Google announced on Friday 3, 2017 the release of a new update designed to improve the quality of the Japanese Search. This is a specific update to that country and is not related to the recent Google updates we have seen more globally on in January and February.
According to Asahi, the update was driven by an article on how to commit suicide being placed at number one of the search results for the phrase "I want to die," and was viewed more than a million times. A screenshot of the article is shown below, but apologies for the lack of translation:
According to Asahi, the Google update targets aggressive practices carried out by some webmasters to boost their appearance in the search engines. In particular, Japanese, IT giant, DeNA Co, the owner of the website in question had apparently ordered its writes to undertake extensive rewording of its existing articles to elevate their ranking in relevance to certain keywords to gain more page views.
This follows hot on the heels of DeNA Co shutting down most of its informational websites after it faced significant criticism for the accuracy and reliability of its advice. This included the popular website WELQ, which had articles lacking "supervision by experts with medical knowledge."
In the announcement by Google on the official blog for webmasters, the new update will "lower the ranking of lower quality sites that focus on having your page displayed above the search results rather than providing useful and reliable information to users.".
It would seem that a few high-profile cases that could jeopardize the health or life of its users has pressed Google into action to make these changes. To think that these companies could so easily manipulate the search results is of great concern, but we suspect that in smaller search markets (such as Japan) the lack of competition could easily create some cases where the standard rules do not work so well.
Here is the tweet by Kazushi Nagayama, Search Quality Analyst at Google Japan, adding some authority to the above information, confirming it relates just to Japan.
As the announcement is in Japanese, we will finish off posting the full translation (using Google translate):
In order to make retrieval more convenient for users all over the world, Google constantly improves search ranking algorithm every day. Of course the Japanese search is no exception.
As a part of this, we made improvements to the quality evaluation method of the website this week. This update will lower the ranking of lower quality sites that focus on having your page displayed above the search results rather than providing useful and reliable information to users. As a result, high-quality sites with original and useful content will be displayed higher.
This change is intended for measures against low-quality sites displayed in Japanese search. We hope that such improvements will help to create a web ecosystem that appreciates everyone who provides users with useful and reliable content.
With this change, I do not think that we can solve all of the Japanese search problems that Google recognizes. In order to improve the search quality, we will continue to further improve the quality evaluation algorithm of the site.