News sites helped, hurt by Google algorithm change

A CNET analysis of nearly 100,000 search results shows how news Web sites are faring after Google's recent change to its algorithm.

Google visualized: Top Web sites like Wikipedia, Amazon.com, YouTube, and IMDB are red and orange. Less popular sites, in blue and violet, were less visible on Google's first page.
Caption: Google visualized: Most popular Web sites are in red and orange. Less popular sites, in blue and violet, were less visible on Google's first page. Declan McCullagh/CNET

The Huffington Post and ABC News easily topped a ranking of the most visible online news sites conducted after Google's recent algorithm changes.

In third place was Fox News, which received a significant boost over the course of a month with 22 first-page appearances on Google for its main Web site, up from 11 in March, according to CNET's analysis of nearly 100,000 search results. By contrast, Huffington Post enjoyed 54 first-page mentions and ABC News a total of 35.

To test how Google's new "Panda" algorithm, coupled with another announcement last week, affected search results, we conducted tests in March and again last Friday. Google's changes appeared to be a response to search engine optimizers and so-called content farms--as well as criticisms that low-quality writing was becoming more visible than quality content.

We compiled approximately 2,000 search terms from a sampling of Google Insights' Web, news, and shopping searches. We then removed the duplicates, resulting in a total of 1,656 search terms, tested those with Google.com (while not logged in), and compiled the results.

Technology news sites ranked highly, in part because Google Insights included many tech-related terms.

CNET Reviews topped the tech list, followed by Engadget, PCMag.com, PCWorld.com, CNET News, IGN.com, and Wired.com, in that order.

One surprise was that traditional news organizations didn't always fare that well.

The Washington Post barely bested AOLNews.com, Askmen.com, Autoblog.com, and DPReview.com. The Wall Street Journal, probably because of its paywall, was less visible than Examiner.com. And Time.com tied with Mashable.com.

Examples drawn from CNET's compilation show what search terms pulled up each of these news organizations on Google.com's home page.
Examples drawn from CNET's compilation show what search terms pulled up each of these news organizations on Google.com's home page. Declan McCullagh/CNET

Sites that fell, relatively speaking, between March and April: Engadget, MSNBC, PCMag.com, PCWorld.com, MSNBC, ESPN, and CNET.

U.K.-based news organizations also performed well, with the Guardian and Daily Mail featuring as many first-page appearances as MSNBC and Yahoo News. The Telegraph tied with The Washington Post.

Now, the disclaimers: Our first scan was in March, after Panda's appearance in late February, so it likely didn't capture the most significant changes. Also, this shouldn't be viewed as a representative cross-section of Web searches. Google Insights only includes the most popular requests, not the more obscure ones. It also focuses disproportionately on current events.

Here are the top 12 sites:


huffingtonpost.com
abcnews.go.com
foxnews.com
reviews.cnet.com
nytimes.com
cbsnews.com
topics.nytimes.com
engadget.com
guardian.co.uk
dailymail.co.uk
msnbc.com
news.yahoo.com

See for yourself
Below you'll find an Excel file with multiple spreadsheets containing the raw data. If you use the data for any purpose, please attribute it to CNET and include a link to this article.

If you find anything interesting, or have any suggestions, please contribute to the discussion below!

Files:

News site spreadsheet on Google docs

Excerpts of all sites, not just news sites, on Google Docs (limited because Google Docs allows only 400,000 cells)

Full spreadsheet with all sites, not just news sites, in Excel format (.xlsx.gz)

Disclosure: McCullagh is married to a Google employee who is not involved with Panda.

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Don't Miss
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

HOT ON CNET

Looking for an affordable tablet?

CNET rounds up high-quality tablets that won't break your wallet.