Saturday, May 5, 2012

Search Engines vs. News Sites

Optimizing News for Searchers, Search Engines & News Publishers

By Eli Goodman - April 2, 2012

This post contains excerpts from Eli's original story published at SearchEngineWatch on 3/26/2012

News discovery has evolved beyond deciding which TV station to watch or newspaper to read. With a few mouse clicks, consumers can request information on particular subjects and almost instantly, snippets from various sources will appear on your computer screen. Search plays a critical role in this discovery process, and when analyzing the data, some notable patterns emerge.

News Search Optimization – Search Engines vs. News Sites

Keeping up on news search optimization is a daunting task for any news publisher or marketer. With the news business being so dynamic, it's hard enough keeping up on all of the latest news stories, let alone optimizing your search campaigns to capitalize on breaking news at a moment’s notice. SEO and SEM professionals at these organizations are constantly trying to come up with evergreen architecture and techniques to maximize their exposure as events unfold. While news-related searching has ballooned over the past few years, both on search engines and on news sites, it's important to note that how people search on these different sites and what they search for differs greatly.

In February 2012, U.S. searchers conducted 371 million news-related searches on search engines, as defined by comScore’s intent categorization methodology*, which accounted for 2.3 percent of all search engines searches performed during the month. But searches performed on non-search engine news sites actually outdistanced search engines news search, totaling 581 million searches in February. Although search engines play an integral role in the news discovery process, the actual news providers and aggregators are still leading the pack.

Behaviorally speaking, it looks like consumers of news data are still more likely to go directly to a “news” specific search engine than they are to run news searches on search engines themselves. The vertical nature of these sites appears to resonate with the searchers, as news searchers are less interested in the extraneous results that they may get on the broader search engines. For example, a news searcher wants to read an article about Whitney Houston's funeral, not buy a Whitney Houston CD, but both results may appear side-by-side in search engine results.

News Search Behavior Reflects Search Context

When we look at the actual terms that news searchers use, we can see a distinct difference in the intent of the searchers. Search engine news searches focus heavily on a particular news destination. Within the top 25 search terms driving traffic to News/Information sites in February, half referred to specific news destinations, such as “CNN”, “TMZ”, “Fox News”, and “MSNBC.” The searchers clearly want to be taken to a news specific destination to consume their news.


Search terms driving traffic to news sites from search engines – February 2012

News site searchers, on the other hand, focus almost exclusively on the content they’re interested in because they're already at their intended news destination. The search term lists pulled from news site search isn’t cluttered with branded news destinations, they are solely about stories and topics of interest.

Celebrity name searching is a particular favorite, dominating the Top 25 list. If this data is any indication, it becomes abundantly clearly why the Paparazzi follow celebrities everywhere they go, U.S. consumers are obsessed with reading about them!

Using Search Intelligence to Win Long Term News Brand Loyalty

Based on the intelligence available, there are opportunities for news publishers and marketers to better allocate their advertising resources that could drive better click-through rates and engagement.

When searchers are on search engines, they focus very heavily on finding a branded news destination first, before searching for a particular news story. So anything that can be done to better brand your news destination site could potentially drive much greater long term value with search engine searchers. This isn't to say that optimizing your news stories for search engines isn’t valuable, but the behavioral inference that they rely heavily on branded news destination search terms can impact your broader marketing efforts.

News searchers type in a news destination first, and then search for specific news stories after arriving on those news sites. Being that the branded destinations are key to the way searchers navigate to news stories from search engines, you have to allocate your marketing resources accordingly across search, display, and video. You don’t want to just be their news destination for today’s stories, but for every day’s stories.

For more search insights from comScore Media Evangelist Eli Goodman, check out Search Strategies for Smartphones vs Tablets and the 2012 U.S. Digital Future in Focus.

*Search engines are defined as the big 5 web searches – Google web search, Yahoo web search, Bing web search, AOL web search, and Ask web search – while news site search includes the six largest news sites based on their search totals – Yahoo-ABC News Network, Google News, Bing News,,, and

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