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May 24, 2017

What Is Google’s Project Owl?

Google is beginning to understand that it has somewhat of a search quality problem and with the focus on ‘fake news’ over the past few months, Google has released ‘Project Owl’ which is set to address three different issues:

  • Fake news
  • Disturbing Answers
  • Offensive Search Suggestions

Google are planning to launch a number of actions in order to tackle these problems. Firstly, the search engine is set to launch a new feedback form for search suggestions, plus policies to help people to understand why a specific action may be removed. In addition, Project Owl is set to provide a new feedback form for ‘Featured Snippets’ answers and an emphasis on authoritative content in order to help improve search quality.

content-is-king-1132259_960_720Problematic Content

One of the main issues behind Google SERPs is the fact that people are increasingly helping to reaffirm a particular view or opinion. This is helping untrue ‘facts’ to rise to the top of Google, and with people searching in enough volume for rumours or even derogatory topics, SERPs are being influenced to rank search suggestions that Google offer in offensive ways. Because these types of searches are not wholly clear cut, Google has not typically taken action.

The search engine has effectively dealt with search spam, piracy and poor-quality content over the years – but problematic content isn’t any of these things. Instead, problematic content is fake news, involving heavily-biased content, rumours, conspiracies and myths, but can also contain shocking and offensive information. This is an entirely new problem for not only Google, but other media channels like Facebook.

Autocomplete Search Suggestions

Autocomplete is a tool in Google search, where the search engine helps to suggest what the user is looking for as they begin to type in the search box. This was designed to help speed up searches to make the experience far more user friendly. However, back in December, the Guardian published a number of articles which took a look at some disturbing search suggestions, such as ‘did the holocaust happen?’.

Back in February, Google did a test launch of a new way to help people to report any offensive or problematic search suggestions, and this has now become available worldwide. There is a ‘report inappropriate predictions’ link which will now appear below the search box, and clicking on it will bring up a form to help people select which prediction, or predictions, are inappropriate and why; i.e. are they hateful, sexually explicit, violent or include dangerous and harmful activity, or other. Additional comments are also allowed.

2017-05-24_1350Featured Snippets Answers

Featured snippets are a way to elevate a search result to the top of Google, and are displayed in a special way, generally when the featured snippet result is wholly accurate to the search result and Google feels the result will give the user the most appropriate answer. Featured snippets are also used on voice search results, with things like Google Assistant on Android phones.

Recent reports back in December showed a demonstration of when a Google featured snippet replied to “are women evil” with all women having “some degree of prostitute” and “a little evil”. Now, reporting featured snippet answers is possible with voice search on Google Home, by saying “OK Google, send feedback”.

Authoritative Content

In order to help tackle the problems with featured snippets and autocomplete search options, Google is helping to improve its search quality by showing more authoritative content when it comes to infrequent or obscure search queries. Google made a number of changes to the way that its search algorithm at the beginning of the year and while they have not commented on how Google are adapting their search algorithm, it is expected that there will be a number of other changes in the pipeline.

If you’re searching for some more information regarding Google’s algorithm changes, or you’re looking to implement a SEO strategy for your website, get in touch with a member of our expert team today.



Louise Austin

As a key influencer at Absolute, Louise loves nothing more than keeping up to date with the latest industry news and keeping the office in order. Heavily invested in the company, Louise has a passion for all things digital and with natural leadership qualities, she continues to be a driving force behind the company’s successes. Ambitious and creative, when Louise isn’t pushing the business forward, she’s spending quality time with her husband.

Email l.austin@absolutedigitalmedia.com

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