Google today introduced new tools for website owners, including those running social media sites and discussion forums, who want to better elevate their content in Google’s search results. The feature follows Google’s reprioritization of user-generated web content over SEO-optimized junk, which has increasingly become a problem on today’s modern web. In May, Google first rolled out a new “Perspectives” search filter that would highlight posts from discussion boards like Reddit, Q&A sites like Quora, and social media platforms in its search results. The feature, which first arrived on mobile, was launched to desktop users earlier this month along with other search changes.
The company also said its ranking algorithm was being updated to push more of these first-hand perspectives higher in search results so they’re easier to find.
With the new tools, Google is giving websites hosting first-person perspectives the ability to signal to the search engine how their data is structured so their content will be featured both accurately and “as complete as possible” in Google’s Search Results, the company explains.
For example, with the new ProfilePage markup, any site where creators post content will be able to showcase their creators’ profiles directly in Google Search results, including information like their name, handle, profile photo, follower count, or the popularity of their content. Both Google’s Perspectives feature and its Discussions and Forums feature can make use of this type of markup.
Meanwhile, the DiscussionForumPosting markup will help Google to better recognize the conversations that are coming from any online forum or discussion site around the web. While Google can already identify a number of top forums, like Reddit, in its Search Results, this markup would allow other, smaller sites to be better indexed, categorized, and ranked by Google’s new algorithm, as well.
This includes Q&A sites, which have their own markup, as well as general discussion forums.
To support site owners in implementing these changes, Google is updating its Search Console with new reporting that will show things like errors, warnings, and valid items related to their marked-up pages. Both features will also be available in the Rich Results Test so site owners can test and validate any markup changes.
Google’s changes to how it categorizes and ranks content come at a time when there’s a growing number of complaints about the search engine’s usefulness.
Though Google arguably outperforms many of its search competitors, its results are now often littered with SEO-optimized, machine-written content, and there’s a real fear that as AI advances take over, that problem will only get worse. Case in point: this post circulating on X today describes an “SEO heist” that stole 3.6 million in search traffic from a competitor by creating articles based on the competitor’s sitemap using AI. While a horrible, worst-case scenario for AI (and an unverified one at that), it’s creating a buzz because it exemplifies what many think will be the end of Google: faked, AI-written garbage prioritized over the work, thoughts, and opinions of real people.
Whether or not this example becomes a reality — the proverbial canary in the coal mine — remains to be seen.
But this is precisely what Google’s ranking changes aim to address as the search engine attempts to better index, surface and categorize forums and social sites in search results.
Of course, Google’s experiments with next-generation search don’t end there. The company is also testing its own generative AI answer engine, Search Generative Experience, and recently announced an experiment that will let users annotate web pages with notes — likely, a hedge against Reddit choosing to lock down its site behind an API so as not be the source for AI training data without payment. If annotations took off, Google will have effectively built its own Reddit on Google directly, but the feature is still an opt-in experiment for now.