SEO - Search Engine Optimization

What does Google’s “Project Owl” mean for search and fake news?

Last Updated: May 24, 2017 1

Have you heard of Google’s “Project Owl” yet? If not, then you’re in for some fun, because this is a hoot. Let’s start at the beginning. Fall of 2016: Trump gets nominated to the presidency. Still in fall of 2016: All around the world, people are asking “WHO? WHAT? HOW?” That’s when researchers found that American voters were influenced by misinformation on the internet. The world is completely distressed. They demand that 1) someone be responsible and 2) for them to take action and fix the ‘fake news’ problem. Oh – hi Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg. Who else other than Google and Facebook, right? The public wants solutions from search engines and social media giants to tackle ‘fake news’ and any other misinformation on the internet. May 2017: TA-DA! Welcome Project Owl. Project Owl is introduced as Google’s answer to addressing fake news. It plans to do this with new feedback forms for search suggestions and the answer box, and authoritative content prioritization in the answer box. And no, we don’t see this affecting marketers or SEOs. As long as you continue to practice white hat methods, your day-to-day should be the same. However, given this can affect searchers’ user experience, we see a few challenges. Challenge #1: Search engines are supposed to be neutral Google is walking on a tight rope. If search engines manage to accomplish tackling fake news, then first, that feels like a violation of the first amendment but second, they will come off as bias to specific news/media sources. Remember, feedback from some users will change the search experience for all on that query. It will be difficult to differentiate what’s ‘right’ for one searcher versus what’s ‘right’ for the other. But, you know what? When personalized search engines are the new thing, this may not even be a challenge. Challenge #2: The proposed plan Let’s take a step back and look at Google’s track record when they are “working to fix” something. Just like many updates in the past, Google says one thing and marketers notice something completely different. Right now, “Project Owl”, according to Google, will rely on the searcher to provide feedback on the autocomplete or on the featured snippet. But, we’re missing the obvious. Let me ask you: When was the last time you went in and changed any of your Google search settings? Or rather, did you even know that it was possible to change Google search settings? Don’t feel bad – I know SEOs who didn’t even know they could do that! Google said and I quote, “We plan to use this feedback to help improve our algorithms.” That is what they told us years ago about link disavow and they still don’t have that right. My take is that it will be several years before Google is able to filter out “fake…

Source: What does Google’s “Project Owl” mean for search and fake news?

About the author / 

Michael Bertini

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