Google’s Panda update has web publishers concerned about how Google is ranking their pages based upon features found on those pages that Google might use to “measure” the quality of those pages. A Google Webmaster Central blog post published earlier this month from Google Fellow Amit Singhal, More guidance on building high-quality sites, tells us:
Our site quality algorithms are aimed at helping people find “high-quality” sites by reducing the rankings of low-quality content. The recent “Panda” change tackles the difficult task of algorithmically assessing website quality.
The blog post includes many questions that publishers might ask themselves about the quality of the content and the user experience on their websites, to give them some ideas on how they might improve both the content and the user experience. In some ways, this reranking of lower quality content has been a stick from the search engine, but what if Google used a carrot instead?
What if Google paid publishers of the search engines’ advertisements more or less based on their pages’ quality score? What if the money that you were paid as a Google Adsense participant not only relied upon the clicks on your pages and the quality of the content that you publish on those pages?
Google does have a number of AdSense Program Policies for publishers who display Google Adsense ads on their pages. Those include content guidelines listing examples of the kinds of content that shouldn’t be shown or linked to by AdSense advertisers, such as content that is adult or violent, or that promotes racial intolerance. Adsense advertisements also shouldn’t be shown on pages that violate other copyrights, according to the guidelines.
But what if Google looked at other aspects of a web page where Adsense advertisements might be shown, and came up with quality scores for those pages, which would determine how much compensation those ads might pay to publishers? A Google patent application published last year provides some details on how such an approach might work.
Compensation Distribution Using Quality Score
Invented by Brian Axe, Ronald Ho, Amit Paunikar, Christian Oestlien
Assigned to Google
US Patent Application 20100114678
Published May 6, 2010
Filed: July 2, 2009
Among other disclosed subject matter, a computer-implemented method for compensation distribution includes analyzing first content from a publisher about a quality criterion. The method includes associating the first content with a quality score based on the analysis. The method includes providing second content to the publisher to be published with the first content.
The method includes distributing compensation to the publisher relating to the second content, the compensation based at least in part on the quality score.
Interestingly, it seems like a number of the quality score considerations may involve the look and feel of a website in some ways. This passage from the patent filing is a little telling:
Many publishers use computer networks such as the internet for publication, and their respective publications can have unique characteristics and/or qualities.
Often, a page from one publisher can be significantly different from that of another, and so on.
Differences can be due to deliberate design choices stemming from the publisher’s intention and vision behind the publishing; in other situations, they can result from cost restrictions, lack of artistic creativity, and/or a limited understanding of the technology involved in the publishing medium.
So, what types of “quality criterion” might be used to classify pages based upon a quality score. The patent provides some examples of things it might look for:
- Established facts rather than controversial opinions
- Entertainment value
- Grammatical accuracy
- Educational value
- Aesthetic quality
- Informational value
- Search ranking
- Server responsiveness, or
- Other quality criteria
How might something like the design of a site fit into a quality score?
The patent filing’s inventors tell us:
In some implementations, classifiers can be trained using one or more templates. For example, templates for the most commonly used page designs available in the network (e.g., on the internet) can be developed.
The classifier can use the template to determine whether a page at issue uses the common page design, which can be considered a quality aspect.
As another example, a template of a known “bad” page design can be used.
A classifier might also be trained to look for concepts that might appear within the text upon a page, and it might use that information as part of the quality score as well. For example, we’re told that “the classifier can determine whether there are few or many concepts on the page, which can be used as a quality criterion.”
The classifier might look for other signals as well:
For example, the classifier module can add a point to a page’s quality score for every detected “good” aspect of the page (e.g., a working link, a verifiable fact) and/or subtract a point for every detected “bad” aspect of the page (e.g., broken link, misspelled word). Other types of scoring can be used.
Quality scoring to determine compensation to a publisher might be used in areas other than web pages. The patent describes how this approach might work with print advertisements in a magazine, or with television programs, radio programs, movies, or other forms of media. For instance, the higher the quality of the television program playing when a commercial is shown, the more the broadcasters of the TV show would be paid.
The approach described in this patent seems to increase the quality of pages found on the Web that use Google’s advertisements, by providing an incentive to increase the quality of the content found on those pages. The Panda upgrade from Google may impact many pages that attempt to entice visitors based on the topics they focus upon to visit those pages and click upon advertisements found there.
If you are a website publisher participating in Google’s Adsense program, and you were told that you could earn more money from your Google ads if your pages had higher quality scores, would you work to improve the quality of the content of your pages? I suspect that some site owners would, while others would just work to create more pages if it were easier and less costly to do so.
We don’t know if Google will introduce this approach anytime in the future. Still, I thought that it was interesting based on the quality criteria included in its description.
Many of the signals of quality that the patent filing includes within its description may be similar to quality signals that Google’s Panda update may be considering.