Nieman Foundation at Harvard
The Information’s Jessica Lessin on how she’s scaling an already-expensive subscription product
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Sept. 17, 2009, 8 a.m.

Newspaper’s top 5 search queries are commercial brands

A very quick lesson in search engine optimization: Brent Payne, the Tribune Co.’s head of SEO, whose wisdom I wrote about last week, posted a video yesterday demonstrating a new feature in Google Webmaster Tools. In the process, he offered a brief glance at The Chicago Tribune’s dashboard on the site, pictured above. What you’re looking at are the top search queries on Google that return pages from

The Tribune is doing pretty well with its own name, its hometown president, and its hometown football team. But I was stunned to see that the top five queries are all commercial brands with no particular connection to Chicago or the Tribune. (The semi-exception is CareerBuilder, which is 30% owned by Tribune Co. but isn’t exactly linked to Chicago in the popular consciousness.)

In each case, Google is returning the Tribune’s topic page for the brand, where you get a list of articles that mention the company. (Here’s Ticketmaster, for instance.) Payne speculated that one of Google’s periodic algorithm updates might be driving the paper’s new strength with some of these keywords.

Of course, very few people who search for “craigslist” or “home depot” are looking for news coverage of those brands. The traffic those keywords are generating for the Tribune is likely accidental. But the pageviews still count, so whatever work Payne did to rank well for “bank of america” was worth it.

POSTED     Sept. 17, 2009, 8 a.m.
Show comments  
Show tags
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The Information’s Jessica Lessin on how she’s scaling an already-expensive subscription product
Going both upmarket to investors ($10,000 a year) and downmarket to students ($234 a year).
Bustle’s open-sourcing a way for news orgs to port content to AMP, Instant Articles, and Apple News
“We thought the right way to approach it was to share it as an open project so the whole industry can move forward building on something like this rather than people halfway solving the problem individually.”
The 74 is getting into Spanish-language education reporting, starting in Los Angeles
“I’m not just looking for someone who is able to interview in Spanish. I want someone who is a native Spanish speaker, who really knows this community and its needs around education.”