It is believed the updates are aimed at combating the spread of so-called fake news and making it easier than ever for marketers to micro-target specific groups of users.
Google’s latest service, named Project Owl, is aimed at identifying and removing fake news from the Google search results. With several otherwise reputable news sites falling victim to, or unwittingly propagating, the spread of fake news, Project Owl is a logical step for Google who have been in a constant battle against so-called black hat search engine optimisation spammers who are using various methods to try and ‘trick’ Google’s algorithms into giving their pages a high ranking.
One of the ways Google’s algorithms work is by evaluating how many pages from across the internet link back to a particular source, with each link being seen as a vote of confidence in that page’s content. Over the last few years, Google has become much more proficient at identifying where these links are being inserted to fool algorithms and these kinds of links are being penalised, along with social media shares, if they are found to be worth less than the organic links that Google is looking for.
White hat SEOs on the other hand optimise their sites by following the guidelines set out by Google and others. Companies such as Click Intelligence are on hand to assist website owners with the kind of legitimate white hat link-building that Google encourages.
Expanding User Feedback
In addition to the launch of Project Owl, Google has responded to mounting criticism over the nature of its autocomplete suggestions. Intended to speed up user searches by offering suggestions as to what the user is typing in the search box, suggested searches have been criticised for being irrelevant or offensive in nature. Google is streamlining the feedback process for users to report inappropriate suggestions and is updating the algorithms that determine what should be suggested to the user.
Now when performing a Google search, a link will appear under the suggested results box to report inappropriate suggestions.
Improving ‘Featured Snippets’
The third prong in Google’s war on fake news is improvements to how Google Home and Android devices respond to voice queries from the user. In the case of Google Home, the lack of an interface on the device means that it is up to Google’s algorithms to once again serve up the most appropriate response to any queries. Its autocomplete suggestions and featured search results has run afoul of both the complexities of having a machine evaluate the quality of information it encounters and, in some cases, concerted efforts by third parties to manipulate results and suggestions.
While fake news is unlikely to disappear completely or quickly, efforts like these from big tech companies are crucial to combating its further spread.