What’s even real anymore? We have a US President calling some of the world’s most reputable publications “fake news”, Forbes has a list of contributors longer than the Nile and falsified reporting consistently makes its way into our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

The problem of fake news is so bad that even Google, the master of search algorithms, has had to up its game. In an October 26 blog post, Partnerships Manager Erika Anderson noted that the organisation was working with the International Fact-Checking Network (ICFN) to improve the quality of results that turn up in its search.


A protester says what many people are thinking about the state of false reporting on their social media.


In the same vein, Facebook also tweaked its algorithm recently to show comments calling a news story fake at the top of threads. It rather spectacularly backfired, with the BBC reporting that any comments containing the word fake were immediately put to the top – hardly the best indicator of truth.

The point here is this; it’s getting difficult to truly discern authoritative, truthful content from fake news. And as the big names take more steps to address it, businesses may need to rethink their SEO strategy.

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What are the changes to fake news algorithms?

Facebook is a great case study in how massive social networks and platforms are taking the fight to fake news. In October 2017, it released its Publisher Guidelines, which highlight how the social media giant identifies and removes false reporting. This included:

  • Removing or changing economic incentives, making it harder for fake news organisations to purchase ad space on Facebook.
  • Applying machine learning (AI) to help enforce rules against spam and fake accounts.
  • Limiting pages’ ability to boost posts if it publishes fake news.
  • Creating specific flagging methods related to false reporting.

Meanwhile, Google’s work with the ICFN will see financial incentives (stipends) provided to authoritative fact checkers who help filter poor quality news from Google’s search and news results, while also promoting its widely respected Code of Principles in up to 10 other languages.


How can you ensure your content doesn’t get lumped in with falsified news?

What do you do about stricter guidelines?

At the crux of these changes is the phenomenon of sharing stories that have no authoritative backing. Columbia University research has indicated that 59 per cent of people will even share an article based only on a headline.

As you continue producing content in the age of stricter guidelines, it’s going to be harder to ensure your content stays on the right side of the algorithms. The constant race for unique takes, perspectives and sources means we’re always eager to share and publish content that will get clicks, but some simple checks can make sure you don’t do this at the cost of your reach or ranking.


Keep it authoritative to keep it ranking.


  1. Keep it authoritative. It’s always tempting to report something that Mashable, The AV Club or your local news site have posted – but go a bit further. In the large majority of cases, those publications are themselves republishing from the original source. Follow the trail of links to find your original source and report from there.
  2. Verify. Government sources are typically trustworthy, as are big news centres – but check the verification policy (if it exists) of your sources, or try and verify them yourself. Keeping ahead of fake news means ensuring what you report is the truth. It’s more work, but always worth it. Sites like Snopes and Politifact are popular fact-checking sites, regularly updated to keep up with daily news.
  3. Check for bias. Just because someone sounds authoritative and safe, doesn’t mean they are. Understand who the original source of your information is. Are they an industry body with a clear bias to one side of an issue, and likely to publish reports with that confirmation bias in mind? If so, you may be better off finding a more non-partisan source.

Well-researched, thoroughly-sourced and factual content is an absolute must for providing high-quality content – with these changes to Facebook and tweaks to Google, it’s not also a must to even reach an audience.

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