Have you Encountered Phantom?
Phantom is an element of Google’s ‘Needs Met’ strategy in which Raters (actual human beings) evaluate the content of web pages to determine how well they serve the people reaching them.
The purpose is to ensure that content accessed via Google meets the needs of the user as soon as possible after they arrive on the page and in a manner that doesn’t send the visitor away. As an example, I think we’ve all visited a site that repeatedly mentions the product name in a bid to improve keyword rankings as opposed to being of any use to the visitor.
Raters are provided with guidelines – actually a 160 page document which begins by telling them what a web page is and what purpose it serves, what classes as a URL and how a website is defined. After that it goes on to describe the rating system, how it works and how it will be used by Raters
It all seems very thorough, as one would expect from Google, but it also raises a question as to who the Raters are if they need this level of explanation and how many are necessary given that, even in our business, new pages and content are added daily!
Who are the Raters?
Raters, it turns out, are often ‘stay at home’ mothers earning a little cash while attending to their children’s needs for nurture. Other Raters may be students or people not in conventional employment. Raters are, in turn, given feedback on the accuracy of their ratings so that they can improve the quality of what they do.
Google’s rating system expects a web page to do what it says on the label, so if you have a recipe site or your blog page is titled so that readers expect to find a recipe, woe betide your ratings if you like to pontificate about the quality of the required ingredients, or tell a story about how the dish became a family favourite, before a reader reaches the recipe.
This page, as an example, treads carefully along the line. The title is clearly a recipe, but the page features a short preamble of less than 300 words, which many readers would find acceptable as an introduction PROVIDED it relates to the recipe.
What’s the Category?
Category pages are also deemed to be low quality even though they are designed to act as a stepping stone to a more specific page. This is entirely because, although the search term appears on the page as a link to more information, there is nothing informative on the page.
Pop-Ups and Below the Fold
A lot of ostensibly informative pages are broken up by ads. Others display a ‘Sign Up for More’ panel if you decide to move the pesky cursor out of your way. Some sites depend entirely on ad revenue and, as a result, have what appear to be navigation links that go direct to advertising.
All of these factors impede the visitor from finding out what they came for, so the effect on the page rating is a foregone conclusion.
What’s does this Mean for my Website?
If you depend on Google for traffic, you need to make each page of your website as informative as possible and avoid having elements that might confuse or irritate a site visitor. Many long-standing sites have been engineered to be bot-friendly without too much thought given to human visitors as the aim was to elevate the site’s position in Google’s rankings. Having humans measuring the usability and standard of content is a game-changer that everyone needs to take note of before their sites disappear into Google’s low-ranking void.
A final thought for bloggers is that, if your following has grown organically by using social media and from recommendations and you retain followers after several visits, your content will very likely be of a standard that will receive a high rating without you doing anything. A real bonus from those bloggers who write well, the rest will gradually disappear from the front pages of Google. For a chat about how your site is measuring up call us or contact us using the form to the side here :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::>