It’s time to remove Russian propaganda from search results


Google’s search outcomes for Russian search queries associated to Ukraine are nearly solely dominated by a handful of identified Russian pro-Putin propaganda publications, comparable to Izvestia, Russia At this time and Ria Information.

How is that this taking place when a number of credible Ukrainian and Western publications deserving to rank? And the way is that this taking place when Google has acknowledged its dedication to fighting disinformation?

Right here’s why Google wants to repair this. 

Why Google’s search outcomes matter for Russian audio system

For a lot of Russian language audio system of all ethnicities and nationalities, accessing credible information that’s free from pro-Putin propaganda is tough – even outdoors of Russia. And it appears even on Google.

I depend myself amongst this group. I reside in Canada and communicate Russian. And but, I used to be shocked to see publications that broadcast the state-sanctioned narrative rating so properly on Google: 

Russian-language Google search outcomes for Украина (Ukraine)

Once more, this was simply me looking on Google for “Ukraine” outcomes from Canada. Not Russia.

It’s critically necessary for Russian audio system, lots of whom would possibly already discover themselves remoted in info bubbles crammed with propaganda and conspiracies that justify the struggle, to have entry to correct, vetted and balanced details about the struggle after they seek for it. That isn’t taking place proper now. 

Bought as a “liberation” and “peace-keeping” mission, the struggle has a 70% approval score in Russia. Propaganda fuels a better ideological divide, with grave penalties.

Russia’s state narratives dominate the Russian internet

Russia’s disinformation campaigns are frequent data. In current days, western media and tech platforms began scaling again their operations with Russia or reducing ties altogether. 

Fb restricted entry to the accounts of Russia’s prime media publications, comparable to Zvijazda, RIA Information, Sputnik, Russia At this time,,, and others. TikTok is alleged to have began to take away video content material posted to the platform by RIA Information, one among Russia’s largest information channels.

One would suppose that with greater than 160 million Russian audio system globally, these restrictions is likely to be a sign to hunt higher, extra credible info elsewhere. However it seems that that “info divide” can be linguistic.

What’s most stunning? Many essential searches associated to the occasions in Ukraine which are executed in Russian on Google return outcomes crammed with pro-Putin propaganda.

Among the many highest rating of those publications are RIA Information (with greater than 1,200 pages listed for the time period “denazification” in Google),, Russia At this time, and 

Search question comparability: “Ukraine” vs. “United States”

There’s a huge distinction in the kind of rating content material if you examine “Украина” versus “United States.”

A precise match Google seek for “Украина” (Ukraine in Russian), returns a SERP the place, apart from Wikipedia, nearly of the outcomes from Russian information websites. That is shocking, as one would anticipate extra outcomes that present normal info and are from Ukrainian domains. 

These are the highest 10 URLs that rank in Google’s natural outcomes for the search question “украина” (“ukraine”):

Information by way of Ahrefs

And these are the highest 10 outcomes for the search question “United States”:

Information by way of Ahrefs

Search question: “что происходит на украине” (“what is occurring in Ukraine”)

This can be a much less apparent search question, however search quantity has risen inside the previous two weeks. It has additionally proven up inside Google’s associated searches and search solutions. Whereas there’s occasional range within the video outcomes, the highest natural outcomes are RIA, Izvestia and Russia At this time. 

Translated Google search outcomes for [what-is-happening in ukraine]

Search Question: “украина новости” (“ukraine information”)

Search queries associated to Ukraine information are starting to see extra Ukrainian websites seem in Google’s SERPs, however three out of the 5 prime outcomes are nonetheless Russian websites, together with RIA and Izvestia.

Translated Google’ search outcomes for [ukraine news]

A more in-depth look: why are these websites rating?

Did you discover that the rating pages from Russia’s information websites have one factor in frequent? They’re archive pages for tags that match “Ukraine,” not content material pages. It’s usually an accepted website positioning greatest observe to noindex archive pages. Many different information web sites rank properly with their journalistic content material. However just about all the high-ranking Russian information websites have pursued the technique of deliberate promotion and hyperlink constructing to their archive pages. 

The pages from RIA Information, Izvestia and Russia At this time dominate the house for search queries (in addition to variants and misspellings) of “Украина” (Ukraine), “новости украины” (ukraine information), and “что происходит на украине” (what is occurring in ukraine). There isn’t any vital distinction between SERP positions primarily based on location (Russia, Ukraine or United States).

RIA Information

The very best performer, RIA Information, has a bare-bones archives web page that features article headlines, photos, and different tags, and comes throughout as an inner linking tactic in itself. There are 20 headlines and over 100 hyperlinks on the web page. No different content material.

RIA Information natural key phrases knowledge by way of Ahrefs


Izvestia can be an archive web page, but it surely incorporates extra content material than RIA. Whereas there aren’t any photos, the 15 article snippets embody headlines and descriptions. There’s a right-hand navigation, in addition to a header content material block with the tag description, on this case, mentioning that fashionable Kyiv is in “confrontational relations with Russia” in addition to the “army particular operation aimed toward defending the civilian inhabitants of Donbas.” The web page hundreds intermittently however is accessible by way of the WayBack Machine.

Izvestia natural key phrases knowledge by way of Ahrefs

Russia At this time

A longtime entity with a world presence, Russia At this time has the feel and appear of a top quality information web site with good UX, massive article snippets that embody a headline, description, and picture, in addition to hyperlinks to further content material within the right-hand menu.

Russia Todayorganic key phrases knowledge by way of Ahrefs

This publication incorporates a combination of unique content material and articles syndicated from different Russian web sites. The mission assertion that appeared on the positioning early in its existence, 11 years in the past, stated that the aim of the mission was to fill the hole within the minds of Russians about Ukraine and to permit Russia to “transfer West.”

Are there no related Ukrainian websites for Google to rank?

Is there any related content material from Ukrainian sources that might compete with Russian outcomes? Completely. Not even counting Russian language websites by BBC, Deutsche Welle and different credible information sources, there are various Ukrainian information web sites that publish within the Russian language.

Microsoft Bing is much extra inclusive of Ukrainian websites in its SERPs than Google. 5 of the highest six Bing results for “Ukraine News” (​are Ukrainian (both in .ua TLD or owned by Ukrainians and in any other case positioned outdoors of .ru TLD).

Shouldn’t YMYL be an element for Google?

In 2014, to struggle disinformation, Google launched YMYL (Your Cash or Your Life) content material class to its search high quality rater pointers. YMYL is a time period used to explain pages and content material that may probably affect one’s happiness, well being, funds, security and extra.

High quality thresholds are significantly greater for any such content material. Google states that “YMYL pages ought to come from respected web sites, and the content material needs to be created with a excessive stage of experience and authority.”

In response to Google, information publications are anticipated to measure up excessive journalistic requirements, adhere to clear editorial insurance policies, and current clearly researched, vetted and reliable info.

Google’s Search High quality Evaluator Pointers (September 2019) could be very specific about its directions for content material that’s dangerous to specified teams (7.2), in addition to pages with harmfully deceptive info (7.3).

Google wants to wash up its dangerous, deceptive outcomes

Nicely, Google, it’s time to carry your self to the identical requirements you need media and information publications to fulfill. It’s time so that you can take away the Russian propaganda out of your search outcomes. And provides Russian language audio system the reliable content material and knowledge they want.

Opinions expressed on this article are these of the visitor writer and never essentially Search Engine Land. Workers authors are listed right here.

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About The Creator

Olya Ianovskaia works in Search & Progress domains, with a concentrate on constructing website positioning and knowledge merchandise for big e-commerce and classifieds websites. She has a background in anthropology and is actively concerned in varied tasks associated to mycology, prehistoric archaeology and wildlife rehabilitation.