It should come as no surprise to anyone that Google wants to serve quality content in its search results; quality content attracts users, and more users equals more ad revenue.
The first real step Google took towards favouring quality content above all else came back in February 2011, in the form of Google Panda – the algorithm update that focused on devaluing websites with low quality, thin content, such as content farms and sites with a high ad-to-content ratio.
Panda took a couple of months to roll out fully, and hit Europe in April 2011. The algorithm update has been through various iterations since it launched, details of which are listed here, but the underlying ‘quality’ principle has remained the same throughout its evolution.
The Quality Update
Earlier this month (May 3rd, to be precise) Google rolled out what is being dubbed as ‘The Quality Update’. It’s not a Panda update specifically, but it is definitely an update centred around quality.
Despite being live for weeks, Google only confirmed the update a couple of days ago. Search Engine Land, the blog which broke the news, were told by Google that while no spam-related update had happened, there were changes to its core ranking algorithm in terms of how it processes quality signals.
To quote Search Engine Land; “We know from past statements by Google that quality for a particular page or site is determined by a wide range of individual factors. It could be that Google is now weighting some of those factors more and others less.”
The fact is that no one, other than Google, knows the exact details of this update, which means the next few weeks are sure to be interesting, as the severity of the update becomes more apparent.
So what next for website owners?
The struggle is real, as the not so old saying goes; Google wants quality web pages, but what the heck does a quality web page look like? Quality is, after all, subjective.
Following the Panda update, Google published an article, in which it listed a bunch of specific points for website owners to consider when assessing the quality of their content. These points, presented as questions, cover factors such as the relevancy, factual accuracy, and shareability of website content, amongst others.
While this post may be four years old now, the advice is still is still relevant, so its well worth reviewing if you have any doubts around what constitutes a ‘quality’ website.
Also see What should a site owner do if they think they might be affected by Panda? – a video in which Matt Cutts sheds some light on quality content.
The best advice we can offer is to focus on developing content for actual people, rather than trying to optimize pages for any particular Google algorithm.
As we’ve seen in the past, it’s those who chase algorithms too closely that inevitably end up being stung by them in the end.