While Google isn’t about to disclose its ranking signals used in its algorithms, they have offered valuable guidance of their perspective of a site that has “high-quality” content. In many respects, it is the same criteria that an instructor would use to grade a research paper. High-quality sites are the “A” papers, papers with substantive content that offer analysis, are well researched and documented, and well-edited. The low quality sites are the “D” and “F” papers. These are the papers that are embarrassing to read; they are thrown together at the last minute, are often heavily plagiarized, and are laden with all sorts of grammatical mistakes.

High-quality content sites:

  • Have trustworthy information
  • Are a recognized authority on its topics.
  • Are written by those with expertise in the topic.
  • Generate topics based on interests of readers of the site
  • Have original material: original content, original reporting, original research, original analysis
  • Have well written articles with quality control, good editing, and attention to detail
  • Have substantial value when compared to other sites in the search results
  • Provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic
  • Contain insightful analysis and interesting information
  • Have pages that you would want to bookmark or share with another
  • Have articles that you could expect to see in a magazine or newspaper
  • Are good enough to generate complements in review or comment sections

Low-quality content sites:

  • Have duplicate, overlapping, and redundant articles with slight keyword variations; a site with large volume, duplicate content will almost certainly get a Panda downgrade
  • Has content that does not offer any additional value; it is general, non-specific, and not substantially different than what is already out there
  • Have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors
  • Offer content generated based on guesses on what would do well in search engine rankings
  • Have mass-produced content (outsourced to a large number of creators or spread across a large network of sites) or, even worse, machine-generated content (“spun content”)
  • Have articles that are short, unsubstantial, and appear sloppy and hastily produced
  • Have an excessive amount of ads
  • Provide “take an umbrella when it’s raining” type information that is beyond obvious with no helpful specifics
  • Are bad enough to generate complaints in review or comment sections

It is important to note that one bad apple can spoil the bunch. If a page on a site suffers the wrath of Google, the ranking of an entire site is affected. Google has stated that a site’s ranking can be improved by removing low quality/shallow content pages or by making those shallow pages more useful. On your site, every page must earn its way in there and should be independently evaluated for quality. While quality over quantity has become a cliche, with Google it really is true. Don’t keep adding pages and pages of superficial content in the hopes of generating more traffic and a higher ranking. Keep your focus on quality and build your web site one page at a time with care, keeping in mind that, from Google’s perspective, a few lousy pages can taint your entire site. You want your site to be that “A” paper from high school or college that really shines and gets that special recognition.

No doubt, there will be more and more updates as Google uncovers more ways to identify sites with low quality content. There are no secrets to “Google- proofing” your site. Just do what publishers should have been doing all along: Develop sites that provide users with a quality experience. Be vigilant in assessing the quality of your content and your site’s overall experience. Keep in mind Google’s search quality evaluation guide and have content that you are proud of. Don’t evaluate your site holistically; high quality content must be reflected on every single page.

Once the quality of your pages has been evaluated, it is important to optimize the text content and layout on your pages so that your site is scooped-up by search engines. On the Internet, there are a lot of people going to the prom. You need to wear the dress that will get you noticed.

The lesson to be learned is that a have a successful high traffic website, you need knock-your-socks off content that is tweaked to be search engine optimized. Those are the winners in the era of Google Panda.