How major search engines react to breaking news

A recent study from Seattle, Washington-based inbound marketing software company Optify analyzed how breaking news events are covered by Google and Bing.

Researchers decided to take one worldwide breaking news event (the Japanese tsunami), one business-related breaking news event (Steve Jobs' resignation from Apple) and one local story (accused murderer Amanda Knox returning to her home in Washington). Using keywords that would drive the highest volume of results, they observed the evolution and performance of the terms over time.

The primary finding was that Google favors authority, while Bing steers more toward recency.

"Google and Bing both react; they create different SERPs (search engine results pages) for breaking news events. Google tends to prioritize high authority sources, whereas Bing, in comparison, has more recent results, but they're not necessarily as high authority," said Brian Goffman, CEO and co-founder of Optify, as quoted by Search Engine Watch.

What's more, MSN beat out both engines as the No. 1 news source, as almost one-third of page results were MSN links.

Other findings included the fact that both engines made changes to their results pages to react to the news. For instance, sponsored ads and links were basically eliminated, multimedia content was pushed to the top with breaking news, and everything but the first and second organic results was dropped below the fold.

Goffman suggests it may not be such a bad thing for advertisers to be eliminated from results. He tells the news source, as an example, "If you were an airline, would you want your ad appearing next to news about an airplane crash?" 

While it may be difficult for companies to incorporate a real-time element into their organic and local SEO strategies or prepare keywords ahead of time for worldwide or local events, it is possible to be prepared to rank highly for business-related breaking news stories. Goffman notes that marketers can anticipate what people will be searching for during recurring business events such as trade shows, acquisitions or product launches.

Some tips to drive organic traffic to a website during breaking news events include using social networks - such as Facebook to Twitter - to interact with people, developing a keyword strategy by analyzing how users typically search for certain business events, constantly updating content to keep it fresh and submitting a news site map to Google so it can discover content faster.