British Newspapers Optimize for Google — and Pay Google, Just to Make Sure

Here in the U.S. we have the tendency to believe that innovation happens only here (and — face it — some of us think it happens only in the 415 and 408 area codes), so it’s a little eye-opening when we look outside the U.S. and see ideas we haven’t thought of. As the Wall Street Journal reports, British newspapers are going past the search-engine optimization most U.S. newspapers rely on and battling to buy search terms of news events on Google. (U.S. newspapers do some of this, but nowhere near as aggressively.) The Daily Telegraph and the Times of London, according to the WSJ, are “paying to put their stories in front of readers by buying Google ads — a practice the papers say has intensified in recent months — [which] is different from past marketing efforts. Some readers may not realize that links to articles that appear higher up on Google are paid for while others appear lower down because they didn’t pay, even though the higher ones are marked “sponsored links.'”
The story also shows how search-engine optimization has moved from marketing to editorial. The Times of London “is training journalists to write in a way that makes their articles more likely to appear among Google’s unpaid search results.” This won’t stop anytime soon, especially as the British papers battle for more U.S. readers. As Edward Roussel, the Telegraph’s digital editor, says, “The most important driver of all readers [to our site] is Google, except for people who know us and come directly. It plays a critical part of exporting our brand, particularly to the U.S.”