It seems like the EU is going out of its way to make Google align with what they think is the correct way to do internet search. It started when the EU asked Google to add competitors to their results whenever they promote their own search products. Then the EU continued with the Right to be Forgotten and the most recent demand with what is referred to as ‘the Google tax’, basically asking Google to pay for aggregating news results in their SERP on Google News in Spain. This is based on copyright laws.
The first reaction I had when this law was passed – and I’m sure many I wasn’t alone – was that Google would probably remove Google News from Spain, eliminating the problem. So I wasn’t surprised when it actually happened.
What did surprise me was Spain’s response: news publishers in the country are demanding their government to ‘force’ Google to return Google News Results and comply with the ‘Google tax’.
All economic, moral and logical aspects of this matter aside, I was curious to see what all the fuss is about. What do Spanish news portals have to lose now that Google News is out of the picture?
To answer this question, I looked at stats regarding the News and Media industry in Spain. I reviewed data from the past 11 months – January 2014 till November 2014, for desktop visits only.
Google News Traffic to the News and Media Industry in Spain
The News and Media industry in Spain gets around 30% search traffic, most of it from organic search:
Almost 3% of this comes from News Search:
3% doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re talking about hundreds of millions of visitors a month, it’s not such a small number. To continue this investigation, I’ve taken the search traffic stats for 5 out of the top 10 News websites in Spain, mainly those who are getting most of the organic search traffic in this category and country. For each of these sites I checked their Search traffic share, as well as their New Search traffic. The stats here are for June to November 2014, for visits coming from desktop.
Measuring the Impact of Google News on top News Websites in Spain
The first site I checked was Marca.com. This site gets just over 80 million visits a month, about 17% of it coming from Search.
The site has already suffered a decrease in organic search traffic in the past six months, as you can see in this graph:
I found that 1.52% of this traffic comes from News Search. That’s around 200K worth of visits a month.
The second site I checked was Elmundo.es. This site gets about half of the traffic Marca gets, but it’s much more dependent on search traffic – 30% of about 40 million monthly visits comes from search.
Elmundo, like Marca, has a decrease in search traffic since July 2014:
The site is also much more dependant on News Search than Marca.com, with 4.61% of traffic coming from News Search. According to my calculations, Elmundo might be losing over half a million visits a month from the removal of News Search.
The third site I checked is RTVE.es. This site gets about 16.5 million visits a month with almost 50% of its traffic coming from search.
RTEV.es, like the previous three sites I checked, showed a decrease in search traffic for the past 6 months, independent of the removal of News Search results.
Although RTVE.es is dependent mainly on search traffic, only 2.38% of it comes from News Search, which makes its potential loss of traffic close to what I found for Marca.com – around 200K visits a month.
The fourth site I checked was Elpais.com. Elpais gets about 40 million visits a month, 26% of it coming from Search.
And how was search traffic for Elpais.com in the past six month? You guessed it – showing a decrease trend:
4.69% of Elpais’s Search traffic comes from News Search. My calculations showed that Elpais.com could potentially lose nearly 600K visits a month.
The last site I checked was ABC.es. The site gets about 23 million visits a month with 48% of it coming from Search.
ABC.es also shows a decrease in Search traffic over the past six months, just as I found for the previous four news websites I’ve checked.
Out of all news sites I’ve checked, ABC.es seems like it has the most to lose by the removal of Google News in Spain, with 7.72% of its Search traffic coming from News Search, which accounts for over 800K visits a month.
Important Variables to Consider
Although the numbers look alarming for all of the sites I’ve checked, and for the industry as a whole, it’s important to remember that:
- For the past six months, all of these sites show a decrease in Search traffic that’s independent of the removal of News Search. This means that in order to really understand the impact of the loss of News Search traffic, we would need to add the existing decrease trend to the equation when examining the changes in traffic from December 16 and on.
- Although people won’t be able to access News Search Results in Spain, they will still be able to access the regular search results for the same search terms they were using before. While it’s not likely, it is possible that some of the users will find the absence of the News SERP so alarming that they’ll take a step back from their computer and refuse to click on links that are not in a news aggregated format. Yet, it’s more probable that the majority of users will simply use the regular SERP and browse through the results on that page. Sure, those sites that were ranked higher in the News SERP over the regular web SERP in Google.es will lose traffic, but it won’t be as drastic based on the numbers I’ve gathered from this industry. Let’s examine this further.
News Consumer Behavior
To put some data behind my hypothesis regarding user behavior when they search for news in Spain, I took a look on the domain – news.google.es. Going over the domain’s traffic distribution, I found about 65% of traffic comes from referrals:
When I looked at the referrals, I found what I expected – most of the traffic came from Google.es which basically means people went to Google.es, searched for something, then clicked on ‘News’ in the top menu, which led them to news.google.es:
From this data I can safely say that at least 65% of the traffic that went to Google News in Spain will simply be redistributed through the regular web SERP, while 35% of the traffic might be lost, or more realistically, will lead the users to type Google.es, instead of news.google.es, in their browser.
Although I didn’t start this research with this intention, I did discover that five of the top news websites in Spain have suffered an ongoing decrease in traffic from organic search over the past four to six months, which is interesting on its own and maybe worth a separate study.
I also found that Google News does have a significant impact on news websites in Spain. However, logic leads me to believe the effect will not be as significant as it seems by just looking at the numbers. This is simply because most Spanish news consumers will probably learn to adjust to the new reality and simply find other ways to get their daily dose of News. It would be interesting to hear other opinions about this issue.
What do you suppose the smartest move is from both sides?
Featured Image: Google doodles – 200th anniversary of spains constitution