'The Guardian' Is Winning At COVID-19 On Google -- A Shame There's No Prize

There is often a sting in the tail of good news, and that is how The Guardian must feel about Searchmetrics research that shows it is winning the SEO battle to appear against COVID-19 queries on Google.

The paper is in the top search results for more than 6% of searches, which actually beats the WHO home page, Wikipedia and the NHS. In fact, the paper tops the search results for COVID-19 searches both in general search and in appearing in News Box results -- those snippets that the eye is immediately drawn to.

While it only has the aforementioned official bodies for company on the podium of normal search results, when it comes to success in News Box features the paper gets to highlight its dominance over "BBC News," the country's go-to news resource online. Liberal media observers may be relieved to see it is not only ahead of the BBC but also the tabloids, in the form of The Sun, The Express and the Daily Mail.

To be clear, while the BBC is approaching the success of The Guardian in news searches, those tabloid don't come anywhere near.

So that would appear to be the good news. To be fair, it is very good news for supporters of liberal journalism that is fact-based and not afraid to hold the Government to account, yet without the scare stories we have seen some of the tabloids resort to. 

The problem is -- and here comes the sting in the tail -- that the researchers at Searchmetrics tackle the elephant in the room. The figures come from early April -- and things may have improved since then, but all online newspapers have been suffering the same quandary. They are attracting record audiences, but advertisers are hiding behind brand-safety tools that are set to block ad requests from pages containing COVID-19 stories. 

Hence, the researchers sum up for Netimperative that the best hope for The Guardian is that readers who discover the title through Google look at other pages, which can be better monetised, on subsequent visits. 

This leads us to the ultimate irony that underscores the problem with COVID-19 attention. The Guardian is outranking even the BBC on search results, and yet the awesome performance and reward for top-rated journalism cannot be monetised and non-editorial staff are being furloughed. 

It is the epitome of a so-called pyrrhic victory, named after King Pyrrhus who summed up how he felt after winning a battle against the Romans that nearly wiped out his army. "One more victory... and we'll be ruined."

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