‘Fake news’ and what it means for your business

You’re probably sick to the back teeth of hearing about ‘fake news’ during this election cycle. Although the fact that you clicked on this blog means your interest in the 2017 ‘Word of the Year’ has not been extinguished quite yet. 

Knowingly or unknowingly, false information on the internet can impact your business – in big ways and small ways. 

Below, we’ve listed three of the most common ways in which your brand can be affected by ‘fake news’, and provide some easily-actionable tips if you have been affected by the myriad lies, untruths and dubious claims that exist on the internet.

Social Media

Marketing activities on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are possibly the most cost-effective and targeted way of reaching your desired audience. And with the continued of migration of users from traditional media sources, marketers can’t really avoid using social media advertising platforms as a key channel for marketing activities.

It’s also a great channel for reactive marketing. But be warned, the temptation to be ‘first’ by jumping on a news story to link it back to your brand is strong – the long-term potential damages greatly outweigh the short-term benefits.

The rise in fake news has meant that B2B consumers are finding it increasingly difficult to discern what is true and what is false. So even well-researched articles and campaigns can be affected. 

So how can this be combated? Decreasing our reliance upon numerical statistics may be one approach. By including examples, case studies and testimonials as additional evidence, we can make the statistics appear more tangible, and more accessible to users.  

The social media giants are also taking serious steps to prevent false information from being spread around the internet. YouTube has unveiled new ‘information panels’ that alert viewers when they have clicked on videos on topics that are ‘prone to misinformation’ . Similarly, Facebook, the target of the majority of fake news criticism, is also looking to boost the integrity of its news content by launching a curated news section on its platform. 

PPC & Display Ads 

If you’re running any adverts on the Google Display Network, be vigilant as to where these ads appear. Associating your business with a news source that consistently reports fake news can cause long-lasting damage. It takes a bit of extra time, but you can manually select which websites you would like your ads to appear on, and even better – which ones you don’t want them to appear on. This can be time-consuming but worthwhile, as not only does it prevent your brand from being contaminated by untrustworthy websites, it also helps you dial in on a highly-targeted audience.

Google will also penalise you for pushing fake news stories of your own. Whether you realise it or not, you may be pushing out false information through inattentive PPC practices. For example, using an unnecessarily broad group of keywords to capture the largest audience possible for your PPC ads may boost your traffic in the short-term, but will almost certainly lead to problems when these users arrive at a landing page that has little to do with the search term they entered into Google. 

In addition to the increased likelihood of users making a conversion while on the page, your bounce rate will soon go through the roof, as users leave the page once they determine it is irrelevant. High bounce rates are a clear identifier to Google that a page, or even an entire website, isn’t trustworthy – leading to penalties that could plummet your search ranking. 

SEO

If your website is linked to from a number of fake news websites, you may end up being penalised by Google, which has recently updated its search algorithms to identify fake news stories. Fortunately, your website should only be at risk if a significant proportion of your backlinks are coming from untrustworthy sites. However, if this turns out to be the case, you can get in touch with the offending website and ask them to manually remove these links – putting you back into Google’s good books. 

Now, you can’t actually identify which sites link back to your own domain without a backlink checking tool. Several SEO platforms, such as Moz and Ahrefs, offer such a tool – but require you to sign up to a subscription to access its full features. Luckily, Google operates its own quality link disavowal tool that is available for free. So now there’s no excuse to not know which sites are sending traffic your way.


If you’d like to receive any advice or guidance on how your brand could be utilising social media and paid advertising channels more effectively, email us at hello@wearehattrick.com or give us a call on +44 (0) 161 660 0993.

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