Search engine allegiance is a funny thing. Perhaps you're a Bing die-hard, or you use Google because its your browser's default engine. Maybe you use one for general searches, and one for, say, finding the best travel deals. But one company recently put the two search engines in a head-to-head match up to see how each performed in the context of breaking news.
Optify, a provider of in-bound marketing software, announced key findings of a report that helps B2B marketers develop new strategies to drive more organic traffic to websites during breaking news events. The report compares and contrasts how search engines treat breaking news search queries differently than other searches.
For the purposes of the study, Optify broke "breaking news" down into three different categories: worldwide events, business news events, and local news events. Specifically, they monitored how the search engines dealt with last year's earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Steve Jobs' death, and Amanda Knox's return to Seattle, WA. According to the report, "We used searched without logging into Google and a cleared search history to keep the SERP clean of personalized results."
What did Optify find out? Well, there was a clear difference in the way both engines served up results for breaking news. They both introduced additional results to the usual organic results, which changed the way both search engines rendered the SERP and consequently the position of the organic results on the SERP.
According to the report: "On average, about 70% of the SERP real estate above the fold was used for placed results rather than natural-organic results. While Google used that area to provide information and helpful links such as additional information and related searches, Bing used the area to serve results from its own news properties(MSN.com). In addition, both search engines pushed the natural results down the page in favor of placed results such as news results, video results and images."
But there were also findings that Optify believes B2B marketers can use to their advantage. Both search engines surfaced placed results such as news, videos, images and real time updates above the natural results section of the SERP in order to react more qickly. This, says Optify, offers an opportunity for B2B marketers to "rank" their content on the first page during real time events.
Marketers looking to, say, capitalize on breaking news around an industry event should keep a few things in mind, though. In the news section of the SERP, Bing favored recency, while Google favored authority and reach. "It's fairly predictable what keywords people will be searching when it's a B2B event," says Brian Goffman, CEO of Optify. Companies can prepare, in advance, for B2B news events by preparing content, with certain keywords in mind, and by making their teams available to the press.
"You need to think like a newsroom," says Goffman, who pointed to a Huffington Post example of a publication capitalizing on breaking news to up its search engine ranking around a specific subject. Knowing that millions of people would be searching "What time is the super bowl," the HuffPo named a post "What Time is the Super Bowl?"
Goffman says, "Pick the key event that you know about in advance and prepare your content strategy for being part of those key events." But there is more to it than just that:
Optify's 10 Tips for Driving Organic Search Traffic During a Breaking News Event
1. Format: Search engines try to surface multi-format results higher. Video was the top format since it's easy to consume and share but also harder to come by. If you can capture the event with a short video, syndicate it on YouTube and embed it on your site, use keywords to describe it and allow others to comment on the video. Images also help to get recognition SERPs and probably drive residual traffic.
2. Social sharing: One of the ways we assume Google is rendering real time results is by looking at the sharing volume of the content. Using your social network and making it easy for people to interact with your content will increase your chances of ranking higher on SERPs. It will also drive more traffic to your site regardless of traffic from search engines.
3. Google+: The recent release of Google Search Plus Your World makes Google+ an important part of your social sharing efforts. We predict that Google will give more weight to content with a lot of +1's, so it is important that you implement it on your site.
4. Freshness, uniqueness and recency: In the case of news event, freshness and recency are a must. People look for "news" not "olds" and search engines do the same. While Bing might be extreme in the weight it gives recency in the news section, both search engines will prefer recent news to old news, and in events of larger magnitude freshness is measured by the minute. Be unique and keep updating your stories and find new angles and perspectives. This isn't just an SEO tip; it's Journalism 101.
5. News category and News XML: Is your site listed as a news site on Google and Bing? If it's not, you will not be surfaced in the news section and will not be crawled in the same frequency. You should also submit a news site map to Google so it can discover your content faster and ensure that you get full coverage of your content.
6. Optimize, optimize, optimize: Without optimizing your content using the durable elements of SEO, chances are that you will not rank very high.
7. Keyword strategy: While you can't prepare a keyword strategy for news events that haven't happened yet, you can train your team to react quickly and be SEO savvy when they do. There are also larger news categories that are more stable and have somewhat predictable breaking news events (e.g., Sports, Politics, Health). Develop a keyword strategy by learning how users search for these events. Provide clear guidelines on what keywords you'd like to rank for in case of a news event and make sure content is optimized for those terms. Share real time results and trends with your team to make the point and analyze your performance in real time. You might need to redirect your focus to new terms that emerge during the event, but if your team is already versed in SEO, that shouldn't be a problem.
8. Research keywords: Use Twitter trends to see what keywords and hashtags are trending and to uncover keywords you would use in your content. Use real-time monitoring tools to learn what resonates and how. In addition, people in different segments may use a very specific language when they search, often different from "marketing lingo," so make sure you develop your keyword list to target the search personas you developed.
9. Use Social Media to drive traffic: The use of social media during breaking news event is becoming essential for marketers and publishers. The popularity of social media networks, specifically Twitter and Facebook, in conjunction with mobile usage on these networks, makes social media a do-or-die marketing activity. In addition, it's clear from this study that search engines are not the place to go for finding out about breaking news, and even though they still drive the majority of organic traffic, we predict that in the next few years, social media will take over in the case of breaking news.
10. Think like a publisher, act like a marketer: Don't forget that you are a marketer and ignore online marketing best practices. There are a few simple rules of on line marketing that you will need to remember, including: SEO best practices and real-time web writing practices.
To read the full report visit Optify's website.