Have you searched for information or news online and come across search results which were misleading, questionable or even offensive? Chances are, it happens more than we even realize. For every solid, factual article published today, there seem to be three “fake news” stories that appear around it. It’s become increasingly difficult to discern what’s true, what’s an opinion and whether or not a headline is accurate or a mechanism to drive website traffic and click-throughs. That’s why Google is working to combat fake news, calling it “the most high profile” issue its users encounter.
New Search Quality Rater Guidelines
Believe it or not, Google quality checks its search results on a regular basis. Real people provide feedback to the search engine giant with regards to quality and reliability. This data specifically helps Google collect data on the quality of its search capabilities (not individual page rankings). Google recently updated its Search Quality Rater Guidelines to better assist the folks who provide this critical feedback to find and flag fake news and low-quality websites.
To ensure your website doesn’t run the risk of meeting Google’s criteria for fake news or low-quality content, make sure your site is not misleading, offensive, or promoting hoaxes and conspiracy theories. Chances are, at least I’m willing to bet, you should be OK on those fronts if you’re reading this blog post. But you never know in this day and age!
Updates to Search Results Rankings
We all want to be “above the fold” when it comes to search results as 75% of searchers never scroll past the first page (HubSpot). One of my favorite memes reads, “The best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of search results.”
So, how does content get to the top? Well, Google combines a bunch of data to determine the results it provides for a query. Primarily, the search engine analyzes the “newness” or freshness of content, the number of times the search query appears on the page, and the relevance of the content in relation to the search query itself.
Google has recently modified these three objectives to promote quality content and demote lower quality or substandard pages that have been flagged for promoting fake news, unsupported allegations and conspiracy theories. Hopefully, this means more accurate and reliable results will rise to the top (including your content)!
Improved Ability to Flag Questionable or False Content
Google has also recently improved its feedback tool, allowing users to flag questionable content or fake news quickly. If the content is inaccurate, insensitive or unhelpful, users can report content directly to Google. What’s more, Google plans to use this feedback to improve its search algorithm in the future.
What does this mean for you? One major takeaway is to beware of publishing click-bait headlines to drive traffic to your site and then not making good on your promise. For example, if a site is promoting “7 Things Not To Do On LinkedIn,” the article should provide readers with that list. Otherwise, the site will run the risk of getting flagged and potentially disappearing from targeted search results.
Bottom line, salacious headlines and bizarre stories won’t be going away any time soon. But, you can prevent content from getting flagged or penalized by Google. Unfortunately, Google has admitted it can’t “fully solve” the proliferation of fake news. However, the search engine giant is fighting back in a few ways that should benefit those who produce good, factual, and entertaining content on a regular basis.