Low-Quality Pages & Sitewide Rankings
One bad fish can spoil the whole pond! The wise may say so and we do not question their wisdom but is that the same for your website? Do low-quality pages pull your website down, impacting sitewide rankings?
Let’s look at what we had in store in the recent Google Webmaster Hangout! Someone had the same question as most of us do, and rightly so, and we quote:
I’m curious if the content is judged on a page level per the keyword or the site as a whole. Only a sub-section of the site is buying guides and they’re all under their specific URL structure. Would Google penalize everything under that URL holistically? Do a few bad apples drag down the average?
Not Ranking vs Penalisation
So how does Google judge and rank web pages and websites? John Mueller’s insightful answer started off by highlighting the difference between content not ranking and website penalisation.
Many publishers perceive their content’s failure to perform well on Google SERPs, a result of penalisation, which might not really be the case.
If a page doesn’t rank, it is a result of either poor quality content or lack of relevance to the user. This is not due to penalisation. Common examples are Duplicate Content Penalty and Content Cannibalisation Penalty. Both relate to an inability to rank because of content specific issue while not being a penalty, talk about misnomers!
A penalty, though, is completely different, a blatant violation of Google’s guidelines!
Definition of a Penalty
Oxford Dictionary: A punishment imposed for breaking a law, rule, or contract.
Cambridge Dictionary: A punishment, or the usual punishment, for doing something that is against a law
Google: Quoting John Mueller
“Usually the word penalty is associated with manual actions. And if there were a manual action, like if someone manually looked at your website and said this is not a good website then you would have a notification in Search console”
Define Page-Level Quality:
Oxford Dictionary: What’s that?
Cambridge Dictionary: Not an SEO expert!
Google: Quoting John Mueller
In general, when it comes to the quality of a website we try to be as fine-grained as possible to figure out which specific pages or parts of the website are seen as being really good and which parts are kind of maybe not so good.
And depending on the website, sometimes that’s possible. Sometimes that’s not possible. We just have to look at everything overall.
That is, Google focuses on page quality instead of overall site quality when it comes to ranking. Which means that if you have a tough time ranking your content, it is time to revisit your content and identify why it isn’t ranking, is it content cannibalisation or duplicate content or just that the quality of content is poor and improve your content on the page.
Websites With Low Quality Pages
Google is trying it’s best to improve user experience by providing quality content, yet we see sites that get away with low-quality sections while others cannot. One must understand that websites with high-quality content will rank despite hosting some low-quality pages, this is because low-quality pages do not impact your website’s overall presence on the internet. They do not drag your website down but may not perform well on their own.
In a scenario opposite, if a site is mostly poor-quality pages with a few high-quality pages, you may not see high-quality pages perform to their best potential despite internal linking due to low PageRank flowing through the site.
The answer turns out to be density. If you have high-quality content on most of your pages, low-quality pages may not bother your site’s overall performance but may not perform well on their own, while a website with mostly low-quality content may hinder the growth of high-quality pages because Google couldn’t get past all the low-quality signals!
Effect of Low-Quality Signals
It remains unsaid that on-page signals do impact high-quality pages’ performance of search engines and bad on-page will interfere, yet in some cases, negative signals might not interfere with the ability of high-quality pages to rank.
The takeaway, therefore, is that it all depends on the density of low-quality content on your website. If your website hosts low-quality content, high-quality pages will suffer because the site is of low-quality. In contrast, if your website hosts high-quality content, low-quality content may float around but may not reach the heights that it would, had it been of a higher-quality.