Seven Days in Search – SEO Digest – 13th – 20th February 2017

Seven Days in Search - 2017SEO News

SEO is a fast-moving discipline at times, but even when there aren’t rumblings from Google and SERP-watchers about algorithm changes and penalties, there are always snippets of insight that highlight how the world of search is evolving on a weekly basis – hence this regular feature.

Last week’s Seven Days in Search roundup is here.

Here’s the Blueclaw view of the three top stories of the previous Seven Days in Search:

Google acts on ‘fake news’ in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico

Following on from the initial rollout in the USA, UK, France and Germany, Google is moving ahead with the establishment of Fact Check in Google News stories in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

As platforms like Google and Facebook have grown, it’s impossible to ignore their influence in shaping the views of their users. Increasingly concerned about criticism that they are repositories of ‘fake news’, both organisations have taken steps to highlight ‘legitimate’ content. Indeed – this relates strongly to the network neutrality issue our own Dom Celica discussed in this blog yesterday.

Much like other labels in Google News (such as In-Depth, Opinion, Wikipedia, Local Source etc), the “Fact check,” tag is designed to inform search engine users about the reliability of the stories they might see in expanded story box on news.google.com and in the Google News & Weather iOS and Android apps. Users are invited to click to evaluate the factuality of articles in order to “shine a light on its efforts to divine fact from fiction, wisdom from spin”.

With this functionality now available in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, many millions more people will have access to information to help them evaluate their information sources.

Search volume for the term ‘Fake News’:

Fake News Google Trends Blueclaw Blog

Google’s Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler is aware that giants like Google have a fine line to tread when it comes to policing content and provide cues about what is ‘real’ or ‘fake’ news, stating that;

“Fake news means a lot of different things to different people, and it’s often very hard to draw the line, obviously, between fake news and bad journalism.”

This may yet be the defining debate of the next few years, as we all wrestle with the concept of all-powerful social and search giants who may or may not feel that with great power, comes great responsibility in the era of fake news.

A phantom Google algorithm update?

There’s definitely been a bit of turbulence when it comes to search visibility this week – affecting big and small sites alike. Is this a Phantom update?

GooglePhantomUpdateBlueclawBlog

The definition of a Phantom update is pretty straightforward – rather than a big bang change, variances are seen over a longer period of time across all industries – not just one type of victim. Often it feels like there are successive tweaks being made that result in a ups and downs as Google tries to puzzle something out, or solve a particular problem to do with relevancy – nothing as straightforward as punishing sites for spammy links or obviously awful content.

Searchmetrics identified four previous Phantom updates, euphemistically called ‘Quality Updates’, when Google admits to them at all;

  • Phantom I – (May 2013)
  • Phantom II – (May/June 2015)
  • Phantom III – (November 2015)
  • Phantom IV – (June/July 2016)

The apparent 6-7-monthly schedule and lack of unambiguous ‘winners and losers’ (as Searchmetrics puts it) perhaps indicates that this is part of a longer term initiative related to the fundamentals of how site value is perceived. The problem is, as Google takes the time to experiment and figure things out, some site are experiencing hellish drops in rankings.

For Rolling Stone or the New Yorker, a dip in rankings for a particular term may not be the end of the world, but for smaller sites this period of Google experimentation  can feel catastrophic.

Have you been affected? Let me know – martin.calvert@blueclaw.co.uk and we’ll advise you on what your next steps could/should be.

That’s all for this week but keep an eye on the Blueclaw blog for more SEO (and PPC, content marketing, PR and social..) insight!

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