Fake News. You’ve probably heard those words over and over in the recent months. The chances are you’re probably not sure of what it is, and the affect fake news can have on consumers and the business sharing it. Creating and spreading fake news has the potential to impact your business, damaging both your reputation and integrity. However, there is still uncertainty on how it will harm your SEO rankings and efforts.
What is Fake News?
In Layman Terms, fake news is an inaccurate or fake news story put out via traditional print, broadcast news or online via social media, with the deliberate intention of spreading misinformation and/or a hoax. This term has gained a lot of traction, especially since the US Presidential Election in 2016 when social media was inundated with fake news that being churned out daily. Due to its virality, these false news stories became part of our daily news searches, consequentially ranking on Google’s SERPs and gaining popularity in Facebook’s news section. Because of this, both Facebook and Google promised to come up with new ways to tackle this issue.
The Biggest Fake News Stories of 2017 (so far)
2016 seemed to be a big year for the publication and sharing of fake news stories, and 2017 did not disappoint when it came to false news pieces also being shared. Here are some of the biggest fake news stories of 2017 (at least so far, anyway).
- The fake story following the Grenfell Tower tragedy: A baby was found alive 12 days after the Grenfell Tower fire.
- The falsified missing people reports following the Manchester Terrorist attack at Ariana Grande’s concert. Twitter and Facebook users share malicious missing photos of people who weren’t in Manchester at the time.
- False images and stories identifying the wrong person as the shooter appeared on Google, Facebook and Twitter following the Las Vegas Shooting earlier this month. Alongside this, images of the Manchester attack at Ariana Grande’s gig were shared and said to be from the shooting.
- Donald Trump tweeted about a missile launch in Iran that never happened in September. He still hasn’t removed the tweet…
What is Being done to combat Fake News?
After publicly condoning fake news in 2016, Google has committed to ensuring its search results are accurate and truthful. It was initially thought that Google managed to avoid the majority of the blame for making false news stories so prominent, due to their Penguin and Panda algorithms. This is because both of these updates favour sites with high-quality content and links from established and sites, making the circulation of fake news less likely. However, it is still possible for fake news to trickle through Google’s complex algorithms, which is why Google has pledged to improve their algorithms and the results displaying on the SERPs, in a bid to defeat falsified news stories and hoaxes.
In November 2016, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg pledged to do all he could to stop the spreading of fake news through the use of stronger detection, third-party verification and easier reporting. This year, Facebook announced that they were creating tools so that users could report offensive and misleading content and news articles to Facebook.
Can Fake News Impact your Site’s Rankings and SEO?
It’s no wonder that many people are questioning what could happen to a website’s traffic and visibility if it is found to contain fake news. For those who may not participate in the spreading of fake news, it is important to remember that there is a chance they might get caught up in sharing falsified stories by simply linking to it. Google’s Quality Guidelines on links clearly state that “behaviour that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site” in order to “manipulate search results” will be penalised, which would indicate that by linking to or being linked from a fake news story, can then turn into being penalised by Google. Alongside this, if your site is found to contain a fake news story, either with or without intent, then the site can face being penalised. Whilst there isn’t a definitive yes or no answer, it is better to be safe than sorry.
How do I Avoid Promoting Fake News?
To be on the safe side and ensure you are following Google’s rules and regulations when it comes to fake news, there are several things you can do to protect yourself:
- Consistently monitor your website for articles and stories that could be deemed as fake or misinformed. Fact check everything you publish and make sure everything you publish is of high quality.
- Include the source for any claims you have made within the content of your site.
- Review your website’s disavow file every three months and eliminate any potentially harmful links that may contain fake news.