Google's Amit Singhal offered more "clarity" into Google's approach with the Panda update. However I am not convinced that any clarity was actually added, and I think a lot of the questions they ask are to a degree even a bit wrong-headed.
Would you trust the information presented in this article?
Sounds like this is all about promoting perceived authority.
- Did you (or anyone you know) trust this outlet to give you a complete worldview at any point in the last couple decades & end up bankrupt, utterly decimated, or destitute because you followed its advice (on say internet stocks or the housing bubble or using excessive credit because "this time may actually be different")?
- Did your allegiance to this particular media outlet cause you to be more likely to be unbelievably ignorant & ill informed about world-shaping anti-facts used to push things like wars based on fraud? Are there extra trillion Dollars of debt your children must pay interest on & over 100,000 people dead because a news outlet lied to you? And the US government (the largest seat of power & authority in the world today) was also complicit in ensuring American citizens were ignorant going into Iraq.
- A lot of news sites are given additional distribution through services like Google news, which start them from a position of authority (because if you go to search to find something & Google promotes their news vertical right away, then sites in that news vertical will rank highly instantly & accrue backlinks from that early exposure). The education system itself is partly a propaganda tool to teach you to trust an obey authority. If the banking crisis taught us nothing else it should have taught us that many authorities are not worthy of our trust as they act in self interested ways at the expense of the whole.
Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
Mainstream media sites saw a $1 billion Dollar lift in annual ad revenue from the Panda update. Most mainstream media articles are *not* written by true subject matter experts, but rather by devout generalists who grab a couple quotes to fill out the shallow piece & make it feel more informed.
A lot of the "official" quotes are from officials who represent industry trade organizations. That means those folks support the interests of folks in that trade, even if/when that trade is working against the interest of the common man.
The problem is, you don't get to see who is a whore until *after* they already ____ed you. See for example David Lereah: "Ahhh, so he admits to being nothing more than a paid shill whose mouth was available for a price. How does that job description vary from the Trannies who hang out by the West Side Highway? In my book, not by very much. A whore is a whore is a whore."
Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
*Cough* Google Video vs Youtube vs Vevo.
Aren't most AP articles by their definition redundant duplication?
How are some of Google's late-to-the-party services like their ebook store or their places pages justified if we seek to minimize redundancy?
Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
Some sites aim to sell, while others aim to tell.
If a passionate hobbyist desires to share but isn't selling something (and thus uses a quirky site design or a more personal formatting structure) should they be dinged for putting their passion ahead of getting an unneeded SSL certification & paying firms like TRUSTe, McAfee & VeriSign?
Interestingly, sites which display some trust symbols are *more* likely to scam consumers. Being a con man requires abusing trust and confidence. Some of the top brands do just that, over and over again.
Sites which don't go out of their way to sell you something are more likely to be built on passion.
Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
"Correct spelling, indeed, is one of the arts that are far more esteemed by school ma'ams than by practical men, neck-deep in the heat and agony of the world." - Henry Louis Mencken
Further, the error of omission is one that is constantly made in the mainstream media, which is precisely why you have to read fringe rags like the Rolling Stone to get an honest look at how bankers are robbing the country blind. Of course you will read the same article in the mainstream media in 6 or 7 years, after the statue of limitations runs out. And they will sell it as "new" news, even though the story at that point is nearly a decade old.
Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
I can tell you sure as hell that the auto-generated spam stub pages on the mainstream media sites (driven by services like DayLife or Truveo) which scrape blogs like mine are not driven by passion. You can't program a bot to have "passion."
Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
Hard to disagree with this point. However, it is worth noting that the mainstream media is notorious for stealing stories.
Further, I have had a client featured in a well read trade magazine where they wrote an entire article on the client. They were unwilling to link to the client's site (even though the client was the only source & entire purpose for the article) because they said they felt it would be too promotional. How warped is it that they will do a photo shoot at your house & make you the feature of an article, yet they are afraid to link because that might be seen as being too promotional!
Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
This is actually a bit of a bait and switch styled topic. Let me explain. In an ideal world every single page would be great.
But when some brands are above regulation, Google keeps screwing up source attribution & Google creates no-value-add scraper pages like their places pages, if you ensure that every page you make is unique & value add then if you operate at any scale you will likely go bankrupt in the search game (unless you have significant non-search distribution).
Most articles individually are failures that do not pay for themselves. It is the rare success that helps carry the failures. You do not know which is which in advance, but you hope that with some level of effort and scale you are marginally profitable out the other end.
This is how literally all forms of publishing work: online, music, movies, books, etc.
In terms of a money loser, take for instance this article. I am already rather well known, have a wide following, spent hours writing that article, and ultimately it garnered 1 comment & 0 inbound links (once you back out scraper sites, automated links, and links with nofollow on them).
Making things worse, you not only compete against others who will copy anything of yours that is successful, but if Google does decide to whack your site with a penalty then a scraper site (which Google paid with AdSense money) that steals your content will outrank you for your own work. How exactly do you provide a unique substantial value add when Google is paying others to steal & republish your work wholesale?
Things like source attribution issues, brand bias, and Google competing against publishers with scraper pages have a very real and significant impact on profit margins. A good sustainable company is generally lucky to have 20% profit margins. When Google introduced their places pages that scraped TripAdvisor Google instantly redirected 10% of TripAdvisor's search traffic.
Ultimately the above issue with content is not down to cost or effort, but if what you are doing is profitable. If it is not, then it is simply unsustainable.
And even when you are profitable, you can count on Google helping others subvert that position.
On the topic of value add, I have even seen people buying AdSense ads to redistribute 3rd party works, where the only value "add" was lowering the retail price!
How much quality control is done on content?
A lot of the high ranking and much hyped social media networks like MySpace, Friendster, Twitter & Facebook are almost exclusively spam. A couple days ago I deleted over 75% of my Facebook "friends" because I was sick of getting daily email updates about how some dirtbag wanted to promote some autowealth MLM blaster unlimited downstream product on my wall.
That is not to say that everyone I deleted did anything wrong (most of them are likely good people) but there was no opportunity cost to spamming. The spammers who automate drive everything toward the tragedy of the commons. A paywall is perhaps the single best filter for quality, but if you use a paywall expect to deal with a lot of freetard rage & expect Google to pay some folks to steal it.
Google polices the web, but anything goes in their ad programs.
You can see how ridiculous the double standard is by simply considering that Google let their counterfeiting advertisers count grow to 50,000 strong before finally axing them when the US government pressured Google. Bizarrely, Google had the audacity to position themselves as good doers who were cracking down on spammers, when in fact they were taking their own longtime business partners out to the wood shed!
Does the article describe both sides of a story?
Mainstream media sources often like to share "both sides of a story" to seem unbiased. But the truth is that media by its very nature is biased toward the interest of advertisers & away from consumers. See, for example, either Manufacturing Consent or the BGH lawsuit.
Further, some well known corporations (LIKE GOOGLE) blackball media outlets that question them in certain ways. Google would never give exclusives to SEOBook & the sites that they do give exclusives to would lose the relationship if they were as blunt as we are.
Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
Lots of recognized authorities have conflicting funding sources - something that was well highlighted in early Google research, and has been consistently exposed (years or decades after the fact) in the medical space.
Many firms which can "move the market" regularly trade against the advice they give to retail schleps.
Honesty is more important than authority, but then being bland & honest is not quite as remarkable (or profitable) as putting on a coat of spin.
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?
How would Google's efforts stand up when graded against this suggestion? Why does Google have Google Video, Youtube & Vevo?
Further, most market leaders do have large networks and multiple branded sites for purposes of branding, segmentation, and double dipping in the marketplace. Remember when Bankrate (which already owned Bankrate, Nationwide Card Services, Credit Card Search Engine, Bankaholic, etc.) bought out CreditCardsGuide.com & it got temporarily penalized for the spammy links it had? Well it ranks again & of course since then they have also bought out CreditCards.com. You see this sort of behavior amongst almost any big brand: from Amazon.com to Zappos. (Oh wait, Amazon.com now owns Zappos!)
Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
A lot of the best content comes from people who are subject matter experts. But those people may have only mastered their subject & may be new to: writing, website design, online publishing, etc.
For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
Let's put it this way: the media people consume is in part responsible for the current state of health in the US where there is an obesity epidemic. Further, a lot of the leading health authority sites (like WebMD) run special advert sections in their site where it looks just like content but you have to read the small print to see it is an ad.
Going one step further on this front, it is worth mentioning that a number of the large pharmaceutical corporations have repeatedly sold drugs for off label purposes & yet none of their packaging is required to highlight those ill deed they did that have literally killed millions of people.
And let's not forget Google's take on educating misinforming the public about these drugs.
Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
A lot of "authoritative" sites are simply sites with large ad budgets.
Quick, tell me which company advertises a clever gecko with a British accent. Other than as a mascot (& perhaps alliteration), how relevant is that gecko (or the accent) to their business? Not at all. But they do spend nearly a billion Dollars a year on ads.
Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
Most articles that do are money losers.
Especially true while Google is funding so much no-cost automated web scraping.
Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
Held to your own standard, how would Google Places pages hold up?
Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
A lot of the stuff which is shared is shared precisely because it is ill-informed, controversial, or shares someone's pre-existing biases.
Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
In the Manufacturing Consent DVD a big media guy highlighted that they like to have a 60/40 split between ads and content. Google already pushes online publishers to do less, even if Google does the exact opposite:
Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
Aren't print magazines where a lot of the bait and switch headlines came from?
Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
Do you mean something similar to most magazine articles? Or do you mean the content farms that Google funded & then used as a justification to torch 10,000's of small businesses?
Held to your own standard, how would Google Places pages hold up?
(I know. I know. If what you do looks like what Google does then you MUST be a spammer.)
Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
This basically excludes almost any user generated content site, with the exception of Youtube.
Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
I'll complain about something I just saw. ;)
While searching for a link for a blog post I was writing today, the #1 Google result (not voted up by social circle stuff) was a Tweet linking to a Hootsweet framed page linking to a music industry site which posts RSS feed content and linked to a BusinessInsider article that referenced the TechCrunch article I was looking for.
If we want to get rid of unneeded duplication & noise then why is Google tying their bonus system to promoting more social media noise? After Amazon.com has done a great job with Kindle why is there a need for Google's ebook marketplace? After Yelp has created a strong community review site (with real editorial expenses) why is there a need for Google Places to scrape & displace its reviews?
If you look at what actually happens in reality (rather than what folks claim to support in their "ideals") it is anarchy. The bankers stole what they could and moved on. The pharmaceutical corporations create fear-driven propaganda about the dangers of drug re-importation, all the while pushing drugs for off label purposes. Google pays people to steal your content, then tells you to suck it up & it is your fault you are not a big brand.
Anarchy is here.
The only difference is that it is dressed up in suits and fancy language, where people perceive anarchists as like ripped jeans, megadeth shirt wearing, pyro's.
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