Publishers may increasingly focus their traffic growth on optimizing their content for social networks, but the Google News’ influence on traffic is still hard — and foolish — to deny.
On Thursday, Axel Springer, Germany’s biggest news publisher, said that it’s rolling back its two-week experiment that prevented Google from using excerpts of its content within Google News listings. While many European publishers have bristled at Google’s ability to freely use their content on its own sites, CEO Mathias Doepfner said preventing Google from indexing its content was tanking its traffic numbers: Traffic from Google dropped 40 percent during the experiment, and 80 percent from Google News.
The continued influence of Google News on publishers’ traffic might come as a surprise considering all the attention paid to the traffic coming from social channels like Facebook, Twitter and, most recently, Pinterest. Publishers today are spending far more time trying to get social readers to click and share than they are on landing Google searchers or Google News visitors.
“I’ve heard people call SEO dead literally since I started writing about it in 1996 — no joke. It’s sure taking its time dying,” said Danny Sullivan, founding editor of SearchEngineLand.
But it wasn’t always this way. The 2002 birth of Google News also launched a cottage industry of tactics and techniques aimed at helping publishers land the site’s top spots. Publishers knew that scoring a single story on Google News could help drive more traffic than any story could get organically. But Google News has always been a black box, and while publishers did their best to get in Google’s good graces, it was never a sure thing that Google would respond the way they wanted.