Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go and all the popular search engines are looking for quality content to serve to their searchers. To determine whether a web page is of sufficient value for them to index it, they measure the uniqueness and quality of each web page. There are two ways that they do this: by measuring the quality of the content and then measuring the user interaction with the web pages.
Measuring the quality of the content
The first method used by the search engines to determine the quality of a web page us by evaluating the document itself. If a web page has lots of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors then Google works out that not a lot of effort has been put into creating the page. This quality checking was included in the Panda update to Google’s algorithm in 2011. The search engine algorithm checks to see if web pages have spelling, stylistic and factual errors as well as how much quality control was done on the content.
The search engines also determine the reading level of the page using methodologies like the Flesch-Kincaid formulae. This test measures such attributes as sentence length and number of syllables per word. These are then used in a formula to work out the reading level of the page and its suitability for your target audience. Imagine that you’re selling toys and the reading level of your page is at a college/university level. This is a signal to the search engines of poor content.
How to write quality content
Developing content that is compelling, reads well and is favoured by the search engines is an art in itself and requires a lot of time and dedication. The following guidelines are useful when creating quality content:
- Keep the vast majority of sentences to less than 20 words.
- Try to use active voice rather than passive voice.
- Use an online Fleish Reading Ease test to check the readability of the page.
- Only include around 300 words under each subheading.
- Don’t make the paragraphs too long.
- Use transition words or phrases in your sentences.
Search engines will also check for plagiarism when indexing websites in order to only index unique content.
Measurement of user interaction
The second way that Google can use to work out the quality of a web page is by measuring user interaction. As an example, imagine that a large number of visitors to your site bounce back to Google immediately. This means that they have clicked on a search result to your site, only to go back to Google straight away and look at another page. Again, this is another indication of poor quality. This quality check was again included in the Google Panda algorithm update in 2011.
Google is a marketing machine and has access to lots of different data sources on the Internet and on individual users’ machines. These data sources are useful to Google to keep it informed about the performance of websites on the internet. Some of these data sources that Google uses for this purpose include:
If a site is running Google Analytics (and the majority of high performing sites do) then it will send analytical data back to Google including bounce rate and time on site. Google can then use this data to check on the user’s perception of the value of your content to their needs.
Google can track the surfing behaviour of users that have the Google Toolbar installed. Again this can measure dwell time on a site, bounce rate and page views, helping Google to determine the quality of the web page.
Google’s URL shortener allows Google to identify what content is being shared and what content is being clicked on too. This gives the search engine giant an indication of quality which may be used to boost rankings.
Google is constantly developing many other features into its search engine to help determine the value of a web page to the end customer. After all, Google’s business model is based upon serving relevant content to its user base. Over the years this has included the Google +1 Button, Google Reader and Google Instant Previews.
Bear in mind as well, as the popularity of Google Chrome grows, so does the ability of Google to track usage patterns and to recognise trends. Logging into Google Chrome to share your bookmarks across devices means that Google is tracking your usage as well. Multiply that by the millions of users that are using this software and you can see how the search engine has a great quality control system for determining the quality of web pages.