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Google’s fake news problem: Is truthfulness becoming a ranking factor?

On the 7th March, Google confirmed a big change to their core algorithm, a change which sparked volatility in search engine rankings. Other than the confirmation the update did occur, Google didn’t provide any specific details, only stating that the change was designed to improve their results.

In response, digital marketing veteran Glenn Gabe suggested that the update focussed on content. Gabe stated that “it seems Google once again improved how it assesses quality, and with Google always looking to surface the highest quality content for users, that’s a really big deal.”

When viewed in context with Google’s ongoing struggle to improve the journalism appearing in search engine results pages (SERPs), the motivation behind the March algorithm update becomes clearer. In the last 18 months ‘fake news’ has dominated news stories worldwide, not least the spheres of digital and social media. Google has been criticised for its failure to prevent fake and misleading content from appearing within its search results and on the search engine’s news feature, with leading SEO specialist Danny Sullivan calling it “Google’s biggest-ever search quality crisis.”

In response, Google has taken steps to tackle fake news and, in turn, champion quality journalism. In March, the search engine giant announced its plans to invest $300 million over the next 3 years to fight the spread of fake news and disinformation in its search results.

As part of this, Google is attempting to suppress results that publish ‘non-authoritative information’. These changes were followed by commentary from Search Engine Journal stating that “it’s clear that Google is interested in making truthfulness a ranking factor, and they’ve never had a stronger motivation to do so than now.”

All Response Media viewpoint
Although this move is primarily concerned with news media, it will have ramifications for anyone looking to rank well in Google’s SERPs and who do not value or produce high-quality content.

Ultimately, Google is interested in improving user experience and sites that provide clear, quality, and trustworthy content will benefit from this. In 2018 all websites are news publishers, and all brands should be ‘an authoritative voice’ in their field. After the fake news phenomenon, providing high-quality information to your audience is more important than ever.

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