New Google Ranking Algorithm Checks Facts, Not Links

Google is experimenting with new trust signals that will rank websites based on truth, not links. Could this ranking factor replace links? The implications for online marketing and SEO could be huge.
Nate Dame
Nate Dame
CEO and Founder
March 4, 2015

Over the weekend, NewScientist reported that Google has already developed a process to determine the trustworthiness of websites based not on the quality or number of backlinks, but by the validity of the facts on the page. (This algorithm news has hit mainstream and tech news sites, but it doesn’t seem to have reached the SEO blog circles just yet.)

Will #Google rank websites based on facts, not links? #SEO – Tweet This

Could this be a sign of a new ranking factor?

How the Fact-Checking Algorithm Works

Traditionally, search engines use links to determine the quality of a website, but by that standard it’s easy for a site (or page) full of misinformation to rise through the rankings if enough people link to it. Google’s new system would tap into their Knowledge Vault to determine the accuracy of the information on a page.

The research team explained that pages with few false facts would earn a high, “Knowledge-Based Trust (KBT) score,” and, thus, higher rankings in Google’s results:

The facts are automatically extracted from each source by information extraction methods commonly used to construct knowledge bases. We propose a way to distinguish errors made in the extraction process from factual errors in the web source per se, by using joint inference in a novel multi-layer probabilistic model. … We then apply it to a database of 2.8B facts extracted from the web, and thereby estimate the trustworthiness of 119M webpages (arXiv:1502.03519v1).

Facts that the internet generally agrees on are considered reasonably true, and earn a higher KBT score and Google ranking. Contradictory information would lower a site’s Knowledge Based Trust score and it’s rank.

Will Facts Impact Rankings Soon?

Google is constantly testing new factors, and the fact that they’re talking about this would seem to indicate that they’re at least beyond the beginning stages of its development.

If it were to take place, rolling out this update would probably happen in a similar fashion as the recent mobile-friendly announcement: months (years?) of incognito testing, followed by increasingly less subtle hints of coming changes, and then a public announcement of the full update.

This new study isn’t the first of its kind. Google has experiment with fact-checking before. But chances are that we have some time before this starts affecting live rankings, if at all.

Marketers and the Knowledge-Based Trust Score

You’re already fact-checking every piece you create, of course, so what’s the big deal?

If all you take from this news is that you need to publish accurate facts, try diving deeper. This is about more that accurate vs. inaccurate. How many facts does your content actually contain? If facts are poised to take over links as the trust signal of a website, then building concrete facts into your content would become an SEO consideration at least on par with link-building.

It may be one more way that Google is striving to bring their users high-quality content—complete content pieces that demonstrate authority on their topic, rather than fragmented landing pages and blog posts that harp on one or two keywords. Don’t just check your facts: count them.

Google heads are constantly telling marketers to “create great content,” but beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. There are specific, verifiable characteristics that make content “great” to Google, and a high Knowledge-Based Trust score might just be the next one.

One More Google Upset

Er … I mean, “update.” Conspiracy theorists are already whispering about Big Brother Google setting themselves up as the gatekeepers of truth, but I haven’t pulled out my doomsday survival kit just yet.

What I see is one more iteration of Google trying to bring the best content forward for their users, while proactively responding to shady, black-hat SEO tactics. From continuously updating algorithms to outright begging (well, almost), Google is constantly trying to dissuade marketers from spamming the system with bad link-building practices.

Diluting the power of links is one more piece of the puzzle, but it’s one that introduces a whole new element to your SEO/content marketing checklist.

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Nate Dame

Nate Dame

CEO and Founder
Nate began his digital marketing career more than 10 years ago, and a side-project in SEO ultimately led him to found Propecta. Now a regular speaker and columnist, Nate oversees client strategy and thought leadership for Propecta. He is also a husband and father of three in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
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