Sensationalist Clickbait Could Seriously Damage Your SEO
New filters unveiled by Google will block sensationalist, misleading or sensitive content, and the impact on SERP rankings could be significant.
However savvy we might think ourselves, we have all fallen for the odd piece of clickbait from time to time, whether it is some sensationalist piece of celebrity gossip or irrefutable evidence of life on Mars.
Now, Google has launched a new set of filters that use machine learning to protect publishers from their own content, by filtering out misleading, risqué or otherwise controversial ad content. Some SEO consultants are already seeing evidence that webpages using this type of aggressive advertising strategy are dropping out of first page search results.
One of the difficulties is defining what will or will not be caught in the new filters. After all, one person’s sensationalism is another person’s daily news. Google has sought to define sensationalism as part of the launch, and states that a sensationalist ad is one that seeks to induce readers to click by appealing to their curiosity, using a teaser message with hyperbolic language or images. It also covers ads that focus on sensationalist subjects or aim to shock.
In other words, the filters are looking for classic clickbait. But does the above definition really get us any further in assessing what they will be looking for?
You will note the use of the word filters, and not filter. There are a number of these, all aimed at different “types” of sensationalism, and each of which can be switched on or off according to the publisher’s preferences and the type of site.
Google’s Scott Spencer explained that one of the filters will be on the lookout for risqué content by measuring how much skin is showing in a particular image. Another will allow publishers to block clickbait, sensationalist ad content or, to use Spencer’s words, “crazy fictitious things.”
Giving it some Time
The new filters are currently being beta tested by a number of publishers, the largest of which is Time Inc. Scott Mulqueen is their Vice President of Operations and Programmatic Strategy, and he welcomes the initiative, describing it as “an absolute necessity.”
He commented that when the company’s web pages are cluttered with ads that they do not necessarily want, it makes it next to impossible for the organisation’s sales force to present the publisher in the best possible light.
To many, this latest innovation on the part of Google is a further sign of the increasingly bespoke nature of web content. As Scott Spencer put it, “There is nothing wrong with talking about celebrities and aliens if publishers want it.”
The thinking behind Google’s new filters is that they will give publishers the opportunity to more closely dictate the kind of content and ads with which they are prepared to be associated.
Of course, the message for advertisers is equally thought provoking. Going forward, they will be forced to think harder than ever about the images and headlines in their copy, ensuring that it is sufficiently compelling to grab the attention of readers but sufficiently innocuous to fly through the filters undetected.