Tagged: SEO

Political Bias: How Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines Impact SERP’s

Google recently settled with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Over Political Bias Claims. In a recent segment on RT America, we discussed the Google antitrust probe and the political bias complaints from former Google employees.

 

 

In this article, I discuss the following:

  • Is there political bias in how Google displays search results?
  • Does political bias impact ranking recommendations in search queries on Google?
  • Are search resulted altered or manipulated during political elections?
  • Does Google provide access to information regardless of a political viewpoint?
  • Does Google rerank or change search engine results?
  • Does Google Censor search engine results?
  • Is Google’s search engine biased?
  • Does big tech discriminate against right-leaning media outlets and employees?
  • Does Google promote or demote content that is considered controversial or labeled as a conspiracy theory?

Does Google Censor Free Speech?

One of the most pressing issues in the 2020 election is our ability to access fair and balanced news on search engines. Americans want to make sure they are seeing content from all political parties in order to make an informed voting decision.

Recently, there has been concern over the suppression of content on search engines and the ability of big-tech to tamper with elections and SERP’s (search engine results pages). This is no secret and has been widely reported in the news. Some sites claim that they have been blacklisted for certain search terms, and their content has been deranked because it is labeled as low-quality content.

The Politics Behind Machine Learning 

The politics of artificial intelligence is a critical topic as we move towards better understanding algorithm rankings. In order to determine if algorithms are balanced, you need to look at who is responsible for creating the algorithms in the first place. Remember, the people who create the algorithms can create them to their own belief system.

This is why it is important that if a search engine owns 90 percent of the search market, that it employs people from all political point of views.

It is critical that machines are programmed properly for both Democrats and Republicans.

Several conservative bloggers have reported being manually banned for content in search results. Recently, President Trump tweeted that Google manipulated votes in the 2016 election.  Some bloggers have reported that heavily trafficked articles saw a huge drop in search engine rankings. So what is really behind this?

Search Engine Manipulation

Manipulating search engine results has also been a widespread issue covered in recent Congressional hearings.

So the million dollar question is: Is this really due to political bias of search engines?

Or does it have to do with larger quality issues called “E-A-T” as outlined by Googles Quality Rater’s Guidelines?

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness.

Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines

In Google’s recent quality rater guidelines update, they placed a greater emphasis on news sites, and algorithm changes in the news industry. There is also a stronger emphasis placed around author credibility, particularly in the (Your Money Or Your Life) YMLY Categories – Civics, Government and Law has been added to this area.

Additionally, alternative health sites have taken a hit in search ranking results.  Reputation is also being considered in the quality rater guidelines from outside news sources.

Any website that is considered to be a YMYL page is put on a higher standard by Google because they have the ability to affect a searcher’s health, happiness, wealth, and safety.

E-A-T Worthy Content

There are over 200 technical SEO factors that can impact search engine rankings on Google.

But what about E-A-T and the impact it can have on search rankings?

When Google is rating your web site, they are evaluating it for E-A-T worthy content. The main question they are looking to answer when rating your site is: is this content trustworthy?

And it doesn’t matter if you tell people you are trustworthy. What really matters here is that others around the web from third-party sources are saying you are trustworthy.

So now imagine that you have a popular right wing web site. The author states they are trustworthy. Then, you go to Google, and there are numerous complaints about the web site and others saying this person is not credible at all and is spreading conspiracy theories. It almost doesn’t matter what the person says at this point. Because third-party credibility to support your own claim of expertise matters more than your actual credibility in Google’s eyes.

So even if you are authoritative in your field, if Google determines the author of the content has a poor online reputation, that will impact the search rankings of the web site. If the author of the article has a poor digital reputation in the court of public opinion, that site is most likely going to tank and will never rank well.

Google also emphasizes that your site must have a clear purpose.

Google Page Purpose

 

But what if the purpose of your site is by nature controversial?

For example, what if you create a web site that states:

“The purpose of my site is to share the truth about vaccines.”

OR

“The purpose of this site is to share why abortion is wrong.”

See the inherent problem here? Google is viewing political pages or right wing pages as having invalid page purposes to begin with. They believe the purpose of those pages is to harm users!

Additionally, the second highlighted statement there is a contradiction within their guidelines document. “As long as the page is created to help users, we will not consider any particular page purpose or type to be higher quality than another.” Incorrect.

Later on in their guidelines document, they go on to say the following:

Low Quality Google Pages

 

So here is the problem. Any information that is not considered acceptable by the mainstream will not be called “accurate content”  if you are unable to provide citations to studies around the web supporting the claim.  The majority of alternative health information or right wing content will by nature contradict well-established expert consensus. All of this information may be labeled as “unsubstantiated conspiracy theories” by Google. Google will also say that this information is attempting to misinform rankings and spread conspiracy theories. If you are sharing information that cannot be cited by outside sources, it will be considered an opinion, and may be more likely to get pushed down vs. a pharmaceutical company that can cite studies.

And the worst part of all of this? If you try to publish journalism that is not in the mainstream, Google is actually accusing users of doing it to “make money or gain attention.” How sad.

 

 

 

LOW QUALITY GOOGLE PAGES BY E-A-T STANDARDS

 

E-A-T Trust and Political Content

Even though you have followed Google’s guidelines of having the purpose of your site be visible, you are not following the guidelines because in their eyes, you are spreading conspiracy theories. It doesn’t matter what you write, or how many blog posts you write because everyone says that “content is king!” Google will determine you are spreading fake news because these are not mainstream popular opinions, and you will see a steep decline in rankings that you most likely can’t ever recover from.

Google is not seeing this as political bias. They are very transparently saying: we will deprioritize site rankings that share views that are not popular.

E-A-T is all about trust. And if you are sharing any political opinions that are outside of the norm, Google will see that as a real danger and threat to consumers. You will tank in E-A-T rankings. I’m convinced this is real issue because the alleged political bias that is being reported about Google, but no one has put the pieces together.

Additionally, the reputation of the content creators matters in the eyes of Google. So if the bios of the authors are controversial in any way, that will also negatively impact search rankings.

So, let’s explore this.

Let’s say Google has no political bias at all. But, if everyone else says your site is spreading conspiracy theories or leaves bad reviews about you all over the Internet, that will impact your rankings. And from what we have seen, many conservatives with strong opinions that are outside of the mainstream may fall under this category. If you pair that with Googles brand new quality rater guidelines, you have the perfect storm. I am not quite sure anyone has really connected the dots yet on this one, but I believe this is at the heart of what is really going on here.

This screenshot is taken from Google’s clause on Pages that potentially spread hate. What is most interesting here is that they ask the Quality Rater’s to use their own judgment based on personal knowledge.

Google cannot claim to be neutral and have no political bias when in the same sentence in a document created for quality review standards they tell reviewers to exercise personal judgment! Yes, I understand this particular clause is referring to pages that spread hate and not political pages, but you get the point.

An AP article stated, “Political leanings don’t factor into Google’s search algorithm. But the authoritativeness of page links that the algorithm spits out and the perception of thousands of human raters do.” I completely agree with this statement.

The other challenge, particularly for doctors in alternative medicine, is that Google is determining what is fact from a conspiracy. So, for example, if you dish out advice on your site that Google considers inaccurate or dangerous, your site will suffer in search results. If your views are alternative and differ from the mainstream, that is considered “dangerous.”

 

I believe this same principle is being applied to machine learning and quality rater reviews pertaining to politics.

 

See what’s happening here? Google is essentially saying medical advice should NOT be given by people who do not have appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. But, what are they defining as “appropriate medical expertise” and accreditation? See how this could take out the entire field of alternative medicine sites in one clean swoop?

consensus

Can you see why this could be largely problematic? “Where such consensus exists.”

Well, there are many areas where consensus will NOT exist on topics ranging from healthcare to politics. So what happens to those sites where the opinions fall out of the mainstream, popular choice? Are they not considered quality pages? According to Google, yes, they are not, and they are deemed low quality websites.

Why Author Reputation Can Tank Search Engine Rankings

Positive reputation is mentioned several times throughout this document. Many right wing sites have been tarnished with negative reviews on accredited business review sites. So, Google will take that into consideration, and they are very clearly saying “positive reputation” matters for rankings.

 

So, if a political commentator or alternative healthcare practitioner has negative reputation mentions all over the Internet, Google will automatically derank that content from appearing in search results. They aren’t hiding that fact- it’s just that no one has really bothered to read through these quality guidelines and connected the dots together regarding the impact of these guidelines on political content search results.

I also notice several times throughout the quality rater guidelines one of the common criteria for low-quality page rankings is “the level of expertise of the author is not clearly communicated.

Yes, E-A-T SHOULD distinguish between the two scenarios, except when it doesn’t.

And that’s where the problem really begins…

Many right wing commentators and political pundits who have risen to fame on Twitter and social media may not have the political background Google considers as “ accredited” regarding expertise on politics.

Right off the bat, regardless of what they publish, Google will see an inconsistency with the topic of content they are writing about and their perceived background of expertise in the topic. Again, this will automatically tank search rankings, and Google is very clearly stating it.

consensus

Is Google politically biased?

So, does Google have a political bias when it comes to search engine results? I am going to leave that to you to determine, because I don’t want this site to be flagged for “spreading conspiracy theories.”

 

Does Google censor search results?

What I really think is going on is that Google’s determination of “dangerous” information is the real culprit here. Any information being disseminated on the Internet around nontraditional healthcare remedies or non-mainstream political views is considered ‘dangerous’ because it does not reflect the popular opinion of the majority of Americans.

Google will de-prioritize this content in an effort to “protect” consumers from fake news. The problem is that for some people, that news is not fake news, and it is real news. They want access to both. And they do not want Google determining what is real vs. fake and what is dangerous vs. what is helpful.

In a private conversation with an anonymous SEO specialist, he said, “If you’re writing articles around science, show your research and medical journal citations so Google can verify it as credible. And if you’re writing about politics, don’t have negative social proof. How else would Google verify it as fact or fiction other than social proof? What algorithm could they create? There’s no way to measure politics because it is all opinion based. You either have good social proof or you don’t.”

My reply?

“No. You don’t get it. Anyone in politics who is a conservative will automatically have negative social proof. That’s the whole point of this investigative journalism piece.”

That is my take on the issue. What is yours?

 

E-A-T RESOURCES

Google Quality Rating Guidelines

Google Quality Raters Guidelines Updated 

Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines E-A-T Webinar: Marie Haynes 

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How to Craft an Effective Editorial Content Calendar to optimize your social media presence

why is content marketing important

 

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is the practice of crafting high-quality, valuable content and delivering it to your target audience. It is the opposite of old-school, spammy, promotional-driven tactics aimed only at a short sell. Content Marketing is the new way of selling through educating prospects with information they actually want to read. Content marketing should answer a prospects pain points and questions. It should be highly targeted to an audience with optimized keywords that matches a searchers intent. A content marketing resource library should include answers to your prospects challenges to help them become informed decision makers. Plus, this can help you get found in featured snippets on Google.

Why is Content Marketing important?

As the digital media landscape has changed, the expectations for content output has exponentially increased. The reality is that if you are a small business owner, content output is critical to your PR and Social Media Strategy. Plus, if you are going to use sponsored content or advertorial content to reach your target audience, you have to know how to craft SEO-friendly copy.

What is a content calendar important?

Content marketing is quite possibly the best investment you could make in your business right now. However, in order to do it right, you need to get into a publishing flow and have the right resources lined up to make sure your content is optimized for search engines. As any writer can attest to, writers block can spring up out of nowhere, sometimes when you least expect it. The best way to stay on track is to plan ahead. Great content does not come from thin air—it comes from a team of marketers, SEO strategists and editors who take the time to meticulously plan and publish through the use of an editorial calendar.

Follow these five rules if you’re serious about publishing consistently and increasing your search rankings:

5 Tips for Creating the Perfect Content Calendar

Set goals. Setting an attainable content goal is the first step to publishing quality content. It is imperative to clearly understand what you want to achieve before you start to execute a content marketing strategy. If you have no strategic direction, your content will not be effective. Clarifying the end result prior to launching your first piece of content will help make your ideas fall into place. For example, are you publishing content in order to build up keyword-rich content and backlinks to your site? Are you publishing content to create a library full of helpful resources for prospects? Or are you trying to distinguish your personal brand in an over-saturated industry? Be sure to establish the goals for why you are engaging in content marketing prior to writing your first piece.

Know who you are writing for. Before creating an editorial calendar it is important to identify your target audience. What do they want to read about? What posts have they liked in the past? Use your past engagement metrics to create content around what your audience is looking for. Sometimes, the content that you, as a writer, find most interesting may not be what your audience wants to read about. It is important to distinguish between the two, and to make sure the content that you publish aligns with what your audience craves.

Know what you want to write about. A great way to bring clarity to your content marketing strategy is by tying each month together with a cohesive content theme. Using an editorial calendar will make creating these themes easier to conceptualize. Try focusing on a key central messaging topic to keep your followers interested. For example, if you want to establish a personal brand as a top surgeon, then all of your posts should tie back to medicine and wellness. Once you establish a theme, be sure to stick to it.

Know where your content will go. Think about the social media channel where your content will appear and tailor your writing to that audience. Each social media channel has a different set of users; therefore, tailoring your voice to those unique users will help grab their attention. For example, a different editorial strategy should be used when posting your article on LinkedIn as opposed to Twitter. In addition to the home base where your content will reside, carefully outline the other channels where it will be hosted. You may want to publish the article on LinkedIn, Medium or even repurpose it as a guest post. Be sure to change the title around a bit each time you do this to avoid SEO penalties for duplicate content. If you are concerned, you can even add in a nofollow link where the second version of the content appeared.

Know your frequency limits. How much can your content team handle? It is crucial to be realistic when creating an editorial calendar. If you do not have the time or manpower to execute a blog post a day plus social media posts, do not be afraid to scale back! It is better to publish high-quality content a few times a month than to post poor content that will damage your brand equity. When deciding on how frequently to publish, plan your content around how much work will go into each type of post. For example, an attainable publishing frequency may include social media posts three days a week, a blog post once every other week and an e-book once a month. Keep in mind that a typical blog post could take up to ten hours to complete between writing, editing numerous drafts, sourcing images for the post, optimizing the post with keywords and distributing the post on social media.

Content that ranks can lead to profitability for your business for years to come!

“Content marketing never goes out of style.” -Kris Ruby

Content Marketing Takeaways:

  • If you frequently publish content, you  must be proficient in SEO (search engine optimization) for your  content to rank.
  • Content marketing must be tied into your overall business marketing strategy.
  • For content marketing to be effective, you must understand what the businesses growth objectives are to create compelling content.
  • Understand your audience. Know who you are writing for, how to reach them, and the best keywords to make your content visible on search engines.
  • Craft content that answers questions. Look at Google snippets for inspiration to see what others are asking in your industry.

Content Marketing can be overwhelming! Here are a two insider tips to make it easier on you:

1) Take free courses. There are many content marketing classes online which will help writers in this area, particularly SEO classes, which is an integral part of content marketing. Also consider taking inbound marketing courses to hone your content skills. Content marketing is integral to an inbound marketing strategy.

2) Sharpen your marketing skills. To create content that will rank and convert, you need to understand things like buyer persona, an inbound sales funnel and social reach. If the writing is good but it isn’t written to a target audience, it will ultimately fail to achieve the higher level conversion goals in your sales funnel. You cannot write content without understanding your buyer personas journey, otherwise you will be writing articles that will ultimately be tailored to a non-specific audience. If you want to understand content marketing best practices, you can also check out The Content Marketing Institute.

CONTENT MARKETING RESOURCES

This article also appeared in Observer- written by Kris Ruby.

5 Golden Rules for Crafting Your Content Strategy | Observer

Why Content Marketing is Critical In The Age of Visual Marketing | Ruby Media Group

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