We’ve already written a couple of articles on the latest update by Google. One on the announcement of the Google update, and another on what Google has said about the update. Now it’s time to take a look at the experiences people have been having with it, and what it can mean for SEO. Google has called it the Panda update, but some people are calling it the Farmer update, because of its focus on so-called content farms.
Why The New Update
It seems that the last big update to Google, (known as the Google Caffeine Update), is at least partially responsible for the need for this latest update. The Caffeine update, which sped up Google’s indexing considerably, also caused a veritable flood of new content to appear in search engine results. (New to the results, that is.)
Unfortunately, a lot of the content that the search engine was finding wasn’t particularly useful. Article directories, (also called content farms), were ranking high for a lot of serious topics. And since article directory articles aren’t written by experts, (or often even by people with at least a rudimentary grasp of the topic), users were struggling to find truly relevant content.
A Brief Aside – Article Directories
Before carrying on with the topic, let’s take a brief aside to quickly consider article directories. What are they, and why are they suddenly so bad?
In short, article directories are websites where anybody can write and upload an article, on any topic. In theory, people who need content for their own sites are allowed to come and copy the article, and use it on their own sites, with the proviso that it remains unchanged.
Why would people write these articles? The short answer is because Google rates your websites relevance partly by the number of links that point to it. And that means that people were looking for any way to have links on other websites that pointed to their website. And article directories allow writers to include a couple of links, which must remain if anybody uses the article.
Because of webmasters perceiving a desperate need for links, a burgeoning industry grew out of article writing, with freelance writers providing articles on any topic, that could be linked to relevant websites.
Back To The Update
With all these technically relevant, but practically useless, articles coming up in search engine results, Google decided that they should start making a distinction between higher and lower quality information.
Before the update, Google apparently asked testers a series of questions, including ones about whether they’d be comfortable giving the site their credit card details, or whether they would give medicine a site offered to their children.
Based on their responses, they decided on a definition of low quality, and using that definition, altered their algorithm to reduce the rankings of “low quality” sites.
New Factors In Google Rankings
Taking what Google has announced about this update into account, it seems that Google is now considering the following factors (among many others of course), when it determines where a given site will rank in the search engine results:
* How much do users trust the site?
* How much expertise does the site demonstrate?
* How good is the content quality?
* Are there too many ads? (They don’t tell us how many is too many of course.)
* Which side of Google’s “quality classifier” does the site fall into?
* Does it use article directory content? (If it does, Google suggests blocking that content from the search engine.)
What Does It All Mean?
* Stick to unique content.
* Design your site to enhance its appearance of trustworthiness.
* Don’t put too many ads on your site.
* Don’t use duplicate content.
* Don’t use too many short articles.
* Get links from quality sites. (Not article directories.)
* Maintain a consistent site structure.
SEO Is Alive And Well
This isn’t going to stop SEO. It’s not even going to slow it down. As long as Google is choosing what order to display sites in for their search results, people are going to be doing whatever they can to rank higher than the competition.
It is going to force a different approach to some areas of search engine optimisation. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. SEO is changing, and will continue to change. But the underlying principle isn’t going to go away in the next few years, that’s for sure.
At Net Age, we think a new variation of the discipline will slowly emerge, and we’re calling it “search engineering.” But more on that another time.