Gawker To Be Penalized By New ‘Fact-Based’ Search Algorithm, Says Google

Giuseppe Macri | Tech Editor

Under a new “fact-based” search rankings system currently under development by Google, one of the most popular websites for celebrity news would fall far down the ranks of “trustworthy” sources of information.

Gawker — the Manhattan-based, media-focused news website that pulls in an estimated 22 million unique views monthly — is one of a number of “gossip websites” that could suffer major absences in search queries as a result of Google’s “Knowledge-Based Trust” system, according to researchers at Google. (RELATED: Google Decides What Is Fact In New Search Results Ranking System)

Google’s current system determines search rankings based on an algorithm of variables centered around the number of incoming links to a webpage — essentially, popularity.

Under Knowledge-Based Trust, which researchers described in a recently published paper, Google assigns websites a truth score, which is determined by counting the number of incorrect facts on any given site. The higher the number of incorrect facts, the lower webpages rank in Google’s search results.

What Google deems “facts” are determined by Google’s “Knowledge Vault,” which the researchers described as “a database of 2.8 [billion] facts extracted from the web.” Facts included in the vault are based on “knowledge triplets,” or corollary pieces of information selected by Google and sought out for confirmation online.

In a test example presented in the paper, Google created a knowledge triplet out of the words “Barack Obama,” “nationality” and “USA”. Websites grouping the terms together were ranked higher, and those with contradictory groupings ranked lower.

By pulling 2.8 billion knowledge triplets from the web, Google was able to “reliably predict the trustworthiness of 119 million webpages and 5.6 million websites,” according to Google researchers.

If websites include information contradictory to the Knowledge Vault, their Knowledge-Based Trust score suffers — and in the case of Gawker and others, they suffer significantly.

Under the classic search results system, Gawker ranks in the top 15 percent of Google search results. Under Knowledge-Based Trust — which has yet to go live — Gawker falls to the bottom 50 percent of Knowledge-Based Trust scored websites, according to the report.

“In other words, they are considered less trustworthy than half of the websites,” Google researchers wrote.

Among the other “gossip” sites to rank in the top 15 percent of classic search rankings, but bottom 50 percent of Knowledge-Based Trust scores, are Yahoo! OMG!, TMZ, E! Online, People, and USMagazine.

The study does not state how much weight Knowledge-Based Trust rankings will have compared to classic search results.

But the effect is clear — pages with high “trust” values will push down the rankings of some of the web’s most popular sites.

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