For years, incoming links were viewed as the Holy Grail of Search Engine Optimization. Receiving links from so-called "authority websites" was the optimum goal for enhancing website visibility in search engines. It was hoped that our association with trusted websites, by a simple text link, would make us one of the highly ranked 'in-crowd.'

The Oath of Horatii - Jacques-Louis David

The Oath of Horatii - painting by Jacques-Louis David

Truthfulness, the New Search Engine Ranking Factor

Those days appear to be coming to an end, at least partially. Google, in an ever pressing drive to produce quality search results, is seeking to measure websites by their truthfulness, not just links. Fact-checking will soon become a critical part of Google's search ranking algorithm.

The truth is, the Internet is a breeding ground for bad advice. Misleading information and fact-free 'news' choke and degrade the pipeline of content that courses through the Web on a daily basis. Misinformation is as likely to rank highly in search results as facts, especially if it is sensational or titillating. If enough people link to it, it will rise in ranking, truthful or not.

A Google research team is seeking a way to measure the trustworthiness of a web page, rather than its reputation alone. If an online source has few false facts in its web content, it will be considered trustworthy.

The key to making this possible is Google's growing Knowledge Vault, a single database of facts about the world, and the people and objects in it. When you type a question into Google, such as "Where was Abraham Lincoln born", the answer is pulled from the Knowledge Vault. According to "Knowledge Vault has pulled in 1.6 billion facts to date. Of these, 271 million are rated as "confident facts", to which Google's model ascribes a more than 90 percent chance of being true. It does this by cross-referencing new facts with what it already knows."

This is an immense and impressive task taken on by Google and one that will certainly enhance the quality of its search results. It will have a profound (and welcome) impact on Search Engine Optimization. For those of us who rely on online content to build an audience for our website, it highlights the need to ensure that what we write is accurate and factual. Clearly, in the near future, this will become one of the critical measures by which our content will be ranked. It will be a digital world of Truth or Consequences!

What Can We Do to Enhance Website Truthfulness?

One of the best ways to add trust to your website in the eyes of Google is to link out to trusted sources. If we link to sources that Google trusts as the references for the information we cite or quote, those links may enhance your truthfulness and ranking. Be sure to choose sources and brands that Google considers trustworthy. Generally trusted sources are the highest ranked pages in any search query. -Don Peterson


Google, Truth or Consequences