Drive Traffic To Website During Breaking News

Optify, comparing Bing and Google and their algorithms around breaking news, has released a report analyzing how search engines react during breaking news events, and how B2B marketers and online publishers can drive more traffic to their websites during these events.

Among Optify’s findings:

  • On average, about 70% of content above the fold was used for breaking news results rather than ranked results.
  • In surfacing news results, Bing favors most recent results, and MSN.com, serving results just a few seconds old. Google favors authority and reach, serving results from prominent publications.
  • Both search engines react quickly by surfacing news, videos, images and real time updates above the ranked results.

Breaking news presents a unique Inbound Marketing opportunity for B2B Marketers as well as online publishers to increase visibility and drive incremental traffic during the course of these events, says the report. Traditionally, breaking news has been ignored by B2B marketers due to the misconception that, by their nature, breaking news are unpredictable and therefore one cannot prepare for them. But since breaking news events can occur at any time, the promise of this huge, untapped potential makes that specific type of search results lucrative.

Brief Glossary:

  • Breaking News is an event, either planned or unplanned, that emerges and is reported as “hot news” or an “emerging” story.
  • Serp is a search engine results page listing web pages, with a link, returned by a search engine in response to a keyword query.
  • Above/Below The Fold is traditionally a graphic design concept that refers to the location of an important news story or a visually appealing photograph on the upper half of the front page of a news­paper. In the case of web pages, it’s the part of a page that’s visible without scrolling media data.

Key findings outlined in the report include:

  • Both search engines changed the format of the SERP and the way they render the results during the breaking news events by introducing additional results to the typical natural-organic results
  • Both search engines used the top of the SERP, the most prestigious SERP real-estate, to serve “useful,” placed results
  • While Google used that area to provide information and helpful links such as additional information and related searches, Bing used the area to serve results from its own news properties
  • Both search engines reacted quickly to events by surfacing placed results such as news, videos, images and real time updates above the natural results section of the SERP. This offers an opportunity for B2B marketers to “rank” their content on the first page during real time events
  • The extent and pace of changes to the natural-organic results seemed to be a function of the magnitude of the event; the bigger the event was the higher the rate and extent of changes to the organic results. For the local breaking news event there was still a clear change to the way the search engines rendered the SERP, but the pace and extent of updates to the natural-organic results were slower and smaller
  • In the news section of the SERP, Bing favored recency by serving results just a few seconds old, while Google favored authority and reach, serving results from big publications with high volumes of social media shares. Google kept updates longer on the news section and favored authoritative sites. Bing on the other hand, surfaced news results that were only a few minutes old, and updated them frequently
  • The remainder of the SERP featured the natural-organic results related to the search terms. Bing was more “stable” than Google as it was slower to update the natural-organic results to reflect news and real time updates and rewarded sites that made it to the top of the results by keeping them longer
  • Google, on the other hand, moved its natural-organic results ranking to a different ranking algorithm during real time events. It reacted faster to breaking news events as evidenced by rapid changes to the natural-organic results. This was consistent with claims from Google that it gives the most relevant results to its users

The findings suggest that publishers and marketers must familiarize themselves with trending terms and the processes in which users search for these events, and incorporate real-time elements into their SEO strategies. In order to rank higher on SERPs during a breaking news event, one needs authority, social reach and freshness to make search engines index the site more often, says the report.

The study concludes with ten best practices to help marketers and publishers drive organic traffic before and during a breaking news event. Among the 10 tips:
1. Search engines give preference to multi-format results, and video is the most desirable as it is easy to consume and share, but hard to come by. Syndicate video on YouTube, embed it into your site, and use keywords to describe it.

2. Google likely renders real-time results by looking at the sharing volume of content. Using social network to make it easy for people to interact with your content increases your chances of ranking higher on SERPs.

3. Optimizing content using the durable elements of SEO will improve ranking. While you cannot prepare a keyword strategy for news events that have yet to happen, some news categories are more stable with predictable breaking news events (e.g., sports, politics and health). If in doubt, use Twitter trends to see what keywords and hashtags are trending, and uncover keywords to use in your own content.

This study is based on observation and its results are mostly anecdotal. To support the observations with more quantitative data the study used Optify’s software to analyze how the “real estate” of the SERP is being allocated. The analysis was done for the results above the fold, the area visible in most standard monitors without scrolling down, and for the results on the first SERP only.

Please visit Optify for additional information and access to the complete PDF file.

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