Google roll out ‘High-quality sites’ algorithm

12 April 2011

Google have today rolled out their new high-quality sites algorithm to all English-language Google users.

Along with changes to Google Search such as Instant Preview, Google Instant and Google Places, we also reported on how page speed is to factor in Google Pagerank and some of the techniques we’ve developed and refined to tune up and improve the page loading speeds of our websites, culminating in the Propeller Website Accelerator

According to Google, these most recent changes are designed to help provide the most relevant answers as quickly as possible. Google asserts that the changes are so subtle that very few people will notice them but that the algorithmic change noticeably impacts 11.8% of search queries.

The update is designed to reduce rankings for low quality sites – such as those who copy content from other websites or are simply not that useful and in return provide improved rankings for higher quality sites, containing original content, research information, reports etc etc.

So, whats changed?

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines for high quality sites detail Design and content guicelines, Technical guidelines and Quality guidelines all of which warrant close inspection – detailed below.

Design and content Guidelines

  • Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.
  • Offer a site map to your users with links that point to the important parts of your site. If the site map has an extremely large number of links, you may want to break the site map into multiple pages.
  • Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number.
  • Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.
  • Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.
  • Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn’t recognize text contained in images. If you must use images for textual content, consider using the “ALT” attribute to include a few words of descriptive text.
  • Make sure that your <title> elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.
  • Check for broken links and correct HTML.
  • If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e., the URL contains a “?” character), be aware that not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the number of them few.
  • Review our image guidelines for best practices on publishing images.

Technical guidelines

  • Use a text browser such as Lynx to examine your site, because most search engine spiders see your site much as Lynx would. If fancy features such as JavaScript, cookies, session IDs, frames, DHTML, or Flash keep you from seeing all of your site in a text browser, then search engine spiders may have trouble crawling your site.
  • Allow search bots to crawl your sites without session IDs or arguments that track their path through the site. These techniques are useful for tracking individual user behavior, but the access pattern of bots is entirely different. Using these techniques may result in incomplete indexing of your site, as bots may not be able to eliminate URLs that look different but actually point to the same page.
  • Make sure your web server supports the If-Modified-Since HTTP header. This feature allows your web server to tell Google whether your content has changed since we last crawled your site. Supporting this feature saves you bandwidth and overhead.
  • Make use of the robots.txt file on your web server. This file tells crawlers which directories can or cannot be crawled. Make sure it’s current for your site so that you don’t accidentally block the Googlebot crawler. Visit to learn how to instruct robots when they visit your site. You can test your robots.txt file to make sure you’re using it correctly with the robots.txt analysis tool available in Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Make reasonable efforts to ensure that advertisements do not affect search engine rankings. For example, Google’s AdSense ads and DoubleClick links are blocked from being crawled by a robots.txt file.
  • If your company buys a content management system, make sure that the system creates pages and links that search engines can crawl.
  • Use robots.txt to prevent crawling of search results pages or other auto-generated pages that don’t add much value for users coming from search engines.
  • Test your site to make sure that it appears correctly in different browsers.
  • Monitor your site’s performance and optimize load times. Google’s goal is to provide users with the most relevant results and a great user experience. Fast sites increase user satisfaction and improve the overall quality of the web (especially for those users with slow Internet connections), and we hope that as webmasters improve their sites, the overall speed of the web will improve.

Google strongly recommends that all webmasters regularly monitor site performance using Page Speed, YSlow, WebPagetest, or other tools. For more information, tools, and resources, see Let’s Make The Web Faster. In addition, the Site Performance tool in Webmaster Tools shows the speed of your website as experienced by users around the world.

Quality guidelines

These quality guidelines cover the most common forms of deceptive or manipulative behavior, but Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here (e.g. tricking users by registering misspellings of well-known websites). It’s not safe to assume that just because a specific deceptive technique isn’t included on this page, Google approves of it. Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.

If you believe that another site is abusing Google’s quality guidelines, please report that site at Google prefers developing scalable and automated solutions to problems, so we attempt to minimize hand-to-hand spam fighting. The spam reports we receive are used to create scalable algorithms that recognize and block future spam attempts.

Quality guidelines – basic principles

  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don’t deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, which is commonly referred to as “cloaking.”
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
  • Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.
  • Don’t use unauthorized computer programs to submit pages, check rankings, etc. Such programs consume computing resources and violate our Terms of Service. Google does not recommend the use of products such as WebPosition Gold™ that send automatic or programmatic queries to Google.

Quality guidelines – specific guidelines


Ultimately, these measures are designed not only to assist website owners who produce quality content and have invested in well-built and cleanly-coded websites to earn improved rankings but also to filter out and lower the search positions of users engaging in dubious search engine optimisation techniques.

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