Archive for May, 2011

Title: The Latest On Panda Straight From Google

Search Engine News, Search Engine Optimization

Article Source: Link Exchange Service Network

Google’s Matt Cutts engaged in a live chat with webmasters on YouTube, and had some things to say about the Panda update.

Barry Schwartz posted the above video, capturing a Panda-related segment of the chat, in which Cutts discusses the update.

“It came from the search quality team,” he says. “It didn’t come from the web spam team, so web spam engineers have been collaborating with search quality folks on it since the initial launch, but it originated from the search quality team, and it’s just an algorithmic change that TENDS to rank lower quality sites lower, which allows higher quality sites to rank higher, so it’s not a penalty, and I talked about how algorithms are re-computed, so there’s been no manual exceptions.”

“I don’t expect us to have any manual exceptions to Panda,” he says. “This is something where the signal is computed, and then when the signal is re-computed, if the sites are slightly different, then that can change the sites that are affected, and we’re going to keep iterating.”

“So we’ve had Panda version 1 in February and Panda version 2 in April I believe, and…possibly March…and that started to use blocking of sites along with some other signals,” he continues. “And then we’ve had smaller amounts of iterations…”

Referring to before the update came about, he says, “We had heard a lot of complaints. We’ve been working on it even before we’d heard a lot of the complaints to try and make sure that lower quality sites were not ranking as highly in Google search results.”

He then mentions the list of questions Google released a few weeks ago for content providers to ask themselves about their own content quality. The list, he says, “Helps to step into the Google mindset and how we think about these sorts of things.”

In the talk, Cutts mentioned that the update will still roll out internationally in other languages in time, “maybe in the next couple months”. So far, it’s been launched globally, but only in the English language.

The In-Content Ad Leader Buy and Sell text links Health and Beauty Store

Article Source: Link Exchange Service Network
If you like all this stuff here then you can buy me a pack of cigarettes.

Title: Despite New Panda Guidelines, Google Still Burying Authoritative Results

Search Engine News, Search Engine Optimization

Article Source: Link Exchange Service Network

There are a lot of elements of Google’s Panda update to discuss, and we’ve certainly discussed many of them over the last few months, but let’s not lose sight of the reason the update was launched to begin with – to improve search quality.

Do you think Google’s search results are better now? Tell us what you think.

While quality is often in the eye of the beholder, there are certain kinds of queries where the information being retrieved is simply more important than others. We’ve talked about this before, as it’s been a problem in some Google results.

One example we’ve looked at a few times is where an eHow article written by a freelance writer with no clear authority on cancer (and whose body of work includes a lot of plumbing-related articles) was ranking at the top of Googe’s results for the query “level 4 brain cancer” above numerous other sources that would seem to be of greater authority on such a subject.

Level 4 Brain Cancer in Google

In fact, the article did get bumped down after the Panda update, but it does still rank number 2, followed by another result from eHow. Granted, this is just one example, and Demand Media has efforts in motion to improve its own content quality, but you get the point.

Queries related to things like health or law demand authoritative advice. Not SEO’d content.

We had a conversation with Mark Britton, founder and CEO of Avvo about this subject. Avvo is a site that offers Q&A forums where consumers can ask medical or legal questions and get responses from qualified doctors and lawyers. It provides apparently authoritative content in these two areas from certified professionals.

This seems like the kind of content that should be ranking well for a lot of these types of queries. Does it not? Britton thinks it’s “very important” for commentary from experts in the medical and legal fields to surface high in search results for relevant topics.

“There is a lot of noise both online and offline regarding health and legal issues,” he tells us. “This comes in the form of lay people, professional commentators and even celebrities who often offer advice that is well-intentioned but inherently inferior to that of a doctor or lawyer trained in the area. However, it is not always easy to get doctors and lawyers to speak. Some still look down on the Internet as a publishing or marketing vehicle. Others just downright fear it, as they have seen too many movies where someone says something on the Internet and they are subsequently hunted and killed by terrorist hackers.”

“There is always room for improvement — especially with our newer pages,” he says of Avvo’s own search rankings. “We just launched our doctor ratings directory and our free medical question and answer forum in November, and it will take some time for those pages to rank as well as our legally related pages.”

Look at the results for a query like “Does type 2 diabetes shorten life expectancy?” Avvo’s page on the subject ranks on the second page, while eHow ranks at the top of the first. The Avvo result has actually fallen since I began writing this article. It used to be right below the number one result from eHow and the number 2 from Yahoo Answers.

Diabetes Results in Google

eHow’s is an article (not very long by any means) by a guy whose bio says he “has been a freelance writer since 2007. He writes extensively in the fitness, mental health and travel sectors and his work has appeared in a range of print and online publications including Scazu Fitness and USAToday Travel Tips…[and] holds a Master of Arts in community psychology.”

Keep in mind that USA Today has a deal with Demand Media for travel tips. So that presumably means his Demand Media content is simply published by USA Today. Does “Master of Arts in community psychology” indicate more authority to answer a life/death question about type 2 diabetes than say a licensed and practicing MD? That’s who provided an answer on Avvo’s page, which just got pushed further down in the search results.

If you change the query to something simpler like “type 2 diabetes life expectancy” eHow still ranks close to the top, and Avvo’s result slips to….get ready for it….page 18! That’s with various articles from places like eHow, EzineArticles and Suite101 (all victims of the Panda update) ranking ahead of it. Now, I’m not saying that Avvo’s result is necessarily the one ultimate result for this query and should necessarily be the highest ranked, but come on. Interestingly enough, the result was on page 3 for this query when I started writing the article (yesterday) and it’s slipped that much further into obscurity just since then. I wonder where it will be in another day.

Google has given publishers a list of questions to ask themselves about their content, as guidelines the company goes by as it writes its algorithms. The very top one is “Would you trust the information presented in this article?”

While neither of the articles provide any helpful links to sources of information, the Avvo article comes from a medical doctor. I think most people would find that slightly more trustworthy, even if the article isn’t as long or as well SEO’d. Here’s the eHow article. Here’s the Avvo one.

The second question on Google’s list is, “Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?”

While Google makes it clear that these questions aren’t actual ranking signals, they must be used to determine the signals at least, and you have to wonder just how much weight authority on a topic carries.

Britton maintains that ALL of the site’s advice comes from qualified professionals, claiming that this is one of the site’s “greatest differentiators.”

“We CERTIFY every doctor and lawyer offering free advice on the site in two principle ways: First, we verify with the state licensing authorities that the answering doctors or lawyers are licensed and in good standing,” he explains. “Second, we rate the professionals from 1 (“Extreme Caution”) to 10 (“Superb”), which was unheard of prior to Avvo’s entry into the professional ratings arena. We are big believers that not every doctor or lawyer is ‘Super’ or ‘Best’ which was the steady-state in professional ratings for decades.”

“This was really just an extension of the Yellow Pages model, where the ‘recommended’ professional is the one paying the most money to advertise,” he continues. “But consumers are getting wise and demanding greater transparency regarding the qualifications of their doctors and lawyers.”

“We have three ratings that speak to the expertise of our contributors: The Avvo Rating, client/patient ratings and peer endorsements,” says Britton. “For the Avvo Rating, we start with the state licensing authorities and collect all the information we can regarding a professional. We then load that information into our proprietary web crawler, which we call ‘Hoover.’ Hoover goes out and finds all the additional information it can regarding the professional. We match the licensing data with the Hoover data and then we score it. The scoring is based on those indicators of the professional’s reputation, experience and quality of work.”

Britton says Avvo was not really affected by Google’s Panda update. “We saw a small dip, but things came back fairly quickly.”

“While I understand the intent of Google’s latest update, I’m not sure they entirely hit their mark,” he says. “We noticed a number of pure lead-generation sites – i.e., sites that are selling leads to the highest bidder — jump ahead of us in certain key terms, which is not good for consumers.”

Avvo encourages people to ask questions on the site, claiming it its Q&A boasts a 97% response rate.

Avvo asked us to let readers know that in support of Skin Awareness Month, it is donating $5 to the Melanoma Research Foundation for every doctor review during the month of May.

Should authority and certification of expertise carry greater weight in Google’s search rankings? Comment here.

The In-Content Ad Leader Buy and Sell text links Health and Beauty Store

Article Source: Link Exchange Service Network
If you like all this stuff here then you can buy me a pack of cigarettes.

Title: Google Panda Update: New Advice Directly From Google

Search Engine News, Search Engine Optimization

Article Source: Link Exchange Service Network

Google’s Panda update left a slew of victims in the wake of its warpath (the war, of course being on shallow and low-quality content). While Google has dropped some hints here and there on its philosophies for what it considers to be low quality, the company has now been clearer than ever as to what it’s looking at.

Do you think Google’s results have improved since the Panda update? Tell us what you think.

“Some publishers have fixated on our prior Panda algorithm change, but Panda was just one of roughly 500 search improvements we expect to roll out to search this year,” writes Google Fellow Amit Singhal on the Google Webmaster Central blog. “In fact, since we launched Panda, we’ve rolled out over a dozen additional tweaks to our ranking algorithms, and some sites have incorrectly assumed that changes in their rankings were related to Panda. Search is a complicated and evolving art and science, so rather than focusing on specific algorithmic tweaks, we encourage you to focus on delivering the best possible experience for users.”

Google lists the following as “questions that one could use to assess the ‘quality’ of a page or an 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?

The company is careful to note that it’s not disclosing actual ranking signals used in its algorithms, but these questions will help you “step into Google’s mindset.” These questions are things that Google says it asks itself as it writes algorithms.

Singhal also reminds webmasters, “One other specific piece of guidance we’ve offered is that low-quality content on some parts of a website can impact the whole site’s rankings, and thus removing low quality pages, merging or improving the content of individual shallow pages into more useful pages, or moving low quality pages to a different domain could eventually help the rankings of your higher-quality content.”

We’ve already seen victims of the update respond by taking this approach. For one, Demand Media announced a big new clean-up initiative, in which it is cleaning house on user-generated content used on its eHow site – deleting some articles, while sending others back through the editorial process.

I’m sure we will be digging into all of this more very soon.

Are there any of Google’s questions that surprise you? Let us know in the comments.

[Image Credit: Stéfan on Flickr]

The In-Content Ad Leader Buy and Sell text links Health and Beauty Store

Article Source: Link Exchange Service Network
If you like all this stuff here then you can buy me a pack of cigarettes.