Google on How to Rank Well in the Wake of Panda

Google’s Amit Singhal recently talked about the wake of Google’s Panda algorithm and algorithm updates in general on the Google blog. I highly recommend taking a look, as it’s a pretty good read.

The gist of his message is something we’ve heard from Google several times before: don’t chase an algorithm, instead focus on the over-riding quality issues that Google is paying attention to. Google is constantly trying to improve their algorithm to give users better results, and the logic is that if you try to analyze their algorithm on any given day, it could change on you. But if you try to analyze what Google’s trying to accomplish, future algorithm change will only help you (assuming the algorithm gets better) rather than hurt you.

As Matt Cutts once put it:

“One piece of advice I give to SEO masters is, don’t chase after Google’s algorithm, chase after your best interpretation of what users want, because that’s what Google’s chasing after.”

This reminds me of my one of my favorite Mitch Hedberg quotes:

“You know, I’m sick of following my dreams, man. I’m just going to ask where they’re going and hook up with ’em later.”

What Google is Looking for in a Website

Amit Singhal also provided us with a laundry list of the kinds of things that Google looks for in a website. He took care to stress that these aren’t necessarily algorithmic ranking signals, but instead these are the over-arching concerns that Google is trying to build their algorithm around.

This list shows us a lot of stuff that we know if part of their ranking algorithm currently (duplicate content, shallow content) as well as some things targeted by the Panda update (excessive ads, more shallow content, more duplicate content). Here’s his list of what Google considers a good (or bad) website:

  • 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?

I think most people would agree that this list is pretty accurate in what makes a quality site when we’re looking for information online. While many of these items are known ranking signals — for example “Is the site a recognized authority on this topic?” translates to: “how many other sites about this topic link to this site” — what I found really interesting was the listing of spelling errors and professional formatting. Both of these can be algorithmically identified, and I’d assume that these are already a part of Google algorithm.

How to Improve Rankings Hurt by Panda

Amit Singhal also reiterated some Google advice for webmasters who complain of being hurt by the Panda update (though Amit points out that this could be any of a dozen algorithm tweaks made since Panda). Here again we see the focus that even if only part of your site has poor content — in this case typically meaning shallow (low word count) or duplicate content, it can hurt the rankings of your entire site, including other keywords:

“One other specific piece of guidance we’ve offered is that low-quality content on some parts of a website can impact the whole site’s rankings, and thus removing low quality pages, merging or improving the content of individual shallow pages into more useful pages, or moving low quality pages to a different domain could eventually help the rankings of your higher-quality content.”

Other Panda-Related Posts:

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