Some Google algorithms, like Penguin and Panda, are well-publicised before they are released, giving webmasters a final chance to bring their sites into line with best practices and avoid being “punished” for underhand SEO techniques. However webmasters have noticed some significant changes to their organic ranking in recent days, suggesting that Google has released a sneaky update without providing any prior warning.
In the absence of an official announcement, SEO experts have dubbed the update ‘Phantom 2’, emphasising the unexpected release and its impact.
What is Phantom 2 all about?
Since the first effects were felt, analysts have been struggling to identify what the new algorithm change is designed to achieve. Looking at traffic patterns it has become clear that Phantom 2 has been designed to penalise low quality, poorly-structured content; article collection sites like eHow, WikiHow and Answers.com have lost as much as 22% of their traffic as a result of the new algorithm.
In order to reward the best quality content with higher search result rankings, Google is apparently actively penalising short content which provides little value to readers. This is good news for organisations and individuals who invest time and effort in crafting top quality content.
How to avoid being penalised by the Phantom 2 algorithm
Knowing that Phantom 2 targets and penalises low quality content, the obvious way to avoid problems is through investing in articles, blogs and webpages that offer genuine value to your users. So what does great content look like?
Long copy is back
For many years the received wisdom has been that people don’t like to read long webpages. As a result, many businesses have limited themselves to articles and pages that are between 200 and 300 words in length.
Phantom 2 is expected to see a return of much longer content – as much as 2000 to 3000 words for more complex concepts. Consequently blogs and articles may be updated less frequently, but every post will impart a lot more value in terms of search engine rankings. Assuming the quality is consistently good of course.
Spelling and grammar matters
Spelling and grammar has always been important for fostering customer trust (statistics show that 59% of people will not buy from sites that contain spelling and grammar mistakes), but it would appear that Google may be using the quality of text as a ranking factor too. Even if this later turns out to not be the case, improving the standard of written English on your pages could help boost your conversion rates.
Not in terms of publishing a post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but consistent in terms of quality. Take the time and effort to craft truly interesting, valuable content, and you will establish yourself as an authority in your field. And Google loves authoritative content.
Write for humans
Most importantly of all, you must ensure that all of your content is written for humans, not Google. A search engine bot has never bought anything in the history of the Internet, and that’s extremely unlikely to change – ever.
People on the other hand can and do buy billions of pounds worth of goods online every day across the world. This may not significantly affect your Google ranking, but it will certainly help keep your website visitors engaged.
An unfortunate fact of digital life
Announced or otherwise, Google algorithms are an unavoidable fact of trading online – at least for the foreseeable future. However one constant has remained – creating top quality content targeted at people has consistently outperformed quick and dirty junk.
And so to avoid issues with the current Phantom 2 algorithm, or any future updates (Porpoise? Pangolin? Pterodactyl?), the advice will always be the same – produce great quality content for people that engages and informs.