Google has made changes to its search results in terms of how it assesses quality content. From the start of May, a number of publishers had begun to detect changes in Google search results. Google had initially declined to say if any updates had been made to its search function, leading to the apparent change being labelled the “Phantom Update”, but it has now disclosed that there have indeed been changes to its core ranking algorithm. The changes are in respect of how Google processes quality signals.
Google has declined to give any specifics about how it is now assessing content in terms of quality, but if past practice is anything to go by, it seems likely that a broad range of factors are taken into account by Google in assessing the quality of a particular site or page. The latest Google update does not appear to have targeted any specific class of sites or any specific sites. It is not an update to one of Google’s search filters, such as Panda or Penguin, but because it has resulted in a noticeable change to search results, it has to be viewed as a proper update nonetheless.
As Google continues the process of improving search results quality, webmasters and developers are being advised to focus on developing better sites, with an emphasis on what users need and the overall levels of quality.
At the time of the Panda algorithm change in 2011, Google offered some useful guidance on how it conducts searches for sites it labels high quality. Google suggested that publishers – and this would include those engaged in website copywriting – should concentrate their efforts on providing the best user experience they can and not to put too much emphasis on particular interpretations of Google’s current ranking algorithms and signals. However, Google did issue specific advice on what it regards as a high-quality website.
Among the questions that Google suggested those involved in developing and maintaining sites and content ask themselves are:
- Would you trust the information contained in a particular article?
- Does the article contain errors in terms of spelling or style or are there factual errors?
- What is the value of the page relative to other pages appearing in search results?