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Google update analysis, diagnosing traffic drops and news’ continued reliance on Facebook and Google: What we read this week (5/15)

It’s Friday!

We’ve poured through dozens of SEO news articles this week so you don’t have to. Check out the stories below that the Trisolute News Dashboard team thinks are worth your time.

Google’s early May algorithm update

Major Google updates typically come a few times a year. On May 4, Google SearchLiaison tweeted this:

That same day, Google announced changes that better featured local content for COVID-19 keywords (we mentioned that announcement in last week’s blog). So, after more than a week of study we sussed out how the algorithm changes affected news visibility. Check out our Medium post for details.

Traffic drops: What gives?

Drops in traffic often cause hand-wringing for newsroom audience analysts and online editors, especially now when every click matters.

When faced with a problem it’s easy to fall into the if-I-had-the-right-tool-I-could-fix-it trap. However, as Dr. Peter J. Meyers at Moz wrote recently, not all problems are within your control. His 3-point diagnostic breaks down a traffic drop and how to tell whether or not it’s in your control.

I think this guide is more tuned toward non-news publishers, but there are some good nuggets of advice here for newsrooms.

Chrome introducing ad blocker for high-resource ads

Ad blockers are nothing new. In 2015 Columbia Journalism Review published this dire warning by Michael Rosenwald.

He wrote:

“But publishers seem to have totally overlooked the fact that, while print ads were relatively innocuous and unavoidable, digital ads are different. They aren’t static. They blink. They follow. They irritate. And readers can do what they never could in print: erase them. Now, a frightening reckoning is at hand, a perhaps terminal diagnosis that few seem willing to accept or even acknowledge.”

At the time, Adobe estimated that $21.8 billion in global ad revenue would be blocked in 2015. That’s a lot of potential revenue for news organizations.

Chrome (a browser that has a nearly 70% market share) has had a rocky relationship with ad-blocking extensions. In 2019, Google insisted its changes to Chrome wouldn’t disrupt ad-blockers, ad-blocking companies were skeptical.  For what its worth, my ad blocker still works in Chrome. I’ve not noticed much of a difference.

But, the saga continues…

On Thursday the Chromium Blog announced Chrome would begin limiting the resources display ads can use before a user interacts with the ad. Chrome says these resource heavy ads can drain batter life and suck up network data.

The company expects to roll out the change near the end of August 2020.

The news industry can’t quit Google or Facebook

News publishers have had a can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em relationship with the Internet’s two largest traffic drivers for years.

Max Willens at Digiday lays out why in a column published May 11:

“For years, Google and Facebook wanted to have it both ways. They wanted publishers’ content to attract and retain users, but they didn’t want to pay for it. They wanted to publishers to create content and test new products they were trying, but they didn’t want them to build businesses that relied on those products.”

Willens’ article gives a great outline of how the relationship between news publishers, Facebook and Google is evolving.

This week’s thought bubble

Summer is approaching. For some publishers that typically means a seasonal slowdown in traffic. But so far 2020 hasn’t adhered to anyone’s expectations. Maybe the annual traffic slump won’t come to fruition?

What is likely, however, is the COVID traffic dip will continue.

Last month, Joshua Benton at Nieman Lab reported the bump in COVID-19 traffic to many news sites had already begun to wane by mid-March, ” the air began leaking out of that balloon,” he wrote.

According to a quick Google Trends query, interest in “coronavirus” continues to drop.

Google Trends "coronavirus"

Overview about Google Trends “coronavirus”

Many publishers still battle over visibility for coveted COVID-related keywords. Unfortunately, they may be experiencing diminishing returns.

So, what’s next? Election season.

With COVID fatigue setting in, the (possible) annual summer slowdown creeping ever closer and many publishers already feeling the tight squeeze of dwindling advertising revenue, the next few weeks will set the tone for newsrooms as they retool for the upcoming presidential election and prepare for another potential outbreak of COVID this fall.



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