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Can Rupe Smoke Google Out?

Build a field of dreams, and they'll come. That much is clear. Hitwise, however, wants to know whether they'll come if and when Rupert Murdoch "de-indexes" WSJ.com from Google, and gives Microsoft's Bing exclusive "indexer" rights.

Well, as of last week, WSJ.com's referred and non-referred traffic from Google and Google News amounted to 15.3% and 11.0% respectively. "Analyzing Google search terms driving traffic to the Journal, the top 100 terms accounted for over 21.6% of all Google search traffic to WSJ.com," writes Bill Tancer, general manager of Global Research at Hitwise.

Of that 21.6%, 13.4% were navigational or brand searches -- e.g. "Wall Street Journal," "WSJ," "WSJ.com," etc. "Even if Murdoch decides to block Google, these navigational search queries will most likely remain intact."

Of the remaining 8.2%, the majority of searches were for stock quotes, and general business related searches. Most specific news related searches fill-out the long tail of search queries. "While the Journal may lose traffic if it ceases to cooperate with Google the loss may be less then anticipated," Tancer adds.

Meanwhile, the potential loss of Google News traffic is potentially more serious. Over three years, WSJ.com's traffic from Google News has grown from 2% to over 11%. The Journal is receiving more than double the traffic from Google News than newspaper sites overall -- a custom category including national and regional papers. Bing, a potential News Corp. suitor for search exclusivity provides less than half of Google News' volume as of last week.

EWeek cites Bernstein Research analyst Jeffrey Lindsay who says News Corp.'s "alleged" plan to de-index WSJ.com and other Web sites from Google will put pressure on the search engine during the renegotiation of its $900 million ad deal with MySpace, but will ultimately backfire.

Likewise, according to BusinessWeek, "Analysts and antitrust experts say the move will do more to hurt Murdoch than Google."

In theory, other publications could join News Corp. in cutting ties to Google and allying with Microsoft, BusinessWeek adds, but thy would also have to be willing to stomach an immediate decline in online readers.

Most of the newspapers in the Newspaper Association of America rely on Google for about 30% of their online traffic, says Randy Bennett, senior vice-president for business development at the industry group.

Flat out, BoomTown's Kara Swisher says, "Microsoft is not likely to fork over the big bucks they'd need for exclusive indexing of their content."

Asks Hitwise's Tancer: "Could blocking your most significant traffic source be a wise choice?

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