Google’s Ghostly “Quality Update”

Earlier in May, content publishers began to see spikes in their search rankings, with some sites impacted more than others. Google initially denied that any changes had been made to their search ranking algorithms, and soon the mysterious update was dubbed the “Phantom Update”. That is, until Google officially confirmed its existence two weeks later, changing the name to the “Quality Update.”

Google verified that they had changed the core algorithm to better evaluate content quality, but didn’t specify what that meant, remaining mostly silent on the details of the update. However, marketers have already dissected the “phantom” to assess what exactly the update entails.

It is a known fact that Google has always concentrated on quality and providing only the best results for users. Therefore, if anything, this update should not come as a surprise to anyone. Google provides a vast array of questions marketers and publishers should consider when self-evaluating their own sites. Would you trust the information presented in this article? Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail? 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?

If your website has already been providing quality content, at least under Google’s standards, then there shouldn’t be a problem. As stated in a previous post, startups like SweetGreen and Shopify have made significant investments in creating excellent content for their customers. Another big-name startup, Airbnb, is also known for putting content at the core of their marketing strategy. Whether it’s through beautiful neighborhood guides or studies on the economic impact of home sharing, Airbnb provides an engaging space for people consumed by wanderlust to dream and achieve their perfect getaway. As Airbnb’s CMO, Jonathan Mildenhall, once said, “As a community-driven company, we don’t want to just talk about our product, but instead put our community front and center of any campaign.”

Ultimately, the focus for content creators shouldn’t be how to master the algorithm. Rather, they should continually strive to master engagement with their customers. As Google says, “Search is a complicated and evolving art and science, so rather than focusing on specific algorithmic tweaks, we encourage you to focus on delivering the best possible experience for users.”

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