Google's Search AI now looks for general consensus to highlight more trustworthy results

The tech giant says the technique 'has meaningfully improved the quality and helpfulness' of its featured snippets.

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Mariella Moon
August 11, 2022 12:01 AM
In this article: news, gear, Google, search, tomorrow
Google closeup logo displayed on a phone screen, smartphone on a keyboard is seen in this multiple exposure illustration, the company's symbol is globally recognized. Google, LLC is an American tech giant, a multinational technology company that specializes in Internet-related services and products, which include online advertising technologies, a search engine, cloud computing, software, and hardware. It is considered one of the Big Four technology companies in the U.S. . Amsterdam, the Netherlands on October 22, 2020 (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NurPhoto via Getty Images

You know that highlighted piece of text at the very top of a Google search results page when you look up a piece of information? That's called a "featured snippet," and it's meant to provide you with a quick answer to your query. Now, Google is making sure that the information it highlights is reliable and accurate by using its latest AI model, the Multitask Unified Model, so that Search can now look for consensus when deciding on a snippet to feature.

Google's Search AI can now check snippet callouts — those are the information with larger fonts that serve as heading for featured snippets — against other high-quality sources online. It can figure out if there's a general consensus for that callout, even if sources use different words or concepts to describe the same fact or idea. Google says this "consensus-based technique has meaningfully improved the quality and helpfulness of featured snippet callouts."

Google featured snippet
Google featured snippet

But for some queries, such as those with false premises, displaying features snippets isn't the best way to deliver information. To address that issue, Google tweaked its Search AI so that this particular update reduces the triggering of snippets for those types of queries by 40 percent.  

Google is now also making its "About this result" tool more accessible. That's the panel that pops up when you click on the three dots next to a result, showing you details about the source website before you even visit. Starting later this year, it will be available in eight more languages, including Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese and Indonesian. It's adding more information to the tool starting this week, as well, including how widely a publication is circulated, online reviews about a company, or whether a company is owned by another entity. They're all pieces of information that could help you decide whether a particular source is trustworthy. 

Finally, in case Google's AI has determined that the overall results for a search query may have questionable quality, the results page will now display a content advisory. "It looks like there aren't many great results for this search," the advisory will say, telling you to check the source you're looking at or to try other search terms. It could help you stay alert and be on the lookout for potential fake information while checking the results the website had presented.

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