What Constitutes a Low Quality Site?
The content on your website is the lynchpin of your Search Engine and Social Media Optimisation efforts. Its quality is what should persuade Google to rank your site more highly than your competitor. However, certain less savoury characters continue to attempt to spam the engines with inferior, keyword stuffed content and Google is forever trying to find ways to outfox them.
After the recent Google Panda/Farmer update, a large number of low quality sites got slapped back down the rankings. But what constitutes a low quality site? And, more importantly, how can Google tell the difference?
Their goal states that ‘our site quality algorithms are aimed at helping people find ‘high quality’ sites by reducing the rankings of low-quality content’
Picking high quality is a taste decision that is really hard for computers to do because they can’t make an aesthetic choice – no algorithm can program a machine to do that.
So, according to Google’s Amit Singhal, they set out to identify rubbish sites with poor content by asking 23 questions:
- 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?
They’re all slightly different ways of phrasing but, essentially they are asking very similar questions:
Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend or recommend?
Is it written by someone who knows their stuff? Well, Google can see if people are sharing that information and so to verify that it’s good info, they check out open public platforms like Twitter and Facebook Fan Pages. If enough people are liking and sharing the content, then this signals that article or site as a whole can be looked at as an authority for its niche and, therefore, given a high ranking. But, more than that, Google are using Social Search. It can now see if any of your friends have liked it and put their comment with a little picture of their face beside it into the main body of your new personalised results page. If you are looking at two products that are almost identical in terms of price and performance but you can see that someone you know has recommended one of them, that’s most likely going to be the one you look at first.
As Ed Dale said in a recent webinar, in an age where we are inundated with conflicting information and an abundance of choice, the people we know are going to become our curators.
Does the site have duplicate, overlapping or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
Most of us will have seen those types of affiliate sites where the articles all have the same word in the title preceding an almost idential article with just a slightly different keyword variation. It’s important to vary article titles and ensure that the content of all your posts is essentially different.
Does this article have spelling, stylistic or factual errors?
My particular bugbear. Sure, it’s ok to make the occasional typo – these things happen! But most poor content has a lot of grammatical errors and Google can spot them a mile off because, just as we have the ability to Spellcheck our work, checking spelling and grammar is easy to do algorithmically. Outsourcing to writers with English as a second language is not going to produce an article that makes a good read. The writer may well be an expert in his field but if he can’t write in a language that the reader can understand, it’s pointless.
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