Did you know that Google Panda assigns a hidden ‘quality score’ to your domain based upon their own internal algorithm, and that this affects rankings for ALL your pages?
This was a question I posed on Facebook recently. From the messages I received, it’s clear this post inspired several businesses to review and spring clean their content.
What is the Google Panda Quality Score?
As the name would suggest, Google Panda’s Quality Score is a way of assessing how likely searchers are to find the content of a page engaging, helpful and relevant to their search. Although every page is given a unique score, Google Panda adds all of the Quality Scores together and divides them across your total number of pages to create a Quality Score for your entire domain.
This means that your Quality Score will decrease substantially for ALL of your pages in Google – downgrading the value of your best pages – if you have low quality, thin, and definitely duplicate content anywhere on your site. This can rot your site away, affecting its visibility and undermining your hard work.
The good news is that there’s a flipside to this, i.e. your Quality Score increases substantially if you are super diligent and only have valuable, higher quality pages in Google’s index. In other words, quality control your content and your rankings site-wide should increase next time Google applies their Panda algorithm, which is usually on a monthly basis.
Low quality vs. high quality content: What’s the difference?
The message is clear. If you’re committed to SEO and securing those top Google rankings, you need to be committed to producing great content and weeding out any less than stellar pages.
But what makes low quality versus high quality content? How does Google decide? When auditing your pages, how do you determine what stays and what goes (or at least gets rewritten)?
Personally, I would define high quality content as content that attracts audience engagement versus low quality content as content that gets overlooked and ignored.
Google’s guidelines to quality content
Google gives plenty of advice about what it views to be quality content – it’s even covered in this Google Search Console course about creating valuable content.
It tells us that quality content is:
- Useful and informative – e.g. includes location, opening hours, contact information, prices, product or event details>
- More valuable and useful than other sites – i.e. when compared to your competitors
- Credible – e.g. includes citations, links to original research, author biography, genuine reviews and testimonials
- High quality – e.g. includes unique, specific and relevant content that hasn’t been outsourced to other websites; free from spelling mistakes, typos and grammatical errors
- Engaging – e.g. features relevant, high quality images, opportunities to comment, social media widgets and sharing options, updates, and links to related information
Google also recommends that we steer clear of:
- Automatically generated content
- Errors such as broken links or wrong information
- Link schemes
- Cloaking and other black hat SEO practices, e.g. hidden text or links
- Grammar or spelling mistakes
- Excessive amount of ads
- Taking part in or promoting irrelevant affiliate schemes
- Spam such as comment or forum spam
To help you examine the quality of your content at a deeper, more critical level Google released some guidelines around identifying high quality content back in 2011 that still hold true today. These are the questions suggested by the search engine to provide a helpful steer:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is the article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it shallower 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 recognised 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?
- Would you recognise 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, encyclopaedia 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?
Of course, these questions will only take you so far – you may simply be too close to your own web content to view it objectively. If you’re struggling to cast a critical eye over your site, you could always try asking a friend, trusted member of your network, or even some of your most loyal customers for their opinions.
Using data to assess your content
Even with different viewpoints, it can be hard to get a consensus about the quality of your content. It’s therefore helpful to regularly review the data you have at your disposal about how your content is performing. This can help you to make objective and informed decisions about what stays on your site and what goes.
- Identify your least visited pages
Google Analytics – as we explored in this two-part blog – offers a wealth of information about how pages on your website are performing. A good starting point is to log in to Google Analytics and choose Behaviour>Site content>All pages from the left-hand menu. I would suggest changing the to and from dates to cover the last three months for a more balanced overview of which pages are most and least visited.
From the data you’re given, you can see which pages have attracted very few visits (although what this number is will depend on your typical traffic volumes), as well as the pages with little to no dwell time, and/or a high bounce rate.
If you have pages that have had less than 10 visits in the past three months, no dwell time when visited or a 100% bounce rate, now is the time to review them by asking Google’s questions above.
You might find that the page needs updating or rewriting to give it a new lease of life. It could be that the page is no longer relevant and needs to be removed from your website. Just remember that if you do decide to remove a page from your website, people using its URL will not find the content they are looking for. Is the information they’re seeking available elsewhere on your website?
This helpful post from Yoast explains how to properly delete a page from your website, including how to redirect visitors to the information they need.
I would also recommend reading this post from Moz about 301 redirects.
- Identify duplicate content
The next step is to check your website for duplicate content. If you have a WordPress website, this can be a critical issue.
Although you may have just one page on your website about a particular topic – let’s use ‘SEO’ as our example – due to how WordPress works, you may have unintentionally created six different URLs that let people access that page, e.g.:
- http://yourdomain23.com/SEO-post (External website)
Google will not know which URL is the most relevant and will pick one of the six, which may not be the one you want to promote, while penalising your website for duplicate content. It is therefore imperative that you check whether this issue could be affecting your site.
You can do this in several ways.
- Go to Google and type ‘site:’ followed by your company’s web address (e.g. site:www.seo-plus.co.uk) and Google will return every URL that it has indexed for your site. It will take some time, but you need to work through the URLs to check whether any link to the same pages. With a WordPress site, you may typically find that your categories, tags, authors and archives are the root cause for any duplicate content issues.
- Alternatively, you can identify duplicate content using a free tool such as Siteliner.
- Log into your website’s dashboard. If you have a WordPress site and use the Yoast SEO plugin, click on the Yoast SEO Settings option and choose Titles & Metas before clicking on the Taxonomies tab (see below). Under the ‘Meta Robots’ option for Categories, Tags and Filter, change from the default ‘Index’ setting to ‘noindex’. This will stop the search engines from indexing these URLs.
- To manage the issue of duplicate content caused by multiple URLs to the same page, you should also consider applying a canonical URL tag to the web address that you do want Google to index. The canonical tag tells search engines that a particular URL is your preferred one and should be prioritised over all others.
If you’re unsure how to apply the canonical tag, check out this helpful post from Yoast for the ultimate rel=canonical guide.
Next, go to the Archives tab next to Taxonomies and make sure that your archives and authors are set to ‘noindex’ too.
Once you’ve done this, I would also recommend clicking on the Yoast SEO ‘Advanced’ option in the left-hand menu and opening the Permalinks tab. In this, select the option to redirect attachment URLs to the parent page URL and save your changed settings
- Weed out poor quality blog articles
If you’re writing blog articles for SEO purposes alone, you could be doing Quality Score and rankings more harm than good. Google’s questions above suggest that the search engine seeks to weed out shallow content that doesn’t give much value to the reader, or blog articles that repeatedly target the same keywords.
If you’re featuring short ‘content mill-style’ 300-word blogs on your site riddled with variations of the same keywords, week in and week out, now is the time to cull them from your site, or re-write the content to a greater depth.
Equally, there’s no point writing long, complicated blog posts if they don’t have valuable content and are hard to read.
My advice is to forget about word count and use as many or as few words as you need to make your point. Review your blogs by asking:
- Does the blog have a single focus?
- Is it well written and easy to read?
- Are there obvious takeaway points?
- Does the article include links to blogs on your site about related topics?
- Can you back up and link to reputable sources for any factual information or quotes you’ve used in the blog?
- Is the content helpful?
- Does the article go into sufficient detail?
- Is the article easy to skim read?
- Do the headings and subheadings make clear what the article is about?
- Are the images relevant to the content?
High quality content will please more than just Google
Ensuring that your website boasts only high quality content isn’t just a move that will put you in Google’s good graces and grow your website’s overall Quality Score. Your potential and existing customers will also thank you, and you should see an improvement in your conversion rates and sales.
As we’ve discussed, people want to spend time on websites that provide a good experience. They want to feel that if you give away this much value for free, they will get so much more by hiring your services or buying your products. They want to know that you are an expert in your field and that they won’t regret choosing your business over your competitions. Therefore, creating unforgettable content will go a long way to increasing your brand visibility and influence, and providing that all-important reassurance that yours is a safe pair of hands.
You may find the following articles and resources helpful when it comes to increasing your website’s quality score:
- Google’s guide to creating valuable content
- The key points from Google’s leaked ‘Quality Rater Guidelines’
- Yoast’s ultimate guide to canonical URLs
- Yoast’s SEO plugin
- How to correctly delete pages from your website
- 301 redirects
Were you aware of Google’s quality score and that this affects rankings for ALL your pages? What kind of content have you been experimenting with and what has reaped the most results for you? I’d love to know – please leave a comment below.
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