What PR and SEO Professionals Can Learn From Google’s Project Owl

Estimated Reading Time 5 minutes

Following my recent post on Google’s attempts to help publishers and media owners deal with the rise in offensive comments on posts, the company is back with another tool to help combat a topic that became prevalent last year, fake news.

As Google starts implementing this new structure, it is also important for PR professionals, SEO agencies and social & content providers to take note on what Google deems quality content and more importantly for brands, how they can fall into the guidelines and be found by their prospective audience.

In this post truth world, Google’s ‘project owl’ is a three pronged attack on fake news and the scourge of problematic content. So what are the three areas and and how does it work?

Search Rankings and New Search Quality Guidelines

Google’s algorithm helps identify reliable sources from hundreds of billions of pages in its index. With the recent proliferation of people continually submitting articles that reinforce a political agenda or world view, this type of content spam is an issue. Though less of an issue compared to organic social channels, Google will still index this content.

Ironically, Google will go beyond machines and have real people evaluating content within its search results. A list of the new guidelines can be found here New Search Quality Rater Guidelines

Though not exhaustive, it is certainly something to become familiar with and use as a broad guide. Current content providers will more than likely be fulfilling 90% if not all of the guidelines but it’s a warning shot from Google to those that do not fall into this bracket to get their house in order.

Autocomplete Searches

Google’s Autocomplete Search works with providing suggested searches and topics as the user starts typing. Though not generally publicised, Autocomplete works based on the index of post popular or likely searches.

Google’s new guidelines will now look and review these searches with help from users and give Google feedback on offensive or inappropriate Autocomplete searches populating the auto results.

Google Project Owl

Authoritative Search and Rich Snippets

Over the years, Google has been introducing a box at the top of search results with answers to topical questions and then a link to an article that Google deems ‘authoritative’ on the search query. An example may be “How do I download my photos from iPhone to my PC”.

Unfortunately, this has been exploited commercially in certain areas (a free ad) and more importantly, the quality of the result is low.

Again, users will be able to feedback to Google where they feel the quality is wrong, offensive or not authoritative. This is even being implemented into Google new Home device.

Transparency Where the Only Constant is Change

As the word evolves and attitudes as well as expectations shift, Google is looking to address the changing needs of users whilst keeping and improving its core search model.

What is clear and needs emphasising is the power of Google and the sentiment towards it as first point information source. Brands and their partners need to understand the new dynamic and like Google, address the issues and opportunity – head on.

Reggie James
Having built and sold various technology businesses over the years, Reggie heads the consultancy and commercial side of the business. Approachable and pragmatic, Reggie previously ran the first dot-com to list on the Singapore Stock Exchange as well as developing business strategies for brands whilst at AltaVista and Yahoo! before launching Digital Clarity. As a passive investor, he is also involved in the US public OTC markets.