Revealing the Secrets of Google's Panda
I finished my last post, Content is King, but Quality is the Kingslayer, with a simple mention of what Google is seeking to prioritise in its search engine queries. Let's take a longer look now to give you a leg up.
Like Socrates, Google's search engine values expertise. Google has a team dedicated to rating search quality and supplies them with a 'manual' which it updates from time to time. Predictably, this being the 21st Century and the internet, it usually leaks. The manual provides guidance to this team on how to test the quality of search results, so it becomes significant when Google changes the algorithms that lie at the heart of its search engine. Expertise and authority are key factors in determining a site's quality, so lets start there.
Expertise and Authority
A key term that Google has to guide how it adapts its search engine is 'Your Money Your Life' (YMYL). Any information from a website that could be seen as affecting someone's money or their life is going to be significant, so if you're writing on health or money, it's all the more important that you do so with expertise. If you have that expertise, then you need to make that clear. If you don't have expertise, then you need to be able to cite experts. It marks your writing out as authoritative and makes it more discoverable by Google's search engine. A lack of expertise or citing of experts then is likely to make your site less discoverable. If this sounds harsh, then ask yourself this: would I trust medical or financial information given to me by a random stranger on the internet?
The good news is that formal expertise isn't necessary. In other words, practical experience is considered a positive in establishing authority. This is more like to apply though as YMYL becomes less of a factor. In other words, practical experience might be really valuable in terms of hobbies, but is likely to be less valuable when it comes to medical treatment.
More good news for small businesses is that we aren't held to the same standard as bigger businesses. Since we're more likely to be discovered through word of mouth, the absence of lots of positive ratings on services like Google+ isn't considered as significant as it would be for a bigger corporation or service. Positive reviews will still be beneficial though.
What's the Frequency, Panda?
Frequency of updates is also noted. Dead sites get in everyone's way by providing out of date information, no matter how small or big the topic is. If some new technique has been discovered in a hobby area it's important that insight into this new technique is given greater prominence than earlier, outdated techniques. If the topic is one that fits into the YMYL category, then updates become all the more important. Health advice changes, financial regulations are updated, and new laws can be introduced. The potential penalty then for following out-of-date information in these areas is all the more serious. This means that new content needs to be created and existing information updated. If it isn't, it's going to become less discoverable by Google's search engine. Updating is taken as an indication of authority. This makes sense not just because dead sites get in the way, but because experts tend to stay on top of their subject.
Cut the Lolspeak, Ma'am
I'd write some here as an example, but I worry that it'd hurt the discoverability of my page! Instead, take a look at how texts are written, or comments on YouTube. Those might be acceptable in their own context, though there are exceptions of course (which could be a topic in itself!) but can you imagine reading an entire blog post full of misspellings, bad grammar, and lolspeak? We wouldn't expect to read experts writing that way, so if someone does, then they're not likely to be an expert are they?
Summary of Secrets
Before we finish
- site editors take note: YMYL and quality writing standards apply to all writers and pages on a site, so you need to stay on top of everything
- the main content of your site needs to be easy to access with clear website design
- contact information needs to be readily available
If you need a handy summary, then here's one available courtesy of AudienceBloom:
Don't forget, it's easy to keep track of the updates Google releases for all its services, not just its search engine. Interpreting what these changes mean for everyone can take a little time, but eventually every secret becomes known.