The Google Quality Update: What You Need To Know

Has your website’s ranking changed in the last couple of months? You’re not alone. Early in May, Google quietly made some adjustments to their core ranking algorithm in how it processes quality signals. At first Google denied that an update had been released, but later shared that they had made changes to their algorithm.

Google hasn’t yet shared the specifics of the altered quality signals publicly. However, we can analyse previous reports on what Google considers quality content to have a clearer picture of what the updated algorithm is looking for. We’re going to cover all of that and how you can ensure that your site meets their guidelines.

What Google Considers a High Quality Site

Back in 2011, Google wrote this post for people affected by the Panda update to illustrate how they determine whether a site is high quality or not. Although this post is several years old now, Google has remained consistent about what they consider quality content and what they consider useless.

Google refuses to disclose their actual ranking factors and signals, because that would make it too easy for people to game the system. But they have shared the questions they ask that help them determine whether a site is of value or not. The following are some of those questions:

  • Does the information presented appear trustworthy?
  • How deep does the content dive into the subject? Is it written by an expert or has the author clearly skimmed and re-written an existing article?
  • Does the site contain multiple posts on the same subject with different keywords?
  • Would you feel comfortable giving this website your credit card info?
  • Does the article contain obvious spelling, structural, and factual errors?
  • Does the content appear to be of genuine interest to the author and readers, or is the content only written to target keywords for ranking?
  • Does the article provide anything original in terms of observation, reporting, research, or analysis?
  • Does the article provide more value than similar articles that already exist on the subject?
  • Are both sides of the story presented in the content?
  • Is the site recognized as an authority on the subject?
  • Are there an excessive amount of ads throughout the article that distract from the content?
  • Is the quality of the content high enough that you could expect to find it in a book or magazine?
  • Are posts short and lacking useful details?

And the list goes on, but you get the general idea. With the explosion of digital content available on the internet, it’s incredibly difficult to sort through all of the noise to find the real value. Google has remained firm that they will continue to favor the highest quality content available, because that’s what makes their search engine the most useful for its users.

How to Create Quality Content

The most effective long-term strategy for ranking in Google is building a high quality site with valuable content. Trying to create content for search engines is the wrong approach, because it provides no real value and they always catch on anyway. Content should be written for actual humans that are interested in the subject and it should provide useful information for them.

Content should be thoughtful, detailed, and original. You don’t have to be completely passionate about a subject to write a valuable article on it, but it should be written in a way that it’s interesting for people who are passionate about it. Provide links to other valuable resources that are relevant to the content, including other pages on your website if available. As long as you’re genuinely helping the reader, they’ll stick around longer, share the article more, etc — and Google will take notice.

Quality content requires more than the actual content itself to be of value, but the entire website needs to be high quality. Your website needs to be mobile-friendly in 2015 and beyond, since Google favours mobile-friendly sites in their rankings. Your website also needs to be quick, because page load times are a ranking factor as well.

Basically, all of the things that are appreciated by web visitors (great design, quick loading speed, security of payment/private info, organized structure, minimal ad intrusion, etc) are all the same things that Google looks for in a quality site that they want to see rank higher. Cutting corners on the back-end of your site will only hurt your rankings.

Google is adamant about reducing the amount of low quality content in their search engine and their standards for quality will only continue to rise. If you want to get ahead and stay ahead, quality needs to be your number one focus from the beginning. As long as you are focused on delivering quality from end-to-end, baring any unexpected and dramatic updates from Google, your website will inevitably climb the rankings and get found by more people.

Kyle Stout is a freelance writer based out of Tulsa, OK. As a digital copywriter he is obsessed with staying informed on Google’s updates and changes.

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