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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Content quality and google rankings...

Months ago, I encountered an article by Joel Walsh entitled "Google's 'Good Writing' Content Filter." Walsh posited that Google's algorithm may very well be able to differentiate sites with good content from those offering lower-quality material.

Walsh studied "Google’s top five pages for the five most searched-on keywords" according to Wordtracker at the time of his research. His finding were pretty interesting.

The top pages featured grammatically sound content that was virtually free of spelling errors. Content was generally structured into relatively short paragraphs.

The research also showed frequently updated content and a high degree of contextual relevancy to keywords. This didn't mean keyword stuffing. Walsh explains that the top sites feature "numerous terms related to the keyword, as well as stem variations of the keyword. The page may contain the keyword itself few times or not at all."

This information led him to argue that Google had stumbled upon some methodology that helped the search engine distinguish between quality writing and junk.

I am sure that everyone can guess just how much I want that to be true! Personally, though, I have a hard time believing Google's spiders are good enough literary critics to pull it off. There may be some content assessment happening, but I don't think the spiders are toting red ink pens or handing out grades.

Instead, I tend to think that sites with good content rank highly because people like good content and will link to it. We all know that high numbers of backlinks, especially when they come from relevant sites, can really drive up rankings. I believe that good content attracts the kind of interest and appreciation that creates links of this sort.

Either way you look at it, there is good news for those of us who make a living by supplying quality content. Whether Google judges content or leaves that up to others, high rankings and good content appear to go hand in hand.

Joel's article is well-circulated. Here is one place to read it.