As reported by Search Metrics, Google’s latest update landed on 12 November 2015, and brought with it more reforms to the Quality Rater Guidelines. Phantom Update 2 landed in early summer of 2015, with Phantom 3 now redefining those guidelines further. Solely focussed on website content, the update – which is yet to be officially announced by Google – could have serious effects on visibility and rankings.
Speculation suggests that there are at least three main areas that the update is said to be focussed on, with user intent the main motive for evaluating the effectiveness and relevance of content.
With data supplied by Search Metrics showing significant shifts in visibility, low quality content, duplicate content, and brand keywords are among some of the main components now being taken into account when evaluating content relevance and quality.
Under the new Quality Rater Guidelines, it is understood that Google will base the content’s quality on its ability to fulfill the reader’s intent, based on the specific type of page. Category pages in particular seem to have been affected by this. Category pages should offer the user general information on the relevant sub pages available on the site. Any supporting content that does not correspond with the needs of the user can now be deemed as low quality, subsequently affecting rankings.
Continuing to redefine its guidelines, there have also been amendments made to the allowance of duplicate content. After Phantom 2 punished any page with any form of duplicate content, Phantom 3 has countered the problem by reading content based on its context. This means that for pages such as dictionaries or lyric directories, they won’t be punished for including unavoidable duplicate content – as context dictates that it is neither plagiarised nor irrelevant.
Search Metrics have also found negative effects in rankings and visibility on brand pages that feature keywords of affiliated brands. If a user is reading about brands that don’t relate to their specific search query, then the content can be considered to be failing at fulfilling the user’s original intent.
The Quality Rater Guidelines, though yet to be announced by Google officially, can be seen to have made significant changes since the release of Phantom 2, to better read content and deliver users with the best possible experience based on their search queries.
Developments on rankings and visibility data are expected to continue following the landing of Phantom 3; however, there is still no confirmation on whether an official statement by Google is to be released.