In May 2015, Google released the first Quality Update. Its goal, and subsequent quality updates, are clear: to demote low-quality content.
Google quietly released an update, now popularly known as the “Quality Update,” even though it has no official name. It instilled fear in the hearts of many web admins, digital marketers, and SEO experts.
On the other hand, many people pleasantly surprised to see their position in Google search results improved. In general, when Google updates its algorithms, the numbers shuffled. Some people win, while others lose.
It’s a zero-sum game when it comes to search.
It took Google some time to recognize the update in the first place.
It was even dubbed the “Phantom Update” or “Phantom 2” because marketers could see the results, but it wasn’t officially confirmed at the time.
Google’s Quality Update: A Brief History
The May 2015 update dubbed the “Quality Update” by search marketers because it directly impacted the part of the algorithm that helps Google measure site quality.
In particular, the search engine giant admitted in a statement that the update impacted the “core ranking algorithm” and “how it assesses quality.”
So, What Effect Did The Quality Update Have?
The focus of the Quality Update was on quality. But how does Google define “quality” in the context of websites?
They devote an entire chapter to the topic in their Search Optimization Starter Guide. If you read any Google-authored documentation, guide, or course, you’ll notice that the same tenants repeated over and over:
If you want to rank, you must have high-quality content.
That brings us to the purpose of the Quality Update: to lower the rankings of low-quality content in organic search results so that users can get better, more reliable, and authoritative results.
Who Was Affected By The Change And Why Does It Matter?
The reason for releasing this update first begs the question: What areas were the most affected?
This change was not intended, but many sites with similar quality issues saw significant drops in organic traffic after it was implemented. The following are some of the major types of content and websites that have identified as affected.
Insufficient Content & Clickbait Articles
Thin content is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a little short. The information available is scant. It doesn’t answer any questions.
Clickbait articles are similar, but they entice you to the page with a headline that entices you to click on it. The page you arrive at has thin content that has little to do with the headline.
Readers find this content frustrating, so it’s easy to see why it demoted in search results.
Pages With A Lot Of Advertising
Ads in your face are annoying – no one can deny that. It obstructs your ability to obtain the information you require. When you’re trying to find information that’s important to you, bombarded with advertisements is also perplexing.
The Quality Update had an impact on these pages as well. Any website that prioritized advertisements over content targeted.
Article Farms And Mass-Produced ‘How-To’ Pages
The content farms an excellent example of sites negatively impacted the Google update. They’re less common in organic search results nowadays, and Google’s updates are most likely a big part of that.
Here are some of the things that content farms get wrong:
- Their goal is to increase page views and generate revenue from on-page advertising. The content is merely a means of obtaining pageviews. It is written for search engines, not for humans.
- Thousands of freelancers are paid next to nothing to produce content at breakneck speed. As a result, the content’s quality is unimportant.
- Because writers not compensated for quality work, the content produced rehashed, poorly written, disorganized, or inaccurate.
How Do Websites Recover From the Quality Update?
In the case of the May 2015 Quality Update, web admins and marketers must regroup and focus on website improvements, which is exactly what the majority of them did.
It can take months to recover from algorithmic hits on a site’s or domain’s organic search rankings. However, if these sites have any chance of achieving that coveted Google search visibility, they must play ball.
Here’s a basic recovery procedure that many authoritative websites recommend, regardless of the update scenario.
The Fundamental Algorithm Recovery Process
The following steps recommended by popular websites such as Moz, Search Engine Land, Content Marketing Institute, and others.
- Don’t wait to see if your numbers improve. Begin working on site-wide improvements right away.
- Conduct an audit of your entire website. Examine pages critically and put yourself in the shoes of a typical user.
- Consider potential annoyances for users. Consider persistent pop-ups, intrusive/content-integrated advertising, deceptive links, or thin, ineffective content.
- Make a plan to address the issues you see and those discovered during a thorough audit.
- Continue to produce high-quality content for every page.
Real-Time Implementation Example
We didn’t have to wait long for a substantial update in 2015. On February 5, 2015, there was a lot of movement. It was evident there was some connection with “content quality” based on the vast Panda dataset I have access to, as well as new companies contacting me about a decline in traffic. Furthermore, Panda had previously hit many of the sites that affected. Many people in the sector claimed that traffic began to dip or increase on February 4th and 5th.
It’s worth noting that a number of the companies that saw a significant reduction on February 5, 2015 have previously been affected by Panda upgrades. I’d seen it before, and I’d seen it again. And, despite some claims to the contrary, it is not solely focused on ecommerce sites. I know a lot of sites that weren’t just ecommerce sites that were hacked.
Google’s Quality Updates Have Wide-Reaching Consequences
Whether you like it or not, Google has a huge influence over how websites designed.
Fortunately, Google’s policies serve the user – the consumer, the customer. If it’s your top priority, you should be fine in the face of the inevitable future updates. This is, in any case, consistent with what businesses should strive for.
Marketers and SEO professionals now better prepared for large and minor algorithm changes. They’ve “seasoned,” if you will.
This is exactly what Google does. To keep your site rankings healthy, you must stay alert.