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Google Panda Update: The Dawn of a New World Wide Web?

Google Panda has been making headlines lately for attacking unsuspecting websites in the World Wide Bush—but, according to Google’s official webmaster’s blog, Panda is just half the trouble for those feeling threatened by the beast. Dozens of other tweaks have been made to their search algorithm since the update was first let out into the wild in February, part of some 500 improvements expected to roll out by the end of the year.

(To find out if your website got hit, check out Mark Nunny’s excellent Google Panda update survival guide)

The Problem

“So why all the ‘bearing’ around” you ask?

Essentially, Google’s effort is commendable: to rank quality content higher. But that’s easier said than done. After all, search robots aren’t endowed with our discriminating tastes (which, even in the world of humans, are regular subjects of dispute), but can only follow a given set of guidelines. So how do we define ‘quality’ in simple terms even a five-year-old robot can understand?

How do we express ‘value’, ‘relevance’, or ‘accuracy’ as a mathematical equation?

Unfortunately, at this point, we simply cannot (it would be interesting to see what happened if Google took a peek under the hood of IBM’s Watson—but that’s another story). All we can do, which is perhaps the next best thing (and what Google did with Panda), is find measurable parameters to work with.

The Solution

In an interview with Wired, Google engineers Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts explained their method involved sending out a questionnaire to outside testers and asking their opinions on various attributes of websites and web-content. That was back in March. Subsequently in April, after Panda went global, Singhal posted an entry on Google’s webmaster’s blog titled ‘More guidance on building high-quality sites’ where he outlined 24 questions publishers should ask themselves. It’s fair to assume these questions are in the spirit of the aforementioned questionnaire.

Unfortunately, the 24 bulleted items appear to have been slammed together rater hastily and in no apparent order. So, for ease of reference, we’ve grouped them here according to categories:

Trust, Credibility, and Authority

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?

Originality & Value

  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

Style, Grammar, and Best Practices

  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?


Amit Singhal suggested that by keeping such questions in mind and focusing on quality instead of guessing what Google's algorithms are up to in the background, publishers will improve their organic search ranking...well, organically. That's certainly a worthy thought. Now, if only they can make it so!

More on Google's 'if you publish quality, they will come' philosophy in our next post.



posted by Maty Grosman @ 8:44 AM