When the original search quality rating guidelines came out, SEOs gobbled them up, scrutinizing over every detail, analyzing the example sites (the good, the bad and the ugly). Every little bit of information that could be gleamed from that document was hashed out on private forums, in instant messages and mulled over at the bars at conferences.
Well, a brand new version of the guidelines for Search Quality Raters has been leaked, this one from June 22, 2012 (Ver 3.27) and has plenty of new information. But while I was reading it, one thing struck me – what if Google, knowing webmasters would go over the document with a fine tooth comb when (not if, but when) it was leaked, what is stopping Google from putting in some items designed with the sole intention of scaring webmasters into cleaning up some specific aspect of SEO that Google sees as being too prevalent or something that they are having trouble dealing with algorithmically.
One of the things detailed in the rating document is figuring out the reputation for a website and the kinds of specific searches one can do to determine the reputation. (For reference, this is from page 99)
Try one or more of the following searches on Google:
[“homepage.com” -site:homepage.com reviews]
Yes, you should be doing that right now on all your moneymaking sites. Now, reputation is definitely one of the harder things for an algorithm to determine. And a lot of online businesses unfortunately just don’t care if they have poor customer service, so long as someone doesn’t create a companysucks.com and complaints don’t rank higher than their company name in the search results. But inclusion in this document could make a lot of SEOs sit up and see what they can do about negative feedback left on other sites about their companies.
But really, the ability of Google to be able to detect this kind of thing algorithmically could be difficult, but included in here, it could get a lot of webmasters scared enough to start doing Google’s dirty work for them to help clean up the index. Now queue the “how to keep your customer happy” and “how to clean up bad online reviews” articles coming out from many webmaster news sites and blogs in the next week or two.
Google is also tackling content – specifically not just traditional poor quality scraped content or thin content, but types of content that would be more difficult to detect algorithmically – the ways you would stretch out that 150 words into 500 words when you just didn’t have anything else to say on the subject, especially when writing papers for teachers 🙂 (For reference, page 88)
• Filling up pages with completely obvious sentences that repeat the topic of the paper. (“Argentina is a country. People live in Argentina. Argentina has borders. Some people like Argentina.”)
• Using a lot of words to communicate only basic ideas or facts (“Pandas eat bamboo. Pandas eat a lot of bamboo. It’s the best food for a Panda bear.”)
Again, something that helps the perceived quality of the search results by users who end up on the pages. And most importantly, something that benefits Google by scaring the pants off webmasters to revisit all those stretched content pages and make them better.
And frankly, there are enough webmasters out there who faced the wrath of Panda and Penguin, and would probably do cartwheels wearing “I <3 Googleguy” shirts in front of the Googleplex if someone suggested it would help get their moneymakers back into the Google search index. So it isn’t farfetched that someone at the spam team said “hey, why don’t we add XYZ? We can’t really make a good dent in it with the current algo, but maybe webmasters who read the leaked quality guidelines will do it anyway and help us clean up more spam.”
Now, if you want to be lazy and get someone else to tell you what the document contains in Coles Notes form, head to the brief recounts from Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch. But if you want to be smart about it, you should really read the entire document itself – there really is no excuse for anyone that calls themselves an SEO to not read it. So get to it below 🙂