Content creation to please the Google Panda

by Dean Evans

Panda kiss

Google's Panda update has affected thousands of websites.

Since Google rolled out its ‘Panda’ update it’s never been more important to create good content for your website.

Simply put, the Panda update wages war against bad content. It’s designed to “reduce rankings for low-quality sites – sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful.”

Google never divulges how its algorithms work or why you see the search results that you do when you type in a particular search phrase.

But with some sites questioning the metrics of the Panda update, Google released a list of questions that gives us some insight into how the search colossus is attempting to sort good content from poor content.

How Google searches for good content

As Google explains: “These are the kinds of questions we ask ourselves as we write algorithms that attempt to assess site quality. Think of it as our take at encoding what we think our users want.”

Here’s the list:

  • 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?

So what does all this tell us?

Reverse engineer this information and you can get an insight into what Google is after. Words like ‘trust’, ‘original’ and ‘analysis’ are regularly mentioned. Take a look at the word cloud below to see the most used words in Google’s list.

Several of Google’s questions also revolve around depth. And not just in terms of comprehensiveness and value. A question like: ‘Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?’ points to the increasing worth of lengthier articles.

This one is also interesting: ‘Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?’ We could take this to mean that you can’t just produce the same content as your rivals. Or simply copy them. You need to do it better, add extra information or come at it from a new angle.

Google also seems to place value on sites that look professional. It suggests that if your content is littered with spelling errors and surrounded by excessive adverts, you’re going to be marked down. Google might argue that these are signs that a site isn’t well cared for.

Search algorithms are always evolving. If you’re not producing ‘good content’, you might already have seen a dip in your traffic levels as Google adjusts your website’s position in its search engine results. The important thing to remember is that it’s never too late to get back on the right track.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Stéfan

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