Content Quality and a New Panda Update Warning [Part 1]

You may or may not be aware but there is new round of major Google updates coming. The first is a new Panda update that will take effect tomorrow (Friday 15th March) or maybe Monday, according to Matt Cutts.

There is also talk by Matt of a new Penguin update and an frontal attack on a link network in the pipeline, but no dates as yet.

There have been many Panda and Penguin updates since those algorithm changes were first announced but the next round is likely be much harder hitting that we have seen recently.

Aimed at hitting poor quality web pages and so called “web spam” (anything that Google thinks you are doing to manipulate the search results).

Most of you will already know that great content is now the name of the SEO game. The best way to succeed and benefit from Google massive search engine is create great sites for real people.  First and foremost that means quality content.

The biggest challenge I have seen is judging quality content. It may seem odd but I find most people just do not take a real view of their own web pages. OK, there is bound to be some bias after all it’s your baby, all your hard work. It’s hard to be self critical and brutally honest when assessing yourself.

Truth is though most people do not actually know what “quality content” is. Don’t take offence I don’t mean your a bad judge or anything. I mean Google keeps their quality measures so close their chest that all we really do is “best guess” what they want.

Sure we can test and analyse things. I run a lot blogs , mainly for test purposes. I purposely give them poor content, bad link profiles, overdose with ads etc. to see what actually forces web pages or web sites into Google’s penalties (and how to get out of them!).

Why would I do that?  Well the way I see it is that it’s fine adding good content and trying to follow the Google rules but it only takes one mistake to get your site penalised and find it sat at position 600+

Even very minor mistakes can see your site drop from a good page one position to page 5 or 6 overnight.

These minor mistakes are what Google mean by web spam. Basically anything they do not want you to do.

To be fair they have never wanted you to do it but they are just getting much much better at spotting it and penalizing it..

Through Panda and Penguin Google have been able to use human reviewers to “rate” web page quality in detail. This information gets fed into the robots and that way they can implement automated penalties for this low quality content or spam sites.

In fact I would be surprised if you know all the things that constitute web spam. Certainly nothing to do with email spam.

Likewise did you know that you cannot assess page quality just by looking at it?

That’s right! Users have something called intent. Web pages have a purpose. Fulfilment of intent and achievement of purpose are the fist steps to assessing a pages quality.

Can you distinguish between main and supplementary content?
Do you know their purpose
Do you know how one must help the other?

You see we haven’t even got to the actual text, graphics, videos and other actual content yet.  Quite simply if you do not fully understand the foundation judgements you must make before assessing quality then you just won’t get it right.

That’s proved by the shock and confusion of webmasters everywhere as all their site plummet in the ratings after just one more Google update.

Everyone feels the rules have changed but the reality is the rules haven’t changed, simply the enforcement got better.

Because all (and I mean all) SEO has been about manipulating the gaps in Google’s algorithm. Even things considered white hat really aren’t in general.
They are just things Google have not caught up with yet.

In Google’s own words

A web page created for the sole purpose of making money with little added value to the user is considered spam.

Do you know what Google consider enough added value? or even what may constitutes added value?

I’ve been working on this for months now. Since late last year in fact and it has been an extraordinary enlightening journey. Which culminated in Google releasing a cliff notes version of there web page quality raters guide a few days ago.

Sadly it was woefully incomplete and cut to the bone. However it kind of opened a flood gate because up until then any copies and reference to that document had been secret and in fact a lot of legal threats and letters went around a few times when anyone attempted to leak the document.

There a lot of stuff I was not able to share in the past. Now it’s (a bit of at least) in the open, I can now do so without the fear of Google’s attorneys coming after me.

I’ve been talking about authority sites for some time now and it really is the way forward. Building authority sites is your only protection against future Google changes. Like I said the rules haven’t really changed just how well the are enforced and that will continue (and very soon).  So that means if you have all the basics in place. Quality, up to date content, great site structure, good keywords, good quality backlinks and a natural anchor text profile then you will have the basis for a web site that Google loves and will reward.

How you go about ensuring that your content has purpose, is of good quality, serves the user intent, is spam free and your site is reputable will be the subject of part two of this post in a few days.


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2 responses to “Content Quality and a New Panda Update Warning [Part 1]”

  1. Bill Avatar
    Bill

    What Google says they means and what they actually do, doesn’t really jive with the results we see.

    Your quote from them, “A web page created for the sole purpose of making money with little added value to the user is considered spam.” is a perfect example of their hypocrisy. By this definition, e-commerce sites with shopping cart style catalogs are all spam. And Google’s own entire shopping tab is spam.

    Searching for our target audience increasingly brings up old articles for yahoo voices and ehow, some from as far back as 2006. Garbage.

    They want junk listings to show up so people click on their paid ads, or as the case may be, use their shopping tab.

    This all about them wanting all the money.

    The quote should read “A web page that is not paying us money and stands a chance of making income we think should be flowing into our coffers, created for the sole purpose of making money we want with no added value to Google is considered spam.”

    1. Tony Avatar
      Tony

      Hi Bill,

      I can’t argue with much of your comment. Google is a listed company and as such has a legal requirement to do the best it can for it’s shareholders.
      That will always be the primary driver for everything it does.

      Google search was built with desktop computers in mind and is struggling to adapt to mobile devices. That combined with ad blindness etc. is creating a real struggle for them. I guess there are a few panicky people on the board that may feel a desktop based business can easily be ruined in the post PC era (like Hewlett Packard).

      What I do disagree with is your view on e-commerce sites. The key thing here is that they are specifically designed to give the searcher what they want. The option to purchase a product (directly from the vendor). If you read [part 2] I cover some explanation about that.

      But in short the site must fulfill the user intent(search query/keyword). If the user intent is to “buy a mobile phone” and Google’s returns an e-commerce site specializing in mobile phones then the user intent has been fulfilled 100% and hence it is a “quality” result.

      Tony Marriott

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