The Quality Update: Google Confirms Changing How Quality Is Assessed, Resulting In Rankings Shake-Up

Earlier this month, many webmasters noticed significant Google ranking changes. Google has finally confirmed those ranking changes with us.

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It’s not your imagination. Google’s results have changed since the beginning of this month, and Google’s officially confirmed to Search Engine Land that this is due to a change with how it assesses content quality. Call it “The Quality Update,” if you will.

Earlier this month, some publishers began noticing changes to Google’s search results. We had asked Google if this due to a Panda Update or any other type of update, but Google replied no. Since then, more reports came in, with the change even being dubbed the “Phantom Update” because something did seem to have happened, even if Google wasn’t acknowledging it.

Now Google has. After more follow-up this week, the company told Search Engine Land that while no spam-related update had happened, there were changes to its core ranking algorithm in terms of how it processes quality signals.

When we previously asked Google if there were any updates at all, this is the type of thing that would have been covered in our question. Even if it was an update to the core algorithm, rather than one of the filters like Panda or Penguin, it’s still an “update” in the sense of producing noticeable change. Now that it is confirmed, we’re dubbing it the Quality Update.

Google wouldn’t provide specifics about how quality is now assessed. We know from past statements by Google that quality for a particular page or site is determined by a wide range of individual factors. It could be that Google is now weighting some of those factors more and others less.

As usual with a major update, it’s those who have been harmed with less visibility by the update that have spoken up. Most notably, Hubpages did a post and suggested that Google was somehow targeting “How To” or informational sites.

However, even that post has examples of informational sites that have gained visibility. I’ve also seen reports from a wide array of sites such as credit loan and news sites that have reported by declining and gaining visibility.

That aligns with what Google also said. The update didn’t go after any particular class of sites or any particular sites. It was an update to the overall ranking algorithm itself.

If you’re trying to assess how to perhaps improve your quality, if you were hit, you might review Google’s post from 2011. While written for those impacted by the Panda Update, it actually covers quality in general. Google also shares a bit about quality here.

So, no – if you saw ranking changes earlier this month, you are not alone. Sadly, we don’t have any specific advice to give you outside of Google continues to make algorithmic changes to improve the quality of their search results. So keep focusing on building out a better web site, aimed at your users and overall quality.

About the author

Barry Schwartz
Barry Schwartz is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry can be followed on Twitter here.

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