Google enhancing tools to help searchers evaluate how trustworthy a result is

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Google is rolling out a “highly cited” label for select results to help users determine quality, original reporting along with features to help cut down on misinformation during evolving news situations and learn more about digital publishers.

Here’s how it will work, according to an example given during the announcement of the feature.

A local newspaper or TV station might publish a story on its website that gets picked up by national news outlets. In this example, the original version of the story would likely get pushed up to the top of the results and get the “highly cited” label.

Not only does this feature help readers identify stories that are reliable enough to be picked and reported widely, but it also appears aimed at giving the original publisher a leg up in getting a click to their site — and hopefully supporting its journalism through ad views and even signups or subscriptions.

Google appears to suggest that at least one metric that will be used is how many news websites link back to the original story, using the backlink concept that the search engine originally relied on almost exclusively.

These days, Google uses many more metrics to determine rankings and it’s not immediately clear if the algorithms will be able to still determine one story is derived from another if no link is included or if the original source is mentioned by not linked to.

In addition, it’s not clear how Google might prevent a highly cited article with false (or even satirical) information in it from surfacing with this label. However, it’s likely Google is aware of a good chunk of the biggest sites known for satire and publishing false information.

Meanwhile, Google is also enhancing a feature that will identify when the results for a search term appear to be “changing quickly,” something that’s most likely in the case of breaking news.

In these cases, Google says it will attempt to insert a warning to users that the topic might be “new” and that it came sometimes take time for reliable sources to publish stories. In the sample screenshot released by Google, the box suggests checking back later and vetting the source.

Google is also enhancing its existing “about this result” feature when it comes to digital publishers, giving users access to key additional information about sites, including a description of it and how long they have been in Google’s index as well as offering up additional related stories and information that could present different sides to the story.

The feature also lets users see results for pages and articles that have been written about the source to help evaluated its reputation and expertise.