In January Google made a change to the way it orders and ranks search results, providing some interesting insights for PRs and Publishers. Briefly, early analysis of this update (labelled Google’s core update) indicates that articles in online publications are being given a boost in search results if they are ‘timeless pieces’ that cover topics in depth. Shorter ‘newsie’ pieces are more likely to drop down in searches once they are no longer topical.
CloudNine PR’s client Searchmetrics was one of the first companies to study the impact of the Google core update. Marcus Tober, CTO and founder of Searchmetrics said in a company blog post: “It is apparent that many loser domains are classic print publishers and their losses in rankings mainly stem from older content pieces”.
For example Searchmetricts identified that theatlantic.com, an online publisher ‘primarily lost visibility with old URLs that ranked for brand keywords’. Others media sites thought to have lost rankings were newyorker.com, vanityfair.com, arstechnica.com, fastcompany.com and economist.com.
At the same time, according to Searchmetrics, search gains were experienced by those publishers with current or holistic content (where holistic refers to covering a topic comprehensively) with one of the top winners from the update being gq.com. On gq.com the web page that was found to have received the biggest boost in search performance was a comprehensive article about NFL star Tom Brady which includes photos and a video and a lot of text (more than 3000 words including an interview). Other publishers who gained visibility were time.com, qz.com, howstuffworks.com, politico.com and inquisitr.com.
Searchmetrcs provided some further explanation on the types of content that were impacted by the update:
“In many cases brands (with their official websites and profiles) now take up more real estate in the Google search results for their brand names. News publishers typically won with in-depth articles that contain “timeless” information (eg. long interviews). Where news publishers lost was often with short articles that focused on a specific aspect (e.g. classical news articles). Example: An article mentioning that a celebrity has a new partner is only interesting in the very short term. For such a content piece to still be in the rankings months later doesn’t make any sense. Longer pieces of content such as interviews are a typical example of content pieces experiencing gains, something we are noticing frequently.”
Brands tend to want their own online assets (company websites, blogs, Facebook page and industry profiles and listings) to dominate the search results pages for queries that relate to them. But they will also want to see positive (or at least neutral) articles that appear in online publications. So for PR agencies, this latest Google change indicates the types of PR coverage you need to be aiming for to have a lasting impression in searches ie holistic, overview pieces that give a lot of background about the company in question.
Of course, unless you’re working for a huge brand or a very on-trend startup or hot stockmarket pick, trying to generate such timeless PR pieces within high profile media remains a challenge. But at least now you know that achieving this type of result has added benefits in terms of lasting search visibility
At the time the above changes in search results were only seen by Searchmetrics in Google’s US search index (google.com), but it is reasonable to expect similar trends emerging in other regions.