In November, Google updated its Quality Rating Guidelines, which give us an indication of how the search engine distinguishes between high quality pages from low quality pages. However, soon after, several sources began to report noticeable changes to their rankings data, suggesting the update could have far-reaching consequences.
To date, Google have not officially confirmed that an update has been carried out, but as we saw earlier in the year with Phantom Update II, changes to its algorithms can occur discreetly and without warning. This appears to be the case once again, with plenty of evidence suggesting a ranking algorithm update has been carried out.
As SEO consultants scramble to make sense of the guideline changes, we provide a brief guide to the update and how it may impact your search marketing strategy.
One of changes that has been observed already is a different approach to duplicate content; something which was punished in the Phantom Update II earlier in the year. According to SearchMetrics, this latest update has reversed some of those changes, offering some leniency in certain situations.
Previously, pages which exhibited duplicate or very similar content were punished by Google's algorithms, with no real exceptions. This resulted in certain websites, such as online dictionaries and music lyrics websites, suffering a loss of visibility. In the case of Merriam Webster, this amounted to a 13 percent loss of visibility overall.
However, this is no longer the case and Google's Quality Rating Guidelines now make allowances in certain situations. Again, using the example of Marriam Webster, since the November update their visibility has significantly recovered, increasing their overall visibility to around pre-Phantom Update II levels.
Low Quality Content
As any reputable search marketing agency will tell you, when it comes to online marketing, content is king. With the latest quality update from Google, this is more true than ever before and an analysis by G-Squared Interactive highlighted the real importance of providing quality content, which is truly useful to visitors.
Those who have been negatively impacted by the new update are, by and large, guilty of offering inadequate information, or providing users with content which does not correspond strongly enough to search queries. In fact, the new guidelines state clearly that content must be linked to user intent in order to pass as "quality content."
Additionally, the new update appears to be punishing user interfaces which are difficult to navigate.
"I visited a number of sites that got hammered by the [November] update that employed a clunky and clumsy user interface," says GSQi's Glenn Gabe. "That included horrible infinite scroll implementations, overlays that were hard to maneuver, and other extremely frustrating ways to access more information."
Image Source: blog.searchmetrics.com.