econman - 6:10 pm on Mar 29, 2011 (gmt 0)
what would be the consequence if everyone knew Google's definition of quality?
As a result of Panda, and the ambiguities concerning what is "low quality" and what isn't, publishers are (for the first time) being discouraged from filling their sites with low quality pages (because enough "bad" pages could sink the entire site).
Before Panda, the system was skewed in favor of quantity over quality. Many publishers concluded that the most profitable strategy was to publish as many pages as possible, without worrying about the quality of those pages.
Since low quality pages tend to be cheaper to produce than good quality pages, publishers responded to that incentive by cranking out millions of pages of garbage every day, in the hope that some of those pages would rank, or at least provide some economic benefit by enabling them to send more links to pages which would rank.
The system encouraged site owners to publish as many pages as possible, even if those pages were unreadable, or were virtual duplicates of existing pages.
The unintended consequence of it's exclusive focus on "relevance" was that Google wastes resources trying to keep up with crawling, analyzing, and indexing millions of low quality pages that were produced specifically to "game" Google's system.
One predictable consequence if Google were to tell us exactly how they are defining "quality" is that the incentive to crank out millions of pages to game Google's system would resume, with the minor proviso that everyone would make sure their pages are just barely over the minimum quality threshold.
In other words, instead of creating an incentive to only publish "good" pages, incentives would be similar to what they have been for years -- publish as many pages as possible -- but subject to the constraint of just barely qualifying as "not low quality."