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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.

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  • Brent D. Payne

    Careful how you interpret the information. It may be the queries that generate the highest number of search query IMPRESSIONS. Not the highest number of search query CLICKS. Big difference. I’d never share in any fashion which queries drive our highest number of clicks to our site.

    I will stand by my statement that I feel Google has made some rather significant changes in the past month or so. What and how did it impact things? Not precisely sure but something definitely changed.

    Moreover, I agree that most people searching for Bank of America probably aren’t looking for news stories, I already have a plan in place to make the content on the page more useful to the visitors that discover it.

    Thanks again for the mention just be cautious as to what the information ACTUALLY portrays.

  • Zachary M. Seward

    Thanks, Brent. Yes, I was careful to make that distinction and link to Google’s help page where the data here is explained. I’m sure there are search terms that may not rank here but send you more traffic because they’re more relevant than commercial brands. —Zach

  • Brent D. Payne

    Yep! But good find on the top impressions. ;-)

  • Joe Murphy

    Also worth noting: The Tribune isn’t in the top-10 results for people searching for Chicago Bears, the Trib’s hometown team.

  • Joshua Benton

    Yeah, that is interesting, Joe. 20 years ago, there would have been no doubt what the best source of information on the Bears is. But now here’s the Google top 10:

    1. The Bears’ own site
    2. The team’s 2009 schedule, from their own site
    3. The team’s Wikipedia page
    4. The team page on
    5. The team page on ESPN
    6. A recent ESPN news story about QB Jay Cutler
    7. The team page on Yahoo Sports
    8. Bear Report, a site about the team
    9. A fan-produced YouTube video about the 2006 season
    10. The team page on CBS Sports

  • Brent D. Payne

    Sounds like I need to make a few changes to get the Chicago Bears dialed in. Let me see what I can do.