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How To Perform A SEO SWOT Analysis

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How To Perform A SEO SWOT Analysis

For most organizations, implementing an effective SEO (search engine optimization) strategy involves collecting and analyzing significant amounts of keywords, content, analytics, and competitive data from various sources.

SEO professionals then need to use this data to prioritize keyword, content, structural, and/or linking tasks to address issues or build on existing organic search authority.

One familiar method of prioritization, which lends itself well to helping focus attention and often maximize limited SEO and marketing resources, is the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) framework.

A SWOT, by definition, is geared to help identify items with the biggest potential impact on growth – or the most dangerous threats.

The following breakdown of organizational SEO priorities assumes keyword research has already been done and is being used for the website, SERP (Search Engine Results Page), and competitive data, which will be the foundation of an effective SWOT.

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Keyword research alone is often deserving of its own SWOT process.

Strengths

One of the primary factors search engines use in determining your organic search visibility is an organization’s relative strength and authority for a topical group of keywords.

Identifying those keywords for which the organization already has some authority – or as some like to call “momentum” in the eyes of the search engines – is an excellent place to begin focusing your attention.

Authority is generally difficult to come by and takes time to establish, so why not build on what you already have.

Your first question should be, “Which pieces of content do I have that rank well (let’s say in the top 20 results) in the search engines for my primary keyword groups?”

Recognizing where you have existing strength can be leveraged in three ways:

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  1. Look for opportunities to link out from or to your strongest pieces of content. This can have the dual effect of reinforcing your original piece of content by linking to more comprehensive answers to your audiences’ questions and borrowing from the authority of the strongest piece.
  2. Perform full-page keyword, technical, and link audits on all webpages that rank between positions five and 20 to see where any improvements can be made to move them higher in the SERPs. This may mean adjusting title tags, headings, or updating links to more current or relevant sources.
  3. Determine whether the “right” landing pages rank for the keywords you want to be found for. While it may seem great to have your homepage rank for several of your keywords, this is not optimal.

Searchers who land on your homepage looking for something specific will have to spend more time clicking or searching again to find the exact answer to their question.

Identify the pages you have that provide answers, and focus on having them usurp the position currently maintained by the homepage.

If you determine such pages don’t exist, then it’s time to create them.

Be sure to also pay attention to the types and characteristics of your strongest content pieces as signals to what content to create moving forward.

For example, if you have videos ranking well on Google and/or YouTube, by all means, create more videos.

If long-form blog posts dominate the top of the search results for your primary keywords, this is your cue to publish and share more of the same.

Weaknesses

We all have our weaknesses; when it comes to SEO, recognizing and admitting them early on can save us a great deal of effort, time, money, and lost business.

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Keywords And Content

While there are undoubtedly keyword groups we feel we must be found for, it’s important to let go of those which will require too much time and/or effort to establish authority for.

Generally, a quick review of the search engine results will reveal keywords that are out of reach based on your competitors’ size, age, reputation, and quality of content.

In this case, looking at the more specific long-tail and intent-driven keyword alternatives may be necessary or considering other avenues (including paid) to generate visibility, traffic, and conversions.

Sometimes, the best strategy is to employ complementary paid search tactics until you can establish organic search authority.

Technical Audit

Another area of weakness, which you can readily control more, maybe the quality of your own website and content from a technical/structural, keyword relevance, or depth perspective.

You can begin identifying areas of weakness by conducting an SEO audit.

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There are several excellent free and paid tools available, including Google Lighthouse and Search Console (specifically the Core Web Vitals Report and Mobile-Friendly Test), which will provide a prioritized list of issues and/or errors found in the title and heading tags, internal and external links, website code, keyword usage/density, and a myriad of mobile-friendly factors.

Screenshot of Lighthouse in Chrome Dev Tools, July 2022

As noted above, you should start by focusing on and fixing any issues found on those pages for which you already have some authority based on search engine results.

Optimizing these pages can only help improve their chances of moving up the SERPs.

You can move on to other priority web pages based on website analytics data or strategic importance.

Backlinks

Organically obtained, relevant, quality backlinks (aka inbound links) are still a search engine ranking factor as they speak to, and can enhance, the authority of the site to which they link.

As with site auditing, many good third-party backlink tools can reveal where you maintain backlinks. These are particularly useful for looking at the backlink sources of your strongest-known competitors.

Where appropriate, you may want to reach out to obtain links from the same relevant sources to leverage their authority.

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Opportunities

In SEO, opportunities abound for those who know how, where, and who take the time to look.

SEO is really about moving from one opportunity to the next.

Once optimization is deemed successful for one group of keywords or pieces of content, it’s time to move to the next topic upon which authority can be established or reinforced.

Keywords And Content

Several keyword research tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, and others can discover both keyword and content opportunities or gaps based on providing your website domain, the domains of your known competitors, or a targeted list of keywords.

Most provide prioritized lists of potentially high-value keywords based on estimated monthly search volumes, organic traffic, and/or relative competition.

In other words: Which high-value keywords are your competitors ranking for which you are not?

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As with the Weaknesses above, part of this analysis should consider the level of effort required to obtain authority relative to the potential return on establishing organic visibility.

Is it a worthwhile opportunity?

Semrush Keyword Gap ToolScreenshot of Semrush Keyword Gap tool, July 2022
A more manual process for discovering keyword and content opportunities is to run a reverse website audit on competitors’ websites.

Or, spend some time simply reviewing your top competitors’ primary pages, paying particular attention to the keywords used in title tags, headings, and internal link anchor text.

These are presumably the keywords that matter most to them.

However, be careful, as this strategy assumes the competition has conducted their own keyword research and has been following SEO best practices, which may or may not always be the case.

Focusing on those competitors who rank well for your primary keywords should single out the ones who are intentionally optimizing for search.

Content Refresh

Another opportunity within a web presence is the refresh of top-performing or complementary content.

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First, scan the SERPs or a preferred keyword tool to identify older content that is ranking for target keywords or serves to support other primary content pages.

Then, review this content to see where there may be opportunities to update text, images, internal/external links, or any other components.

Perhaps there’s an opportunity to enhance the piece by creating and adding images or videos.

Finally, re-share this content via appropriate channels, and perhaps consider identifying new avenues – as a previously popular piece of content will likely perform well again.

Existing content offers an excellent opportunity to build authority, often with just a little extra effort.

Backlinks

While typically a manually intensive process, there is long-term value in seeking out backlinks.

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Ideally, you want to identify relevant, authoritative websites/domains from which high-quality inbound links can be obtained.

There are several sources you can use to start looking for inbound links:

The SERPs for your primary keywords are a natural backlink research starting point, as the websites found here are, by definition, considered “relevant” and “authoritative” by the search engines.

Of particular interest are those sites which rank ahead of yours because they presumably have higher authority upon which you can piggyback.

Look for any non-competitive backlinking opportunities such as directories, association listings, or articles and blog posts that you may be able to contribute to, get mentioned in, or comment on.

The Google Search Console Links Report is the next best resource for backlink research, as it indicates what Google recognizes as the domains linking to your content.

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Here you can validate the quality and accuracy of the links you already have, as well as determine if there are any other opportunities to obtain additional links from these same domains.

Referral sources in Google Analytics represent external sites that send you traffic but may or may not be providing an organic search boost.

Review these domains/sites regularly to see other linking opportunities.

4. As noted under Weaknesses, several third-party backlink tools can be used to identify potential backlink sources where links to your competitors can be found.

Some will even help by authority ranking and prioritizing the value of each existing and potential source, which can save significant time.

Threats

Whether done intentionally or not, there are more than a few things which can threaten organic authority in the eyes of the search engines and should be prioritized to avoid potentially damaging penalties.

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Content

The primary content threat most are familiar with is duplicate content, which, as the name suggests, is content repurposed on a website without proper attribution to the original source.

To avoid being penalized for using this type of content, you must be sure to include rel canonical tags by referencing the source content in the headers of pages containing the duplicate content.

In other words: It’s okay to have some duplicate content on a website, as long as the original source is properly identified.

Backlinks

While relevant, high-quality backlinks can help boost your authority, irrelevant, low-quality inbound links from non-reputable sites (particularly those that are part of paid link schemes) can do long-lasting harm and even get you tagged with a manual penalty.

The threat here is a potential loss of organic visibility and traffic.

Further, recovering from a manual penalty is not an easy or quick process.

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Simply put, you should never pay for backlinks and ensure any backlinks you acquire have not been purchased on your behalf by a third party, like a marketing agency.

As such, you should regularly review the Google Search Console Links report or other backlink reporting sources for questionable domains or those you don’t recognize as relevant.

Competitors

All online competitors creating their own content represent threats to your authority.

Even if you maintain strong organic visibility and traffic relative to your “known” competitors, there is always the potential for new, aggressive, or unknown competitors to come onto the scene.

Many of the aforementioned SEO tools provide competitor discovery tools to help quickly identify domains that consistently appear in the search results for your primary keywords.

Oftentimes, there may be competitors here you’ve never considered. You’ll naturally want to pay attention to these competitors and use the tactics noted above to see what you can learn from them.

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Search engines love and reward fresh, relevant content, and Google even has a freshness algorithm to identify it.

As such, you should regularly monitor the search engine results for new entrants, which may, over time, challenge your authority and position.

Of course, the best way to combat this type of threat is by continuing to publish and update your own comprehensive content, which will give the search engines less reason to question your authority.

Actioning On The SWOT

The detailed SWOT outputs will map prioritized actions to protect and/or improve online authority, visibility, and resulting traffic, leads, and revenue.

Proactive search marketers should conduct these analyses on at least a bi-annual, if not quarterly, basis, depending on how competitive the industry is and how active the competitors are.

A well-structured SWOT can provide an excellent roadmap for where, when, and how often action needs to be taken or content needs to be created and shared to boost your organization’s primary SEO goals.

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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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