Fake News Algorithm Updates
In 2010, Google was being bullied by the media due to the increasing amount of “content farm” clutter in the results of searches. The negative press was so bad that Google had no choice but to respond that they heard the feedback loud and clear. Soon after that in February 2011, the Google Panda update was released, which specifically targeted low-quality and spammy content.
Once again, the media has been on Google’s case about promoting fake news for the past year and a half. This has been such a huge issue that search industry Danny Sullivan has called it Google’s biggest-ever search quality crisis.
Needless to say, Google’s image has been hurt so badly that it cut deeper than just content farms. Rooting out false information is a tough task, but its one that Google has a lot of motivation to solve.
Google has already taken the action needed to combat the issue in response to the negative press including banning publishers who were the cause of the fake news, testing new ways that would report offensive autocomplete suggestions, adjusting their algorithm to devalue no -authoritative suggestions, and adding tags for fact-checking to search results.
Unfortunately, the issue of trustworthy search results has been on Google’s radar for quite some time. In 2015, researchers released a paper on Knowledge-Based Trust. This is a way of evaluating the quality of web pages based on how accurate their facts rather than the number of inbound links. If put into place, the KBT would demote sites that constantly publish fake news.
Whether the KBT method is enough to take care of the fake news issue, or if another version of it has already been put into place with no success, is hard to say. However, it’s clear that Google wants to make truthfulness a ranking factor now that they have even more motivation to do so.
Growth In Voice Search and Featured Snippets
1 in every 5 mobile searches come from a voice search. This is a number that is most likely going to rise as Google Assistant-enabled devices continue to become popular. And as it grows, we can expect to see an increase in featured snippets.
There is already evidence enough to show that growth is happening. Stone Temple Consulting did a study that confirmed feature snippets are on the rise, appearing for around 30 percent of the 1.4 million queries they tested.
If this continues, features snippets may even start to sit at the top of the organic listing as the place you want to be to get noticed.
Artificial Intelligence Powering More Aspects of Search
It has been over two years since RankBrain was introduced, which is Google’s machine-learning AI system. This helps to process search results. Since it has been introduced, it’s gone from handling 15 percent of search queries to all of them,
Since Google’s interest in AI goes much further than RankBrain, they developed the Cloud Vision API, which can recognize a number of objects. Google now has so much machine-learning technology capacity that they are now selling it as its own product.
Something more interesting, however, is that Google now has a built-in AI that is better at building AI than we are. This was a project done by Google Brain, a team that specializes in building AI for Google.
Unfortunately, AI has its issues. It gets stuck in local minima, where they settle on a “good enough” solution and aren’t able to climb out of it in order to come up with a better one. They also like to confuse correlation with causation. Since the developers only program the machine-learning algorithm, they don’t even understand how the final algorithm works. As a result, they have a much harder time predicting how it will behave.
As Google continues to cherish AI and incorporate more of it into their search algorithms, we may expect search results to start behaving in less predictable manners. It may not always be a good thing, but it’s something to be prepared for.
Taking Down Manipulative Guest Posting
In May, webmasters were warned by Google that using article marketing as large-scale link-building is against its guidelines and they may get penalized. This is already well known in the Search Engine Optimization community, but the announcement will most likely signal an algorithm update that will target manipulative guest posting.
But what counts as manipulative? Google’s guidelines have always recommended to ask yourself if the article helps users and would it be done if search engines didn’t exist.
Not expanding brand awareness or sending referral traffic aren’t worth guest posting, except for the possibility that they will impact your search engine rankings in a positive way. It’s ironic, however, because it’s not likely that it is going to work well for your rankings either, at least not in the long run.
It has been confirmed by Bing that they track unlinked brand mentions and use them for ranking, and since they are a patent of Google, it indicates that Google may be doing that as well.
As AI begins to play a larger role in rankings, it is not unreasonable to expect linkless mention to start playing a bigger role in search rankings.
The tactic used for earning brand mentions aren’t much different than those used to earn links, but since the number of people who do mention brand names is a lot higher than those who link to them, this could provide a big boost for smaller brands that fall below the marker of earning press.
This brings to light the importance of being involved in conversations on the internet and the importance of beginning those conversations yourself.
A Crackdown Coming?
Google’s battle against intrusive mobile ads continues with the 2017 mobile interstitial penalty. The websites that were hit the hardest had aggressive advertising that would not allow users to take action, deceptive placement and/or other issues that limited use of the interface.
SEO expert Glenn Gabe said that the impact of this penalty seemed underwhelming. Big brands are still seeming to get away with interstitial ads, but Google may decide they want to crack down on these in the future. One important factor seems to be the number of big brands have grown in other ways. How all of this turns out depends on how Google will reward intrusive advertising vs. branding.
It has been almost three years since Google announced mobile searches had beat desktop searches on its search engine. Just last year, it was found that 57 percent of traffic among BrightEdge clients came from mobile devices.
Google’s response to this shift in behavior with mobile-first indexing. This means that Google will create and tank its listings based on the mobile version of the content, even for listings that are shown to desktop users. It is expected to launch this year.
2018 may be the year where signals that used to only impact searches from mobile devices become those that impact all searches. Sites that don’t work on a mobile device may no longer exist.
Since it first hit the internet in the late 1990’s, Google has come a long way. As AI continues to prevail, the political climate, efforts, and warnings against guest posts that are manipulative and advertisements that are distracting. This signals that change is coming.