Google recently began rolling out version 4.2 of its Panda algorithm, which focuses on helping people find high-quality sites in Google’s search results. This new release is just one part of more than 500 updates and changes Google will make to its overall search algorithm this year.

In this article, I explain how Google assesses website quality and how the new version impacts your website’s ranking. I also provide a list of questions that you should ask to ensure your site meets the quality standards.

How Google Assesses Quality

During the initial Panda release in 2011, Google posted 23 questions (seen below) that provide insight into how it assesses the quality of a web page or articles with respect to search ranking. Website owners should ask these questions when creating new web page content or when evaluating current content, to ensure it qualifies as “high quality.”

1. Would you trust the information presented in this article?

2. Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it shallower in nature?

3. Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?

4. Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?

5. Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?

6.Do the genuine interests of readers drive the topics, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

7. Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?

8. Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?

9. How much quality control is done on content?

10. Does the article describe both sides of a story?

11. Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?

12. Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?

13. Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?

14. For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?

15. Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?

16. Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?

17. Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?

18. Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?

19. Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?

20. Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?

21. Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?

22. Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?

23. Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

If you run a small business that offers products and services to your local community, not all of these questions will apply. Some would, however, so let’s focus on those.

Duplicate, Overlapping, or Redundant Content

The third question —” Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?” — applies to most websites, including small business.

I’ve worked with many local companies that struggle with search engine rankings for certain keywords related to cities where they do business.

Let’s say, for example, an attorney in the Dallas metro area wants to rank for 20 different cities in the region, all within 30 minutes of his office. Adding pages that have duplicate or overlapping content and that contain slightly different keyword variations might be a typical approach.

The attorney’s web design or SEO firm could have added separate pages to the site for each of the 20 cities. Google’s Panda algorithm would probably pick up on this, and bring down the rankings for all the pages on the site, not just those 20.

Quality Control and Spelling Errors

Two other questions of concern to local businesses are:

1. How much quality control is done on content?

2. Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?

Providing quality control on the content also seems also to be a theme here, as is editing the content so that there aren’t spelling and grammatical errors. Google considers such sites to be of inferior quality and, therefore, subject to a demotion in ranking.

Other Questions to Ask

The following questions are not explicitly mentioned in the list above, but should be asked for each page on your website to ensure that you only include high-quality content.

1. Is this page absolutely necessary?

2. Could it be combined with another page on the site?

3. Does it contain high-quality content?

4. Have there been visitors to this page in the past few months?

Regarding the last question, if you find no one has visited a certain page in the last few months, based on a review of Google Analytics, it’s best to remove it.

According to Google, “low-quality content on some parts of a website can impact the whole site’s rankings, and thus removing low quality pages, merging, or improving the content of individual shallow pages into more useful pages, or moving low quality pages to a different domain could eventually help the rankings of your higher-quality content.”

That’s a long-winded way of saying that even if your website contains just some low-quality content, Google will demote the entire site. If your site gets downgraded, another will take its place — and it could be your competitor.

Slow Panda Rollout Makes Diagnosis Difficult

Typically, other Google Panda algorithm updates have been released on a specified date and time. If a site’s traffic dropped significantly at that time, we knew that Panda had hit it.

This latest update is rolling out slowly and will take months to update fully, which means it’s going to be much harder to diagnose the cause of a reduction in ranking. Nonetheless, whether or not Panda has affected your site now or in the past, take the time to evaluate each page and make sure that it only contains the highest quality content possible.