Google Plans To Fight Slanderous Content With Upcoming Algorithm Updates
The entire community of SEO experts and users will be pleased to hear that Google plans to make changes to its algorithm to penalise websites that publish slanderous or unverified claims about individuals. These changes could potentially dramatically impact on some Google SEO rankings and serve as a warning to other Google SEO agencies to avoid partaking in publishing such reputation-damaging content.
Google is said to be making the move in direct response to recent articles in the New York Times which have documented how owners of sites establish their businesses by taking advantage of victims of slander.
The recent articles from the New York Times discussed the ugly truth about the industry, where websites exploit unverified comments about alleged deadbeats, cheaters, and scammers. People attract attention by slandering their enemies, publishing anonymous posts that top the search engine results for the names of particular victims. Then, these websites ask for a hefty sum of money from their victims in exchange for taking their posts down.
Google’s Perspective On Intervening In Search Results
There has been a long history of Google resisting attempts to intervene in how their algorithm systems or search results work. The search engine company has prided itself on remaining neutral and unbiased; so could not approve of methods to “touch” search results in any way possible.
Google held PageRank in high regard, using it to evaluate a website’s value in terms of the quantity and the quality of other sites linked to it. From their perspective, they only omitted content if it was proven to be manipulating their results.
At first, the search engine company only intervened in their search results when it involved pirated music and movies, and web spam, because they contravened copyright laws. They also intervened when there was content involved in releasing compromising financial information, such Social Security numbers. Other than these scenarios, Google has never attempted to interfere in the process of generating their search engine results – until now.
One of the most famous instances occurred in 2014 with the “right to be forgotten”, when residents of the European Union requested that Google remove irrelevant and inaccurate data about them from their search results. The search engine company resisted, saying that their role was simply to make existing information accessible to its users, but in the end, they lost the case in court. They were then forced to remove millions of links to people’s names from the search results.
The public pressured the company again when Donald Trump was elected president. One of the top Google search results for “final election vote count 2016” linked to a post that wrongly stated that Trump won both the Electoral College and the popular vote.
This event led to Google taking steps to improve their algorithm updates to present more authoritative content and prevent misleading, offensive, and false information from surfacing in the search results. From this point on, Google’s strong rejection of intervening in their search algorithms began to soften.
Now, Google is planning to release an algorithm update in the coming months that will prevent such predatory sites from appearing in the search results when a user types in a person’s name. Moreover, Google has developed a concept called “known victims” that prevents victims of slander from being targeted on more than one occasion.
For instance, if a website slanders a person and then charges them a large sum of money to unpublish the article, the victim can report it to Google. The search engine company will then suppress similar articles which mention that victim’s name when other people look them up on Google.
“Known victims” also include people whose inappropriate and obscene photos are uploaded online without their consent. All “known victims” can ask the search engine to suppress any explicit results that appear when their names are typed in.
Google Says It Was Unaware Repeated Problems
The New York Times articles mentioned that Google was previously unaware of the appearance of these slanderous sites in its search results. The issue only caught the company’s attention this year.
There are existing policies that allowed people to request removing “slander-peddling” blog posts and websites from Google’s search results. Once the search engine company removes such content from its index, they penalise the publishers with a demotion signal. But Google had no knowledge of the repeated harassment that “known victims” have been undergoing, even after the content had been removed at their request.
Google Search’s Vice President Pandu Nayak confirmed this forthcoming change in a blog post, stating that the New York Times articles had brought to light their search engine’s limitations. He then explained that they want to protect “known victims” and further deal with the issue of repeated harassment in their upcoming algorithm changes.
Although Google is taking huge preventative measures by creating this “known victims” policy and improving their future algorithm systems, the company admits that it will not be a perfect solution.
David Graff, head of the Trust and Safety policy team at Google, told the New York Times that they could not police the Internet, but he believes this change will have a significant and positive effect on their users.
Nayak also believes the same thing, stating in his blog post that there are always new problems arising as the Internet and the wider world both change and evolve. Google is now testing its algorithm changes and comparing the old and new search results side by side.
The New York Times has stated that it has also been carrying out its own tests and has a previously compiled a list of 47,000 people who have been victims of slanderous sites in recent past. Having searched for the names of several “known victims” on their list, they say they’ve begun to notice the changes that Google has made.
The slanderous articles disappeared from Google Page 1 in some cases, and in others, the damaging content all but disappeared from the Internet entirely, except when newly launched slander websites were released.
The improvements that Google made seem to be working as expected. Of course, websites that do not use such slanderous content have nothing to worry about as a result of Google’s upcoming algorithm updates.
However, these changes will affect the reputation management industry because of the stronger policies that Google has implemented to prevent slanderous content from appearing on the search results for particular people’s names.
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