Panda maths ? Google’s algorithm and quality content
It's been three months since Google's algorithm update known as Panda was first unleashed on the US market.
Now extended globally, Panda has left some website owners scratching their heads about how to respond, despite the plethora of advice and opinion doing the rounds on the blogosphere.
There was an interesting development on Friday, when Google's Amit Singhal posted on the Webmaster Central Blog with an update on how website owners can "build high-quality sites".
Despite his good intentions, Singhal has been receiving a real virtual bashing from the Webmaster Central community.
There are two common themes in the angry stream of comments now attached to his blog post (fair play to Google for not censoring them): 1) my site has quality content but I've been penalised since Panda; and 2) Google isn't doing anything about other sites ripping off my content and ranking ahead of me.
Singhal was trying to use his post to deflect attention away from Panda. He urged website owners to focus on broader quality metrics, rather than trying to second guess the algorithm. There have apparently been multiple updates since Panda, but it still gets the blame whenever someone sees their rankings drop.
"Our advice for publishers continues to be to focus on delivering the best possible user experience on your websites and not to focus too much on what they think are Google’s current ranking algorithms or signals," he said.
With so many websites relying on Google for the lion's share of their traffic, it's little wonder that this is a sensitive issue for site owners.
"We don't want more public relations from Google – we want more honesty," said Will, a Webmaster user.
Another user, James, added: "Your algorithm is still penalising many sites that tick all those boxes and have done for years."
There will always be an element of subjectivity when it comes to assessing quality and it's important not to over-estimate what a mathematical formula – however sophisticated – can do when it comes to predicting and then mimicking a human reaction.
It's worth considering these limitations and appreciating that an important tool in Google's anti-spam efforts is what it says it wants site owners to do. The algorithm can't quite detect all the scrapers and spammers yet, but the updates are still coming and it would be very risky to ignore the free advice.