do have many successful writers on our site who do not consider themselves ‘writers.”
“We see it as Suite101′s mission to enable people – anyone who can write well and with deep understanding of a subject – to achieve their goals,” he said. “These might be earning money, addressing large audiences, building up a personal professional brand, or simply enjoying creative freedom in a nurturing, peer-oriented environment.”
Cutts has yet to respond to the letter, at least in the comments section, but it hasn’t been live very long, and Cutts is keeping pretty busy from the sound of things.