Google has released a slew of new search engine tools to allow users to flag fake and offensive content and tweaked its own SEO practices to ensure that “more authoritative pages” are surfaced and lower-quality articles are demoted in SERPs.
The company is coming under increasing pressure to curb the prominence of questionable content following a series of fake news and other search engine-related faux pas in recent months, and the latest changes are designed to refine results and identify rogue publishers, which should help clean up content in the long term.
Google defines fakes news as being either “blatantly misleading” or “downright false information,” and it admitted in a blog post that this issue has been difficult to tackle effectively due to the tens of thousands of new pages that pop up online each and every minute. It said that “structural” changes are required to eliminate the problem entirely.
To make searches more relevant for users, Google has now rolled out new feedback mechanisms for both Featured Snippets and Autocomplete predictions, which will allow people to flag content directly if they deem it to be either unhelpful or sensitive. Google said that it will then use this feedback to tweak its algorithms.
Google has already adjusted some of its “signals,” such as search volumes and content age, in order to surface high-quality content. The tech giant said that it also uses “evaluators” to assess the quality of SERPs, provide feedback on experiments and identify areas that need to be improved.
“Today, we’re taking the next step toward continuing to surface more high-quality content from the Web,” Google’s Vice President of Engineering, Ben Gomes, said. “This includes improvements in Search ranking, easier ways for people to provide direct feedback and greater transparency around how Search works.”
Google revealed that around 0.25 per cent of all daily traffic is currently returned as either “clearly misleading” or “offensive” and that new Search Quality Rater guidelines and ranking changes should help prevent the spread of such content moving forward. It also noted that 15 per cent of searches each day are new and haven’t been seen before, which highlights the work that it still has to do to ensure that users are presented with the best answers from legitimate sources.