Middle East Search Insiders Speak Out

I wanted to close 2023 on a positive note and tell readers about a group of search and technology experts in the Middle East who launched a website in an effort to curb bias and misinformation about the Hamas-Israeli war. 

Quick bite-size pieces of information on TikTok and Facebook continue to attract all types of people to get their news from social media, but these platforms typically don’t tell the entire story. They don’t keep the viewer long enough to provide an unbiased description of the news or the event.

TikTok, Facebook and X are like echo chambers that limit the real ability to impact a broad audience. “You’re already speaking to people who agree with you,” said The Mideast Journal publisher, who chose to remain anonymous. “The beauty of Google is you’re showing up and ranking for something. People might not know who you are. They look at the title and description, and then click.”



Deeper and more thoughtful pieces appear in articles on publisher sites or in blogs typically found via search engines, Google and Bing.

Estimates suggest Google drives between 50% and 80% of web traffic, but many articles seen in Google Search seem to send a back-door or buried message about Hamas. And these messages rank very well in search results.

The publisher of The Mideast Journal, which should not be confused with a peer-reviewed publication in North America, built the website partly to offset the bias they found in Google Search results. The website, which launched early in December, aims to provide an unbiased look into the war from inside the region.

The editorial board named the website The Mideast Journal to brand the publication.

"We're trying to not put our thumb on the scale," the publisher said.

The group has pushed back on contributed articles from authors because the content slants one way or another or it might be based on opinion, which is not the goal. The site targets those who want information to make an educated decision.

It’s a grassroots effort built by volunteers willing to edit and write content. The site also takes donations, mostly from individuals, but if the correct organization came along, one not affiliated with any political organization, the group would consider taking on a larger sponsor to keep the publication going long-term.

“Ranking [in search results] is not an immediate thing, it’s a long-term play,” the publisher said. “It could take three to six months, maybe a year to meet your ranking goals. Google needs to see a lot of content. You need to build up authority and trust with Google.”

Building authority and trust in Google Search results requires the site to build high-quality content continuously. New content to the site is published about twice weekly. The publisher said the site already ranks in the top 50 for some keywords such as “what does free Palestine mean.”

Many of the articles also get pushed out to social media, which is a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Google notes that links in social media getting noticed it’s quicker to get the article indexed in search.

The publisher also spoke about hiring citizen journalists to write content, which speaks to the site’s message of producing on-the-ground content.

“It’s difficult to find a writer willing to donate 80% of their time if we cannot consistently pay them,” the publisher said.

It’s easy to see the social media back and forth bias in favor of Hamas, but not as easy to see it in articles ranking in Google Search.  

Be well. Stay safe. Happy New Year. 

See you back here on Tuesday.

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