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Google's Quality Update: What You Need to Know

Google has rolled out another update to their search algorithm and this one is all about quality. The purpose of the “Quality Update”, which due to lack of a formal announcement from Google some have dubbed “Phantom”, is to enhance the engine’s ability to determine the quality of a site. The new ranker will penalize websites using practices that take away from the user experience such as disruptive ads or a confusing layout.
Whenever Google makes a change to their algorithm it has the potential to benefit or hinder a site’s performance. Understanding what the algorithm is looking for is the first step to fixing or improving your ranking in the search engine.

How does Google define quality?

In order to provide the best results to their users, Google equates a site’s quality to the user experience. A high-quality site would be visually appealing and functional while containing engaging and original content. Just by focusing on making your site user-friendly will win you points with the search giant and more importantly it will keep you out of its crosshairs because this update is not all about rewarding good publishers.  Google wants to push the low-quality sites as far from the first page of results as possible.
A low quality site is one that has repetitive/thin content, annoying advertising, errors, and generally anything that could be considered irritating or make users suspicious of the site’s legitimacy. When Google released the Panda Update they also released a brief guide on what is considered a high-quality site and what questions they ask when determining a sites quality such as:

  •      Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  •      Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  •      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 have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  •      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?

You can read the full article here

What can publishers do?

Publishers can check if they have been hit by the quality update through this tool by FEInternational but those who have been penalized have probably already noticed a drop in performance. If your site hasn’t been affected by the update then just keep doing what you are doing! Keep providing a great user experience and you shouldn’t have to worry about going down in the search results.
If your site has been penalized by the quality update it is far from the end of the world and it doesn’t necessarily mean you are running a low-quality site. With a little work publishers can recover from the loss of rank.
Filter User-Generated Content
HubPages.com is a site where people can create hubs for topics in order to foster a community around it. Due to it containing mostly user-generated content, the latest update hit it pretty hard, causing the site to lose 22% of its traffic. It may seem difficult to monitor community contributions for poor/copied content but you don’t need to be check to see if every submission is acceptable. Simply limiting the comments on a page that has been hurt by the update will reduce the impact on the rest of your site.
Clean Up Your Site
One of the quickest ways for a site to be considered low quality is an abundance of obstructive ads. If the first thing a user sees when they go to your site is a barrage of advertisements they are fairly likely to leave and increase your bounce rate. Google tracks bounce rate, time spent on the site, and how many pages were visited by a user before leaving and if the numbers look bad then your search rank will reflect that.  Watch out for popups, autoplay audio, and just having too many ad units because they can all hurt your SEO.
Trash the Bad Content
Google can tell the difference between an information rich original article and one that has been scraped or is non-informative. A piece of writing that is mostly keywords or is just difficult to read will trigger a warning in the algorithm and the site’s rank will suffer. Putting in the extra time to produce quality content will end up helping you far more than if you were to mass distribute stolen or thin content.
The best way to avoid losing rank in Google’s engine is to focus on making and hosting quality content. As more feedback is given the algorithm will be improved to stop innocent publishers from being reprimanded.
 

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