How could a search engine measure quality? If you think about it for a moment, it’s a relatively simple task. Think about the last time you used Google. Did the first blue link you decided to click deliver the exact experience you’d hoped for, or did you return to the search results and head elsewhere?
That measure is called “dwell time”, the amount of time a user spent reviewing the web page before returning to the search results. If a dwell time measure is particularly low, (i.e. a high bounce rate in your analytics) then the chances are your high ranking web page may begin to fall in the rankings.
Dwell time is just one engagement metric. Think about how a search engine engineer may assess the quality of the page. Firstly, metrics such as the number of tweets, Facebook likes, Google+’s could influence your scoring mechanism. Then, the dwell time and click through rate signals. Finally, the page layout itself.
Page Layout, Thin and Duplicate Content and Ads Heavy Sites
Google’s Panda Algorithm first rolled out in the US in February 2011, sought to penalise webpages with thin, heavily duplicated content (boilerplate category pages would be a perfect target in a retail situation) and webpages with very heavy levels of advertising above the fold.
Unfortunately for many businesses whose models relied on the manufacture of hundreds of thousands of “made for SEO” thin webpages, revenues disappeared overnight.
Page layout, and the creative use of content to attract and keep your user’s attention, should therefore be at the top of your priority list when you’re planning to improve your website for SEO. Any redesign, site migration or similar project should contain scope to improve these pages.
An example of a “thin” category level page – no textual content is visible, though the use of images may help.
An example of an exceptional category page – with features, imagery and textual content designed to attract the attention of users.
Page Layout and Features of a Well Optimised Website
Understanding the rules with page layout (an algorithm update in its own right and a Google Panda factor) are really quite easy. Websites affected by the Panda update had “excessive” ads above the fold and generally had no unique text content on the page. A classic example of a site affected is Review Centre:
If you’re trying to think of ways to make a page more unique and useful for visitors, take a look at espares.co.uk – they, rather cleverly encourage their visitors to ask questions, making the text on the pages entirely unique and useful to their potential customers. By solving common problems their customers may have on landing, they’re less likely to leave the site and more likely to convert into a customer.
Espares.co.uk go one step further, by adding “how to” videos to their pages, too.
Keeping your customers on your site, encouraging them to explore and enjoy the experience of using your website is an ideal goal for most marketers. Ask yourself, how exceptional is the experience for your visitors, are you adding value in a unique way? If the answer is yes, you’re very probably on the way to owning a quality website that search engines and users love.
That’s all you need to know for now about website quality, if you’d like some further reading, take a look at the following articles:
How Brands Will Win with Truly Exceptional Content – Builtvisible.
A Q&A With Google’s Top Search Engineers – Wired
Algorithms – Google Inside Search
How Content Marketing Drives Sales – Builtvisible.