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Producing a High-Quality Site According to Google
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Earlier this month, Google released some additional information about what site owners can do if they feel that their site was hit by recent algorithm updates most notably the Panda Update. While many question the guidance, or lack thereof that Google has given, at the heart of all of this is improving the results that are out there. Seriously do you think that Google will provide specific information as to how to improve your site if you have been hit by Panda? They simply cannot, even if they wanted to, because every site would then try to game the search results.

I find it frustrating when site owners think that they can game the results.  That is not what it is about.  People are still placing too much emphasis on individual rankings.  Why not focus on the traffic that you are getting?  Improve the conversion process on your site?  Strive to improve the content on your site.  Factor in the relevancy to your core business.  Worry less about the algorithms and more about your users.  You might think that your site is optimized, but frankly optimizing for 2005 and 2011 are two entirely different practices.  Ah but I digress.

So as mentioned, Amit Singhal posted some thoughts as to what Google might consider makes a site a high-quality site.  I have added some commentary in green to some of the points that were referenced.
  • 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? – Read: Avoid filler pages or placeholder pages on your site.
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations? Often found in geo-pages of directory-like sites. Content will need to be enhanced so that it is unique from other site pages.
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site? Site/Brand Authority.
  •  Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors? Quality content that has been edited.
  • 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? Read: Avoid over optimizing your site’s content. Focus on providing the information that your users are looking for and producing content that is highly engaging and not readily found on other sites.
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis? Read: Avoid replications of content; add detailed analysis or opinion and avoid aggregation of content.
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results? Are your pages the most authoritative on the given topic that they are being optimized for?
  • 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? Again brand and site authority come into play here.
  • 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? Is the content genuine and does it enhance/support the theme of the site ? Avoid producing high volumes of content and launching it at the same time (the exception might be with a site redesign).
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced? Quality control is important for producing quality content.
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site? Trusted site vs. makeshift blog or directory?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name? Emphasis on brands and social popularity?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic? In-depth content with details. Think of the difference between a good FAQ and a poor FAQ that lacks information or does not answer the question. Longer pieces may be better in some cases? Not to focus too much on word count, but 800+ words as opposed to 2-300 words might help ensure that specific details or a “comprehensive description” is included.
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious? Avoid reproducing what is already out there. Provide somewhat unique content and avoid syndication of something that has already been produced. Duplicate content comes in many forms.
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend? Social engagement signals are and will continue to be used as part of the ranking algorithms. How people engage with your content may determine, in part, how well your site places in the search results.
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content? Avoid shallow content that has been optimized for all of the wrong reasons (i.e. to generate ad revenue). The ad to copy ratio can be a clear signal of the quality of a page.
  • 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? Again avoid placeholders and content that serves little or no purpose.
  • 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? User engagement (time spent, bounce rates) may suggest that your content is simply not satisfying the visitor. There is traffic and there is qualified traffic. If you push out content that is lower quality and not very engaging, so not expect this traffic to return. Have you checked out Google’s results lately? Just because you have the top spot for does not mean that you are the “best” result or the most relevant result.
With the launch of Google Caffeine, there is no doubt that Google’s results have become worse, however Google is working on improving the quality of their results. It is not easy task. With so many aggregators and all of the various means of syndicating content, Google’s index has grown greatly (for better or worse). Hence, all of the algorithm updates, Google’s search product is broken and they are trying to repair it as best they can. Tips such as these, while you might not agree with all of them, can help improve the quality of the content that Google places in their Index.

In the earlier days of Search, I remember Google sharing updates of how many millions…then billions of pages they had in their Index. It was like hey look at us, we’re Google and we have crawled X number of pages, which compared to the other search engines at the time seemed pretty impressive. However now with the trillions of pages indexed, it is not about the quantity of pages indexed, it is about the quality of the pages that are being returned. Quite honestly, Google Caffeine did open the floodgates up for a lot of spam or low quality pages, but with that comes more quality content as well. We just need to be able to access it.

Remember, Google does not owe it to any site to rank your site at the top for an extended period of time if at all. Just because you have ranked number one for for ten years does not mean that you will continue to do so. Especially if your content is stagnant. You could have the best writers in the world, but so what? If people do not find your information useful and are not engaging with it, why should Google?

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posted by Jody @ Tuesday, May 31, 2011  
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Home: Kelowna, BC, Canada
About Me: SEO guy by day, family man 24/7.
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