Google Guidance on Building High Quality Sites–post Panda

Google has been historically secretive about sharing information with the SEO community, webmasters, and the public about their algorithm, and approaches to evaluating quality sites and determining ranking priority.  However, a recent blog post on the Google Webmaster Central Blog has changed that, with Google providing some interesting and valuable information and insights regarding how to design and optimize high quality websites, especially targeting those sites negatively impacted by the recent Panda update.

In the post, they suggest that webmasters continue “to focus on delivering the best possible user experience on your websites and not to focus too much on what they think are Google’s current ranking algorithms or signals”. They also suggest that with roughly 500 planed updates to the algorithm this year, webmasters and SEOs should not “fixate” on any one release, like Panda, as other releases may in fact be the cause of changes in rankings of a website.

Google’s stated goal is to help searchers find high quality sites by reducing the rankings of sites with low quality content.  In the post they provide 23 questions for webmasters and SEOs to ask about their site to help them focus on providing quality content on their site for visitors.  While they don’t divulge any actual ranking signals from their algorithms in the post, the intent is to enable us to “step into Google’s mindset” and provide some guidance to us all about how they are looking at the issue of quality sites and low quality content.  The 23 questions are:

  • 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?

In the post, Google stresses that the focus should be on quality content, rather than fixating on Google’s ranking algorithms.  They also point out 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.”

All in all, this unique blog post from Google is a step in the direction of openness and we look forward to future posts that provide useful guidance to webmasters and SEOs.  Contact us to learn more about the Google Panda Update and how it can update your Search Engine Optimization efforts.

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