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Building An Integrated Search Strategy

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Building An Integrated Search Strategy

Digital transformation is here.

But is it really here for search marketers?

According to Google,

“Now is the time to reset, pivot, and think big to transform your business operations to match new digital expectations.”

Search marketers need to transform.

Looking at all your audiences and connecting them to relevant search engines – not just Google – truly allows digital marketers to transform.

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Every search engine is different; in results, modes of search, and keyword intent (i.e., what keywords we use on each search engine varies).

It is not possible to duplicate what you are doing on Google and think it will work on YouTube and/or Amazon (or any other search engine for that matter).

As you begin your integrated search strategy, looking at one search engine can help you start to think about the others.

Generally speaking, we use:

  • Google to find.
  • Amazon to buy.
  • YouTube to watch.

When it comes to integrated search strategies, let’s begin by identifying what our focus engine/s are.

Identify Your Core Focus Areas Based On Your Audience And Analyze What The Search Engine Displays

Amazon is all about products.

Get to know your product performance. For brands, this isn’t just looking at Brand Analytics via Amazon Seller Central.

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Here are the core and secondary focus of the ‘big three’ search engines:

Search engine Core focus Secondary focus
Amazon
Google
  • Category
  • Product pages
  • SERP Features
YouTube

Review your Amazon performance and visibility (i.e., how well you rank) on Google. This will help you start to build out your keyword strategy.

You can do this by looking at which keywords Google ranks Amazon for.

Are any of these URLs your Amazon products? Do any of these keywords have an Amazon “double bubble”?

This might be a stronger indication that that keyword has high commercial intent. So much so that Google ranks Amazon more than once.

Amazon double bubbles are even more important on Google when they occur in higher-ranked positions.

Equally, if you see YouTube ranking, predominantly, on Google (e.g. displaying YouTube timestamps), this may be an indication that these keywords are more video-platform friendly.

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Keep an eye on YouTube ranking for a traditional result too. It’s not always about timestamps.

When you see the usual diverse Google layout, one with lots of different search engine results page (SERP) features, this would be an indication that that keyword requires a Google platform focus.

Image from author, January 2023

Since we are talking about integrated search, let’s not just look at Google.

Google is a competitor of many search engines, including YouTube. (Even though they are part of the same company, Alphabet.)

According to eMarketer:

“Amazon’s first-party data on consumer shopping and purchase habits offer it an advantage over the more general online behavioral data that Facebook and Google provide.”

This is why Google has created things like Google Shopping and Google Jobs to fend off other large search engines like Amazon, Indeed, or Glassdoor, becoming the most dominant.

Each engine has very unique data, search behavior, and results. Every engine that your audience uses, needs its own strategy.

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Overreliance and underinvestment in looking at each search engine’s data will limit your ability to create an integrated search strategy.

On-site search is beneficial.

On-Site Search (OSS)

Since the interface (and the functions of that interface) impact our search behavior, your top internal site search keywords (i.e., what keywords your website users are using within your own search bar) within your website will never fully align with what you see in Google Search Console, for example.

It is, however, a good idea to keep monitoring your internal site searches to continue to evolve your keyword strategy. There are some nuggets in there to help you develop what content you write about.

Internal site search, a form of on-site search (OSS), is powerful because it is based on real user behavior data.

Whenever you can, look at OSS by search engine.

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Disclaimer: I work for Similarweb. The company I work for has features using OSS.

Let’s take the product “air conditioner” as an example.

On Google, we search for a wide range of keywords, but most of these are branded keywords, for example, “LG air conditioner” or “Mitsubishi air conditioner”. Overall, these keywords are broad and less specific.

On Amazon, we are more specific and tend to use more non-branded keywords – for example, “portable air conditioner” or “sliding window air conditioner.”

On YouTube, we are interested in both inspirational content at the pre-sale stage (e.g. “best portable air conditioner”), as well as post-sale stage (e.g. “mini split air conditioner installation”).

Integrated search strategy across Amazon, Google and YouTubeImage from author, January 2023

Any business that ranks on Google and produces videos needs to start creating separate Google and YouTube strategies. Retailers also need to do this for Amazon.

Let’s take a look at how keyword research compares across sites.

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Google keyword research:

Keyword Generator to build out your Google keyword strategyScreenshot by author, January 2023

YouTube keyword research:

Keyword Generator to build out your YouTube keyword strategyScreenshot by author, January 2023
Keyword Generator to build out your Amazon keyword strategyScreenshot by author, January 2023

Buyer’s Journey

Traditionally, and far before digital acceleration was a thing, we used to group keywords by “informational,” “navigational,” and “transactional.”

These categories are outdated for integrated search, as the groupings do not easily align with search engines.

Group your keywords into these stages to get a better alignment with the buyer’s journey and core search engine:

Buyer’s journey phase  Core search engine Secondary search engine  Keyword example
Awareness Google Amazon and YouTube “Paper”
Consideration Amazon, Google, and YouTube “Printer paper”
Decision Amazon Google “A4 printer paper”
Inspiration YouTube Amazon and YouTube “How to make a paper airplane”

Awareness

  • Core search engine: Google (sometimes Amazon and YouTube).
  • Keyword example: “Paper”.

Consideration

  • Core search engines: Amazon, Google, and YouTube.
  • Keyword example: “Printer paper”.

Decision

  • Core search engine: Amazon (sometimes Google).
  • Keyword example: “A4 printer paper”.

Inspiration

  • Core search engine: YouTube (sometimes Amazon and YouTube).
  • Keyword example: “How to make an airplane out of printer paper”.

Benefits Of The Buyer’s Journey

Easier alignment to search engines and better performance insights.

Let’s take Google SERP features, for example. Are there more Instant Answers for awareness keywords compared to decision keywords?

SERP features help develop your Google strategy and digital assets on Google. Keywords with videos SERPs should not direct your YouTube strategy.

The buyer’s journey helps you to start building an integrated search strategy across the big three search engines of Amazon, Google, and YouTube.

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If you have low SEO resources restricting you from focusing on this, try to set aside 30 minutes a week so you can slowly start to categorize keywords for your most important business unit.

Over the following weeks, you will start to gain valuable insights into an important line of business.

This will help you automatically get attention from other stakeholders internally, which will help you make a business case to do more SEO activities.

This is SEO evangelism at its best: engaging internal stakeholders.

The buyer’s journey is much easier to understand for non-digital audiences compared to a specific search engine’s ranking factors.

E-A-T Content Is Required For Every Search Engine Strategy, But Some Less Than Others

If you need a rundown (or refresher) on E-A-T, the SEJ guide explains it beautifully. Read it here: What Exactly Is E-A-T & Why Does It Matter to Google?

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Now, let’s look at E-A-T (expertise, authority, and trustworthiness) from an integrated search perspective.

Google places more emphasis on E-A-T compared to Amazon and YouTube.

Amazon uses E-A-T the least, as it’s still playing catchup on improving its content-specific algorithms.

But since content exists on all three search engines, and to follow best practices, we need to think about E-A-T for all three search engines.

Do not use generic product descriptions on Amazon. If you are reselling, do not copy content from external sources, including from the supplier if you are reselling.

Be reactive on Amazon to user-generated content, in particular to reviews and questions/answers you receive.

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Unlike Google and YouTube, you can’t send a piece of consumed text or video back. So keep an eye on order defect rates, stock levels, price, and conversion trends.

On Amazon and Google, keep an eye on reviews; authentic, specialist reviews are important.

As mentioned earlier, Google is the most advanced algorithmically when it comes to E-A-T. But really, E-A-T principles are like university essays.

Key questions to ask:

  • Is the content unique? If so, to what extent vs. what else we have seen (in the case of search engines indexed)?
  • Who else published about the topic? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How does this domain compare in relation to this?
  • What research has been conducted? Are there any references and to which resources/author profiles?
  • What questions were addressed? What are missing questions/angles?
  • What methods and formats were used?
  • What were the key points?

YouTube, like Amazon, factors more real-life metrics into its algorithm. In the case of Amazon, it’s defect rates and stock levels. On YouTube, it’s views, likes, gaining authentic subscribers, and comments.

Shareability is important to all three search engines but more important to Google and YouTube.

Google, for the most part, uses backlinks to monitor shareability.

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YouTube may also use backlinks but video shares are more important. Make sure you enable video sharing under options/settings. Engagement is key for YouTube.

How Can I Build An Integrated Search Strategy?

Identify who your audience is, and what their core focus is.

If it’s to target younger audiences who consume video, your keyword strategy needs to be different than just targeting video consumers.

If your company is currently only doing SEO, review Amazon and YouTube performance on Google. This is the easiest way to start getting teams to think and get them to understand that each engine is different.

Understanding Amazon performance on Google at a keyword level, can add another dimension to keyword intent.

Categorize your keywords into the four stages of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, decision, and inspiration. This will help you align your keywords by search engine, too.

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Keyword grouping of the buyer’s journey will also add another interesting layer to your understanding of SERP features.

E-A-T your content on every search engine you operate in. Some engines have less emphasis, but remember every engine is getting more sophisticated, some at a slower rate than others.

Stay ahead of the game.

More resources:


Featured Image: Costello77/Shutterstock



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WordPress Releases A Performance Plugin For “Near-Instant Load Times”

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WordPress speculative loading plugin

WordPress released an official plugin that adds support for a cutting edge technology called speculative loading that can help boost site performance and improve the user experience for site visitors.

Speculative Loading

Rendering means constructing the entire webpage so that it instantly displays (rendering). When your browser downloads the HTML, images, and other resources and puts it together into a webpage, that’s rendering. Prerendering is putting that webpage together (rendering it) in the background.

What this plugin does is to enable the browser to prerender the entire webpage that a user might navigate to next. The plugin does that by anticipating which webpage the user might navigate to based on where they are hovering.

Chrome lists a preference for only prerendering when there is an at least 80% probability of a user navigating to another webpage. The official Chrome support page for prerendering explains:

“Pages should only be prerendered when there is a high probability the page will be loaded by the user. This is why the Chrome address bar prerendering options only happen when there is such a high probability (greater than 80% of the time).

There is also a caveat in that same developer page that prerendering may not happen based on user settings, memory usage and other scenarios (more details below about how analytics handles prerendering).

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The Speculative Loading API solves a problem that previous solutions could not because in the past they were simply prefetching resources like JavaScript and CSS but not actually prerendering the entire webpage.

The official WordPress announcement explains it like this:

Introducing the Speculation Rules API
The Speculation Rules API is a new web API that solves the above problems. It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation. This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them.”

The official WordPress page about this new functionality describes it:

“The Speculation Rules API is a new web API… It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation.

This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them. Also, with the Speculation Rules API, “prerender” actually means to prerender the entire page, including running JavaScript. This can lead to near-instant load times once the user clicks on the link as the page would have most likely already been loaded in its entirety. However that is only one of the possible configurations.”

The new WordPress plugin adds support for the Speculation Rules API. The Mozilla developer pages, a great resource for HTML technical understanding describes it like this:

“The Speculation Rules API is designed to improve performance for future navigations. It targets document URLs rather than specific resource files, and so makes sense for multi-page applications (MPAs) rather than single-page applications (SPAs).

The Speculation Rules API provides an alternative to the widely-available <link rel=”prefetch”> feature and is designed to supersede the Chrome-only deprecated <link rel=”prerender”> feature. It provides many improvements over these technologies, along with a more expressive, configurable syntax for specifying which documents should be prefetched or prerendered.”

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See also: Are Websites Getting Faster? New Data Reveals Mixed Results

Performance Lab Plugin

The new plugin was developed by the official WordPress performance team which occasionally rolls out new plugins for users to test ahead of possible inclusion into the actual WordPress core. So it’s a good opportunity to be first to try out new performance technologies.

The new WordPress plugin is by default set to prerender “WordPress frontend URLs” which are pages, posts, and archive pages. How it works can be fine-tuned under the settings:

Settings > Reading > Speculative Loading

Browser Compatibility

The Speculative API is supported by Chrome 108 however the specific rules used by the new plugin require Chrome 121 or higher. Chrome 121 was released in early 2024.

Browsers that do not support will simply ignore the plugin and will have no effect on the user experience.

Check out the new Speculative Loading WordPress plugin developed by the official core WordPress performance team.

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How Analytics Handles Prerendering

A WordPress developer commented with a question asking how Analytics would handle prerendering and someone else answered that it’s up to the Analytics provider to detect a prerender and not count it as a page load or site visit.

Fortunately both Google Analytics and Google Publisher Tags (GPT) both are able to handle prerenders. The Chrome developers support page has a note about how analytics handles prerendering:

“Google Analytics handles prerender by delaying until activation by default as of September 2023, and Google Publisher Tag (GPT) made a similar change to delay triggering advertisements until activation as of November 2023.”

Possible Conflict With Ad Blocker Extensions

There are a couple things to be aware of about this plugin, aside from the fact that it’s an experimental feature that requires Chrome 121 or higher.

A comment by a WordPress plugin developer that this feature may not work with browsers that are using the uBlock Origin ad blocking browser extension.

Download the plugin:
Speculative Loading Plugin by the WordPress Performance Team

Read the announcement at WordPress
Speculative Loading in WordPress

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See also: WordPress, Wix & Squarespace Show Best CWV Rate Of Improvement

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

Whether you are new to paid media or reevaluating your efforts, it’s critical to review your performance and best practices for your overall PPC marketing program, accounts, and campaigns.

Revisiting your paid media plan is an opportunity to ensure your strategy aligns with your current goals.

Reviewing best practices for pay-per-click is also a great way to keep up with trends and improve performance with newly released ad technologies.

As you review, you’ll find new strategies and features to incorporate into your paid search program, too.

Here are 10 PPC best practices to help you adjust and plan for the months ahead.

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1. Goals

When planning, it is best practice to define goals for the overall marketing program, ad platforms, and at the campaign level.

Defining primary and secondary goals guides the entire PPC program. For example, your primary conversion may be to generate leads from your ads.

You’ll also want to look at secondary goals, such as brand awareness that is higher in the sales funnel and can drive interest to ultimately get the sales lead-in.

2. Budget Review & Optimization

Some advertisers get stuck in a rut and forget to review and reevaluate the distribution of their paid media budgets.

To best utilize budgets, consider the following:

  • Reconcile your planned vs. spend for each account or campaign on a regular basis. Depending on the budget size, monthly, quarterly, or semiannually will work as long as you can hit budget numbers.
  • Determine if there are any campaigns that should be eliminated at this time to free up the budget for other campaigns.
  • Is there additional traffic available to capture and grow results for successful campaigns? The ad platforms often include a tool that will provide an estimated daily budget with clicks and costs. This is just an estimate to show more click potential if you are interested.
  • If other paid media channels perform mediocrely, does it make sense to shift those budgets to another?
  • For the overall paid search and paid social budget, can your company invest more in the positive campaign results?

3. Consider New Ad Platforms

If you can shift or increase your budgets, why not test out a new ad platform? Knowing your audience and where they spend time online will help inform your decision when choosing ad platforms.

Go beyond your comfort zone in Google, Microsoft, and Meta Ads.

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Here are a few other advertising platforms to consider testing:

  • LinkedIn: Most appropriate for professional and business targeting. LinkedIn audiences can also be reached through Microsoft Ads.
  • TikTok: Younger Gen Z audience (16 to 24), video.
  • Pinterest: Products, services, and consumer goods with a female-focused target.
  • Snapchat: Younger demographic (13 to 35), video ads, app installs, filters, lenses.

Need more detailed information and even more ideas? Read more about the 5 Best Google Ads Alternatives.

4. Top Topics in Google Ads & Microsoft Ads

Recently, trends in search and social ad platforms have presented opportunities to connect with prospects more precisely, creatively, and effectively.

Don’t overlook newer targeting and campaign types you may not have tried yet.

  • Video: Incorporating video into your PPC accounts takes some planning for the goals, ad creative, targeting, and ad types. There is a lot of opportunity here as you can simply include video in responsive display ads or get in-depth in YouTube targeting.
  • Performance Max: This automated campaign type serves across all of Google’s ad inventory. Microsoft Ads recently released PMAX so you can plan for consistency in campaign types across platforms. Do you want to allocate budget to PMax campaigns? Learn more about how PMax compares to search.
  • Automation: While AI can’t replace human strategy and creativity, it can help manage your campaigns more easily. During planning, identify which elements you want to automate, such as automatically created assets and/or how to successfully guide the AI in the Performance Max campaigns.

While exploring new features, check out some hidden PPC features you probably don’t know about.

5. Revisit Keywords

The role of keywords has evolved over the past several years with match types being less precise and loosening up to consider searcher intent.

For example, [exact match] keywords previously would literally match with the exact keyword search query. Now, ads can be triggered by search queries with the same meaning or intent.

A great planning exercise is to lay out keyword groups and evaluate if they are still accurately representing your brand and product/service.

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Review search term queries triggering ads to discover trends and behavior you may not have considered. It’s possible this has impacted performance and conversions over time.

Critical to your strategy:

  • Review the current keyword rules and determine if this may impact your account in terms of close variants or shifts in traffic volume.
  • Brush up on how keywords work in each platform because the differences really matter!
  • Review search term reports more frequently for irrelevant keywords that may pop up from match type changes. Incorporate these into match type changes or negative keywords lists as appropriate.

6. Revisit Your Audiences

Review the audiences you selected in the past, especially given so many campaign types that are intent-driven.

Automated features that expand your audience could be helpful, but keep an eye out for performance metrics and behavior on-site post-click.

Remember, an audience is simply a list of users who are grouped together by interests or behavior online.

Therefore, there are unlimited ways to mix and match those audiences and target per the sales funnel.

Here are a few opportunities to explore and test:

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  • LinkedIn user targeting: Besides LinkedIn, this can be found exclusively in Microsoft Ads.
  • Detailed Demographics: Marital status, parental status, home ownership, education, household income.
  • In-market and custom intent: Searches and online behavior signaling buying cues.
  • Remarketing: Advertisers website visitors, interactions with ads, and video/ YouTube.

Note: This varies per the campaign type and seems to be updated frequently, so make this a regular check-point in your campaign management for all platforms.

7. Organize Data Sources

You will likely be running campaigns on different platforms with combinations of search, display, video, etc.

Looking back at your goals, what is the important data, and which platforms will you use to review and report? Can you get the majority of data in one analytics platform to compare and share?

Millions of companies use Google Analytics, which is a good option for centralized viewing of advertising performance, website behavior, and conversions.

8. Reevaluate How You Report

Have you been using the same performance report for years?

It’s time to reevaluate your essential PPC key metrics and replace or add that data to your reports.

There are two great resources to kick off this exercise:

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Your objectives in reevaluating the reporting are:

  • Are we still using this data? Is it still relevant?
  • Is the data we are viewing actionable?
  • What new metrics should we consider adding we haven’t thought about?
  • How often do we need to see this data?
  • Do the stakeholders receiving the report understand what they are looking at (aka data visualization)?

Adding new data should be purposeful, actionable, and helpful in making decisions for the marketing plan. It’s also helpful to decide what type of data is good to see as “deep dives” as needed.

9. Consider Using Scripts

The current ad platforms have plenty of AI recommendations and automated rules, and there is no shortage of third-party tools that can help with optimizations.

Scripts is another method for advertisers with large accounts or some scripting skills to automate report generation and repetitive tasks in their Google Ads accounts.

Navigating the world of scripts can seem overwhelming, but a good place to start is a post here on Search Engine Journal that provides use cases and resources to get started with scripts.

Luckily, you don’t need a Ph.D. in computer science — there are plenty of resources online with free or templated scripts.

10. Seek Collaboration

Another effective planning tactic is to seek out friendly resources and second opinions.

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Much of the skill and science of PPC management is unique to the individual or agency, so there is no shortage of ideas to share between you.

You can visit the Paid Search Association, a resource for paid ad managers worldwide, to make new connections and find industry events.

Preparing For Paid Media Success

Strategies should be based on clear and measurable business goals. Then, you can evaluate the current status of your campaigns based on those new targets.

Your paid media strategy should also be built with an eye for both past performance and future opportunities. Look backward and reevaluate your existing assumptions and systems while investigating new platforms, topics, audiences, and technologies.

Also, stay current with trends and keep learning. Check out ebooks, social media experts, and industry publications for resources and motivational tips.

More resources: 

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Google Limits News Links In California Over Proposed ‘Link Tax’ Law

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A brown cardboard price tag with a twine string and a black dollar sign symbol, influenced by the Link Tax Law, set against a dark gray background.

Google announced that it plans to reduce access to California news websites for a portion of users in the state.

The decision comes as Google prepares for the potential passage of the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), a bill requiring online platforms like Google to pay news publishers for linking to their content.

What Is The California Journalism Preservation Act?

The CJPA, introduced in the California State Legislature, aims to support local journalism by creating what Google refers to as a “link tax.”

If passed, the Act would force companies like Google to pay media outlets when sending readers to news articles.

However, Google believes this approach needs to be revised and could harm rather than help the news industry.

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Jaffer Zaidi, Google’s VP of Global News Partnerships, stated in a blog post:

“It would favor media conglomerates and hedge funds—who’ve been lobbying for this bill—and could use funds from CJPA to continue to buy up local California newspapers, strip them of journalists, and create more ghost papers that operate with a skeleton crew to produce only low-cost, and often low-quality, content.”

Google’s Response

To assess the potential impact of the CJPA on its services, Google is running a test with a percentage of California users.

During this test, Google will remove links to California news websites that the proposed legislation could cover.

Zaidi states:

“To prepare for possible CJPA implications, we are beginning a short-term test for a small percentage of California users. The testing process involves removing links to California news websites, potentially covered by CJPA, to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience.”

Google Claims Only 2% of Search Queries Are News-Related

Zaidi highlighted peoples’ changing news consumption habits and its effect on Google search queries (emphasis mine):

“It’s well known that people are getting news from sources like short-form videos, topical newsletters, social media, and curated podcasts, and many are avoiding the news entirely. In line with those trends, just 2% of queries on Google Search are news-related.”

Despite the low percentage of news queries, Google wants to continue helping news publishers gain visibility on its platforms.

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However, the “CJPA as currently constructed would end these investments,” Zaidi says.

A Call For A Different Approach

In its current form, Google maintains that the CJPA undermines news in California and could leave all parties worse off.

The company urges lawmakers to consider alternative approaches supporting the news industry without harming smaller local outlets.

Google argues that, over the past two decades, it’s done plenty to help news publishers innovate:

“We’ve rolled out Google News Showcase, which operates in 26 countries, including the U.S., and has more than 2,500 participating publications. Through the Google News Initiative we’ve partnered with more than 7,000 news publishers around the world, including 200 news organizations and 6,000 journalists in California alone.”

Zaidi suggested that a healthy news industry in California requires support from the state government and a broad base of private companies.

As the legislative process continues, Google is willing to cooperate with California publishers and lawmakers to explore alternative paths that would allow it to continue linking to news.

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