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What Is A Conversion Funnel? Optimize Your Customer Journey

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What Is A Conversion Funnel? Optimize Your Customer Journey

Conversion funnels are essential for any business looking to maximize sales and drive customer engagement.

By analyzing each step of the funnel, companies can identify opportunities to optimize their efforts and convert more leads into lifelong customers.

Customers take a unique journey through your company conversion funnel as they make their buying decision. Therefore, you must capture their attention, form trusting connections, and motivate them to move forward.

Mastering the customer journey is essential to success in any business – especially online – and conversion funnels are an important tool.

What Is A Conversion Funnel

As a marketer or salesperson, you are helping people along their journey to becoming customers.

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Conversion funnels, sometimes known as sales funnels, provide a practical framework for this process by allowing potential buyers to progress through different steps until they take the desired action: making a transaction or purchase.

A good conversion funnel gives insight into where your visitors and target audience come from, their actions while on your site, and what happens when they convert.

You can use this information to optimize your marketing efforts and increase conversions. To learn more about target audiences and how to find them, you can read this article.

Marketers can use conversion funnels to track the path that leads consumers from initial interest to final purchase.

Understanding the clear progression along the digital customer journey allows you to identify opportunities to influence each step.

Creating funnels helps plan out campaigns.

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For example, a retailer might want to know whether a particular ad campaign or an organic search led to increased traffic or purchases. With a conversion funnel, marketers can see how many people arrived via different online channels, what steps they took online, and ultimately what happened when they converted.

The Digital Customer Journey

Every customer’s journey with a company is unique.

From the moment they become aware of your brand up until the successful completion of their goal, they take numerous steps – each requiring tailored approaches from internal perspectives for maximum success.

Understanding and optimizing these customers’ journeys allow you to provide an experience that could lead them back, time after time.

More customer journeys are happening online, and 80% of consumers consider the experience as important as products and services. As a result, you must understand consumer behavior online and reward consumers with the right digital experiences.

In particular, the days of linear journeys with sequential touchpoints (from A to B) are over for digital.

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Instead, as consumer behavior changes, journeys are often fragmented across different online channels and phases of the buyer’s journey.

Conversion Funnel Models And Analysis

There are many types of conversion funnel models organizations use. They all depend on the type of business and the type of customer.

They can also vary, as marketing and sales sometimes have slightly different models.

The two main types I will explain today are the AIDA model and the Top, Middle, and Bottom (TOFU) model – both are similar.

Marketers mainly use AIDA, and salespeople often use TOFU. However, they are not mutually exclusive.

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In this funnel, consumers pass four distinct checkpoints as they prepare to purchase.

Staying in tune with the types of searches and interests that drive them at each step paves the way for meaningful engagements along their path.

In addition, you can form lasting relationships leading up to an eventual sale by crafting content tailored to address customer needs.

Awareness

The first step in any type of conversion funnel is to pull visitors in. This could mean getting someone’s attention, whether it is through SEO, paid ads, or social media posts.

Once you start attracting potential customers, you want to keep them engaged. You might use email marketing campaigns, popups, or even retargeting ads to encourage them to take the next step.

To keep these visitors engaged, informative and comprehensive content is ideal. Articles that explore the topic in-depth, as well as infographics or videos, can help capture their attention for longer periods.

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SEO is a great way to discover intent-based queries to help plan digital content that raises awareness and is discoverable.

Interest

Once people are interested in your product or service, you need to convert those leads into sales. This is where things get tricky.

Depending on your business model, there are many different ways to do this.

Desire

You’re trying to convince your prospects to buy at this stage. You might offer free trials, discounts, or special promotions. Or, you might try to sell directly to them.

Either way, once you’ve convinced them to buy something, you need to move them along the path toward making a purchase.

Action

Finally, you need to close the sale. Whether you’re selling physical goods or digital downloads, this is the part where you collect payment and ship out the item.

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Suppose you’re selling a subscription plan; you probably send reminders to remind buyers to renew. And, if you offer software as a service, you will likely provide support via phone or chat.

Top, Middle, And Bottom Conversion Funnel – TOFU, MOFU, BOFU

A more simplified version, often used by sales and marketing when tracking and reporting, is the top, middle, and bottom conversion funnel.

Top Of Funnel (TOFU): Awareness

This includes utilizing and optimizing digital assets such as:

  • Blog posts.
  • Webinars.
  • Videos.
  • Social media.
  • Research.
  • Ebooks.

Content at this part of the conversion funnel needs to be informative and helpful to make new prospects aware of your products or services.

Middle Of Funnel (MOFU): Engage And Evaluate

This includes utilizing and optimizing:

  • Case studies.
  • Social media.
  • Paid media.
  • Email.

Content at this part of the funnel needs to be focused on engaging consumers to move them to evaluation or consideration.

Bottom Of Funnel (BOFU): Conversion

This includes utilizing and optimizing:

  • Demos.
  • Sales collateral.
  • Testimonials and validation case studies.
  • Product sheets.
  • Shopping carts (ecommerce).
  • Competitive battle cards.

Content at this part of the funnel must be focused on validating your product and services to move them from consideration to conversion.

Read More On SEJ: Here’s Your B2B Multichannel Full-Funnel Strategy In 5 Simple Steps

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Optimizing Content For Conversion And The Customer Journey

A conversion is a CTA that invites your prospect to give you some information so that you can deepen engagement with them on a 1:1 basis and progress further in the sales process.

Awareness – Top Of Funnel

Many marketers still measure the effectiveness of content based on its ability to drive website traffic.

However, the best way to measure the success of your content is based on conversion.

Therefore, content needs to drive some form of conversion along the buyers’ journey.

  • If you want to maximize conversions, focus your efforts on the areas already driving traffic. Then, create content that can truly capture their attention and make a lasting impression.
  • Curate content tailored specifically to your target audiences’ interests rather than going for quantity over quality with generic posts.
  • Leverage metrics beyond likes and views to gauge the effectiveness of your content. Monitor comments, shares, time spent on site, and pages visited for an in-depth look at how ultimately engaged audiences are with what you have shared.

Engagement And Evaluation – Middle Of Funnel

Having gained your audience’s focus, the challenge now is to retain it.

Seize this opportunity and make an impact. Despite creating content that resonates with readers, many businesses still struggle to achieve their desired conversions.

Generating, engaging copy is critical; however, taking it a step further and focusing on crafting content designed specifically helpful for the user helps deliver tangible results.

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Taking action is not always easy, especially when there are three significant roadblocks.

  • People may not have a need for your product or service just yet.
  • Finances could be an issue as well.
  • Trust needs to be earned before any commitment is made.

A conversion path, no matter how carefully designed, is doomed to failure without helpful indicators along the way.

These markers could include information such as what occurs once a customer takes action or when they can receive their initial communication from you – confirmation emails, newsletters with exclusive offers, or limited stock in terms of urgency.

To create a sense of urgency and motivate people to act fast:

  • Consider special discounts or limited-time offers.
  • Ensure potential customers trust your product by leveraging reviews from credible third parties and testimonials on how it exceeds the competition.
  • Complement this with an honest guarantee that puts their minds at ease.

Conversion – Bottom Of Funnel

At the last step of their journey, this is when customers make a critical decision: to convert or not.

Your BOFU strategies give them that extra nudge they need to become long-term devotees of your brand by delivering tailored messaging based on what resonates with each prospect’s needs and interests.

Capture their attention one final time – use persuasive arguments as clear incentives for why they should choose you over competitors today.

  • Give your visitors a chance to get a first-hand experience of what you offer with an opportunity for a free trial or demo.
  • Ensure you provide how-to guides to ensure that prospects are well-equipped with all of the necessary information and advice to make a purchase decision.
  • Showcase your customers’ success and allow them to do the talking – customer reviews and testimonies are invaluable assets that go a long way in building trust through to close.

Read More On SEJ

Search The Customer Journey And Conversion Funnel

From providing insights into what consumers are looking for and understanding intent for content, SEO helps at all stages of the buyers’ journey.

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To effectively reach and engage modern customers, brands must recognize the complexity of consumer intent.

This widens search beyond a marketing tactic to a broad discipline that encompasses funnel optimization and customer experience management,  enabling a more robust connection between a company and consumer – and conversion.

More resources: 


Featured Image: Black Salmon/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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