Google Phantom the Quality Update

The month of May has seen a buzz in the SEO industry after it became apparent that there had been some changes in the search algorithms. Initially the secret update was dubbed the “Phantom” update because it hadn’t been pre-acknowledge by Google, but large-scale changes in ranking was definitely happening.  In fact you could have called call it ‘Phantom 2’ as Google did something similar back in May 2013 that got similar attention.

The initial large scale sites to report changes were Hubpages and WikiHow who were notably affected and suggested the algorithm change targeted “How To” websites, but there seems to be a wide range of sites that offer a similar class of information which have experienced gains in visibility too.

The initial thoughts around this being a web spam update were soon laid to rest as John Mueller from Google revealed that changes were made to its core algorithm in terms of how it processes quality signals – hence its settled-on name.

How does Google assess quality now?

Google have always produced information on how to improve your site and the base information hasn’t changed for years.  The overarching element they focus on is to produce high-quality and valuable content to give a user the best experience possible.  Take note of the word ‘valuable’ here.
When content induces people to return to a site, share socially or link to the content from their website, then it can become a solid foundation to attracting a better and more engaged audience.  If your content is just blurb then it probably doesn’t tick the ‘valuable’ box, however if it offers something of interest that helps or has a meaning then it is going to improve your overall quality offering.

User expectations when it come to search have gone through the roof.  It’s no longer worth just trying to be good, you now need to be great, provide answers, solve problems and deliver content to meet high expectations.

To achieve high-quality Content you can break it down into five key areas:

  1. Content needs to be useful and informative and improves customers user experience when using your website so avoid nasty ads and pop ups and unnecessary thin content pages.
  2. Creating content that is more valuable and useful than other sites can be achieved by offering a different perspective on a common subject.
  3. Content has to be credible – and this can be achieved by showing original research with links or using real testimonials to boost a site’s reputation.
  4. Content will benefit if it is unique and not if it is mass-produced on many other websites.
  5. Creating engaging content by adding images of your subject matter and interact with your audience via comment boxes or social media widgets.

Make sure you avoid:

  1. Errors in the form of misinformation, broken links or grammar/spelling mistakes.
  2. Excessive use of ads.
  3. Spam in comments or onsite forums.
  4. Pointless website copy used for filling pages.
  5. Copied images on all of your pages.

These are all reasons for a visitor to mistrust a site.

So, a site with low-quality content could potentially be affected by this Google ‘Phantom’ algorithm update even if some pages on the site do offer high-quality information. The message is clear: aim a site towards user experience with content and user experience being the driving force across all pages, don’t leave any stone unturned.

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