Google on Effect of Low Quality Pages on Sitewide Rankings

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In a Google Webmaster Hangout, someone asked if poor quality pages of a site could drag down the rankings of the entire site. Google’s John Mueller’s answer gave insights into how Google judges and ranks web pages and sites.

Do a Few Pages Drag Down the Entire Site?

The question asked if a section of a site could drag down the rest of the site.

The question:

“I’m curious if 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?”

Difference Between Not Ranking and Penalization

John Mueller started off by correcting a perception about getting penalized that was inherent in the question. Web publishers sometimes complain about being penalized when in fact they are not. What’s happening is that their page is not ranking.

There is a difference between Google looking at your page and deciding not to rank it.

When a page fails to rank, it’s generally because the content is not good enough (a quality issue) or the content is not relevant to the search query (relevance being to the user). That’s a failure to rank, not a penalization.

A common example is the so-called Duplicate Content Penalty. There is no such penalty. It’s an inability to rank caused by content quality.

Another example is the Content Cannibalization Penalty, which is another so-called penalty that is not a penalty.

Both relate to an inability to rank because of specific content issues, but they are not penalties.  The solutions to both involve identifying the cause and fixing it, just like any other failure to rank issue.

A penalty is something completely different in that it is a result of a blatant violation of Google’s guidelines.

John Mueller Defines a Penalty

Google’s Mueller began his answer by first defining what a penalty is:

“Usually the word penalty is associated…

 

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