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Google Announces Panda “4.1” Update That Should Help Small Sites

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Plus: Tips From Google on How to Perform Site Content Quality Control

Google just announced that it’s rolling out the latest version of its Panda Update, first introduced in February 2011.

The original Panda algorithm change promoted sites with quality content and downgraded sites with low quality content, and the latest update continues that trend.

One difference, however, is that the new Panda Update—dubbed Panda 4.1 by Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land—will help small and medium-sized sites rank better. According to Google’s Pierre Far, via Google+:

"Based on user (and webmaster!) feedback, we’ve been able to discover a few more signals to help Panda identify low-quality content more precisely. This results in a greater diversity of high-quality small-and medium-sized sites ranking higher, which is nice. "

Depending on location, says Far, around 3-5% of queries will be affected. 

The fact that Google announced the update suggests that it’s a major one. Back in March 2013, Google said that it wouldn’t confirm Panda updates, which occur roughly once per month and are more of a rolling update. A Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land in March that, “I don’t expect us to tweet about or confirm current or future Panda updates because they’ll be incorporated into our indexing process and thus be more gradual.”

With that in mind, Google’s confirmation of the latest update is in and of itself newsworthy, although as the company has noted, focusing too much on a single algorithm isn’t advisable.

Back when Panda was first rolled out, Google Fellow Amit Singhal wrote that:

"Our advice for publishers continues to be to focus on delivering the best possible user experience on your websites and not to focus too much on what they think are Google’s current ranking algorithms or signals."

It’s obvious that Google is high on “high quality” content, and also that it attempts to put itself in the position of a user (that is, a web browser in search of information) when it assesses what’s high-quality and what’s low quality.

While Google won’t go as far as to announce what the actual ranking signals in its algorithms are (because it would allow people to “game our search results”), it does offer up the following

23-point checklist for assessing the quality of a page or article:

• 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?

Have you been positively or negatively affected by a recent Panda update? Does anything on this list strike you as surprising? Let us know in the comments section or contact us directly to learn how Legal Web Design can help you improve web site content quality.

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