Google can't determine the quality of your content as if it's under a microscopeOne of the stated goals of the Panda update was to weed out bad quality, thin content which doesn’t have much redeeming value. However, it’s a valid question to ask whether Google’s computers can really determine the quality of your content. After all, computers are great at sorting things and following logical patterns, but how can a computer decide whether or not the advice you provide on how to make friends in college is useful or not?

Watson, the Jeopardy Computer

To answer the question about whether Google can determine the quality of your content, I want to mention another recent phenomenon, Watson, IBM’s Jeopardy winning computer. This computer competed against human opponents to try to win Jeopardy and was able to beat out some of the top performers in Jeopardy.
Now for all that Watson seems like it’s a true AI (artificial intelligence) ala Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, the reality is far simpler. Watson was programmed to sort through phrases and to try to understand what you mean when you mention a particular phrase (the classic example of phrases that can confuse such a computer is when someone searches for Paris Hilton – do they mean the woman or the hotel in Paris?). It’s called semantic search and the technology has come a long way in the past few years.

It’s Semantic Search

Try entering into Google a question, for example, “What is the Capital of New York?” In the old days, Google would simply find pages that have the words capital and New York in close proximity and let you sort out the details. This of course meant that discussions of banking capital in New York would display alongside discussions of Albany as the capital of New York State. Today however, Google uses semantic search to display a “best guess” which tells you (correctly) that the capital of New York is Albany.

How it Works

Google doesn’t release specific information about their search algorithms, so anything I or anyone else can say on the subject is, of necessity going to be speculation rather than fact. However, from what I understand (and I’m not a computer software engineer), Google’s computers can sort through phrases that seem to match the question you pose and they are able to determine then what the answer is that you want.

Panda Does the Same Thing

Panda in essence takes semantic search and goes it one step better. The new update to Google basically is able to parse whole phrases and thus determine what the quality of your content is likely to be. Obviously, it’s still a computer and so it is somewhat inaccurate, however, by and large, the answer is yes, Google can determine the quality of your content.

Bottom Line

Because of this, you can no longer get away with hiring the super cheap writers who turn out sentences that sound like gobbledygook. On the other hand, I don’t think Google’s system is yet sophisticated enough to tell the difference between say, the average content writer who charges $20 for an article and someone like Thomas L. Friedman. But give it time and Google may well be able to determine with ever greater accuracy the quality of your content.