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SEO best practice: How to write effective title tags in 2022

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Six data-driven SEO strategies that optimize conversion rates

30-second summary:

  • Keep the title concise with meaningful rather than fluffy word (5 to 12 words)
  • High-priority words should be placed at the start of the title which should be less than 70 characters in length
  • Do not use any single word more than twice
  • Use keyword phrases in the precise way they are searched for, and have been analyzed using a keyword analysis tool. Word order is important and the research only applies to the exact phrase. Check the autocomplete tool to check that the title is one recommended as a suggestion
  • Don’t use multiple phrases – research a longtail phrase that includes 3-5 keywords you are targeting
  • Write a keyword-rich title tag that has minimum stop words, but is sensible and appealing to human. You need to make your title very attractive to your users so they will click on it
  • Your title should call for a response and satisfy exactly what the searcher is looking for (i.e. to buy something, learn something, fix something, avoid something, hire something…). Remember this is your hook and bait when fishing via the search engines!

In this article, I provide a review of title optimization I undertook for my own pages and sites and I share my findings with you.

The title element of a web page needs to be an accurate and concise description of a page’s content. A title tag tells both search engines and users what the topic of a particular page is. It is, therefore, a major item that you need to carefully develop and test prior to publishing your page.

Creating a compelling title tag will pull in more visits from the search results. Thus, it’s important to not only think about optimization and keyword usage, but the entire user experience. The title tag is a new visitor’s first interaction with your brand when they find it in a search result and should convey the most positive impression possible. Keyword usage in the title, positioning and phrasing are extremely important to rankings.

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In this article I review:

  • Things to do and consider in designing your page title
  • Things to avoid and not to do
  • The compromises and things that apply for various page types

The Title Must be Relevant

Creating a descriptive, keyword-rich title tag is important for increasing rankings in search engines. Keyword usage and placement in the title tag is clearly recognised as most important place to use appropriate keywords to achieve high rankings. However the title and the keywords have to be highly relevant to the body of the blog or article otherwise the ranking will be downgraded by Google and the user will see that they have been deceived and will leave the page without reading it. The other important aspect is that the title appears in the search results with the user’s keywords users in the search highlighted. Google’ advice for Title Tag is shown below. Incidentally, the example shows a page where variations of the word “groom” appear three times. It is definitely more than what’s needed (keyword stuffing?)

*Image via Google

Title Length

It is very important that every page utilizes the highest priority keyword phrase in its Title and that it has optimal design for the page. It must be unique, concise and edited to be rich without fluff and unnecessary useless words.

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Where to start? A good rule of thumb is to keep it simple and concise with a minimum of about 5 words but should not be longer than about 10 -12 words. Keep highly relevant to the topic and be creative to create an appealing title because apart from search engines, real people will see your title and you need to entice them to click on your summary and to read it.

Google does not have a maximum number of words that it will read in a Title – they have a maximum number of characters which is 70. According to SEMrush, limiting title tags to 70 characters is highly recommended for “effectiveness”:

Limit The Size Of Your Title Tag
The most effective title tags are around 10-70 characters long. These include spaces so keep this in mind when coming up with your Title Tags.

If it is too long, the title tag will be cut off from the display not revealing the full message.”

Also, avoid using the same word more than twice in the title. The second use may be justified if you are trying to target a slightly different keyword phrase for a multiple phrase title. Avoid Keyword Stuffing as your page or site may be penalized and its ranking downgraded.

Fewer Words in Title – Google Gives more Weight to Fewer Words

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Cutting down the total number of keywords in the title, by combining words and condensing the expression is an ideal way to increase the strength of each remaining keyword, which will boost your ranking. Include only the main relevant keywords. The fewer the number of stop words you include in the title, the extra weight Google will assign to each keywords and the more your page will rank. However, ensure that the title attractive for humans as well after leaving out the unnecessary minor words.

Choosing Keywords in Titles

Does the Order of the Keyword in a Title Matter?

The answer to this is YES!

The title tag should begin with the most relevant keyword or phrase for the content of the page (for example a page concerning long-term health insurance policies could have the title ‘Long-Term Health Insurance Policies | XYZ Insurance’). Google assigned its highest priority to the first few words that you enter in the search box. The following words get lower priority and weight. Google also gives higher priority to pages that have search terms that are adjacent to each other, that are in the same order was entered into the search query.

Position the Most Important Keywords Close to the Front of the Title Tag

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According to Moz Data, the words closer to the start of the title have higher weight and are more likely to be clicked by the use in search results. So the first couple of words at the beginning of the title have twin priorities: higher weightings by Google and extra appeal to users in the search results.

1659622600 920 SEO best practice How to write effective title tags in

Try to Predict Exactly How a User will Search for the Topic

This is very difficult but you should try to use keyword phrases in the title in the exactly the same way users will search for them. The order and positioning of the words in the title is critical. There are three ways of doing this:

  • Try various Google Searches and look closely at the titles your competitors are using.
  • Examine the autosuggestion tool that Google displays as you search. The options presented by Google are those which have featured prominently in the search result data that Google has compiled. Try various options. Many website tools will help you explore the options.
  • Use one of these keyword research tools to help you research your best keyword options. They will provide you with broad keyword reports and rely on clickstream data to provide unique click metrics.

Buyer Keywords and Filtering Keywords for Targeting Your Audience

As well as the keywords for the topic of your article or site you should include words that will target and select the group of users that will generate income on your site. This is related to longtail keyword selection as described below. The process of selection keywords is described elsewhere.

Targeting buyers via keyword choice is simply trying to predict how buyers for the products will conduct their searches. Targeting keywords for buyers is more about the quality of visitors and their likely intentions rather than quantity.

With a great landing page, using buyer keywords may provide a fabulous opportunity to make money online. Buyer keywords are phrases and words that demonstrate and select for customer who are more like to buy a certain product. Some of the obvious ones are phrases like ‘discount’, ‘cheap’, ‘buy online’ or ‘great deals for’ and there are many more that are more subtle.

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People who are intending to buy may search for ‘reviews’ first and you may want to target the buyer keyword when they are making online purchases so that is another option. Filtering keywords are action words that refine the non-buying audience you want to visit your site. This includes words such a ‘How to’, ‘Review’, ‘treatment’, ‘remedy’, ‘avoiding’, ‘prevention’. Shown in the table are some of the examples or words you can use.

SEO best practice How to write effective title tags in

For example, someone typing the phrase ‘diet plans’ in the search box is unlikely to be really a buyer, and this keyword is extremely hard to compete for. But someone looking for ‘review of the Atkins diet’ or ‘discount books for the Atkins diet’ is clearly a potential buyer or a book on this diet!

Similarly, if you have a landing page for ‘Tailor Made’ golf clubs, you would be better off using a title such as ‘Tailor Made Golf Clubs: Tailor Made Drivers and Irons’ – would be much better than ‘Golf Clubs: Tailor Made Golf Clubs’.

The Keyword Drilldown – this describes how users of the internet drilldown their keyword search terms when searching for something on the internet. For example, when a user is interested in getting information to purchase a Digital Camera, they will most likely start with that the general term “Digital Camera”. Next after viewing the search results they will refine their search to ‘Kodak Digital Camera’ or ‘Digital Camera Kodak’ and then finally targeting a specific camera model such as “Review of Kodak Model #XYZ Digital Camera.” or “Best Price for Kodak Model #XYZ Digital Camera”. Only the last search is for a buyer hungry to buy the camera.

Using Keyword Research and Niche Tools to Select a Title

Keyword analysis makes the job of choosing a title very easy. If you have used the Google Keyword Planner, you will notice that the order of the words in the phrase matters. Adding an extra word can dramatically change the results. There is a strong argument that you should use the exact phrase that yields the results you are looking for a keyword phrase as the Title. If you fiddle with it you will probably not get the expected result.

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When doing your research, it is a good idea to put the major keyword element at the front of the Title. As discussed previously, keywords that appear near the beginning of title have more weight. Likewise the Autosuggestion tool will be more predictable in sending users to keyword options directly related to the search topic.

If you are targeting multiple keyword phrases (see below) on the same web page, then you should put the major phrase first.

Compromises When Using Long tail keywords

When researching your keyword options there are merits in making the keyword phrase more specific by adding extra words so that you can compete. After choosing various options and selecting the final version using a keyword research tool, you should use the exact phrase in the Title. However, beware of adding extra terms without doing the analysis as it may dilute the ranking for the keywords.

Targeting Multiple Keyword Phrases

You may be tempted to use two or more keyword phrases in the title instead of the single one. The objective may be to bring in more traffic because more keywords are included. However, you need to be careful with this because you may decrease the ranking for your major keywords.

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It is a compromise and depends on whether your page is narrowly focused of a specific topic or a more general one. Google may also penalize the page if the added phrase is not relevant to the information on the page. The more relevant a page’s content is for one phrase, the less relevant it is the content for another. Optimizing on a second term will dilute the first, and both terms will be diluted.

Using multiple keyword phrases should only be used when your site or article covers a broad range of topics.

Things to Avoid when Designing Titles

  • Oversaturation – This occurs when the title becomes a long list of words, for example “Inbound Marketing Agency, Social Media, Blog Writing, SEM, SEO, Web Design| EMU Creative’ Google will see this as keyword stuffing and non-relevant.
  • Using Stop Words, Jargon and Useless Words – like ‘the, but, be, and, we, me, our,’ which are stop words. These words provide no value to the person making the search.
  • Fluffy and weak words should be avoided – words such as “experienced, choice, best, most, top, award, professional, winning. These words over-saturate your page titles and make your primary keyword phrase less relevant and provide lower ranking potential.

Summary – Title Tag Best Practices

Below are the key things to focus on when choosing and optimizing a Title tag:

  • Keep the title concise with meaningful rather than fluffy word (5 to 12 words).
  • High-priority words should be placed at the start of the title which should be less than 70 characters in length.
  • Do not use any single word more than twice.
  • Use keyword phrases in the precise way they are searched for, and have been analyzed using a keyword analysis tool. Word order is important and the research only applies to the exact phrase. Check the autocomplete tool to check that the title is one recommended as a suggestion.
  • Don’t use multiple phrases – research a longtail phrase that includes 3-5 keywords you are targeting.
  • Make sure your Title accurately reflect the topic of the page and is highly relevant.
  • Write a keyword-rich title tag that has minimum stop words, but is sensible and appealing to human. You need to make your title very attractive to your users so they will click on it.
  • Your title should call for a response and satisfy exactly what the searcher is looking for (i.e. to buy something, learn something, fix something, avoid something, hire something…). Remember this is your hook and bait when fishing via the search engines!
  • The title tag is unique in relation to other pages on the site.
  • Generally the company name goes at the end of the tag.


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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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