The Guardian buys Madeleine McCann

Newspapers competing for audiences are not dissimilar to kids in a sandpit as they jostle for that top search engine ranking. The seach engine is king these days and online content is often written for SEO bots instead of human eyes. In fact this boring headline is written for Google.

The Telegraph, citing Hitwise data on user “visits” recently heralded themselves as "the UK's most visited newspaper website". The Guardian said they were and used Com Score metric figures of 2.9 million unique users versus the’s 1.22 million as their proof.

Is it really any surprise that publishers often get themselves in hot water as far as dubious SEO techniques are concerned? In the days of crumbling ABC figures for print, online is king and central to that is a top search ranking. Get that right and the rest will fall into place, right..?

One way to ensure a top ranking is by side-stepping the inbound link-gathering and key word placements by buying your online popularity (via paid search links and pay per click marketing – Ed). The news peddlers have pedigree on this front; the Sun and the Mirror for starters. Put in a Google search for say Cristiano Ronaldo and you’ll get a list of sponsored links down the side from those news sites.

On the other hand The Telegraph Media Group take umbrage at such practises and have said publicly that they “don’t buy event or people specific links”. Due in part, I’m sure, to the Guardian/McCann saga.

Not coincidentally, the complaint about the Guardian’s SEO manipulation came from Justin Williams the assistant editor at The Telegraph on his CounterValue blog.

The Guardian Media Group’s (GMG) purchase of the “Madeleine McCann” key words from Google caused a barrage of complaints. They were forced to issue a retraction of the link and make a show of reviewing which keywords they used. They said it was a mistake on their part.

What really grates about this one is that the Guardian was one of the chief critics of the blanket coverage of the McCann case and buying the name is the equivalent of selling your family down the river for some extra cash.

Today, if you type “Madeleine McCann” into Google the first media site you get on the unsponsored links, below the Madeleine website, is BBC news. On the sponsored link section it’s The Mirror: an interesting contrast.

Research from Forrester predicts that online media spend will double over the the next five years to a fifth of all spend by 2012. Eighteen per cent of all media budgets will go to email, search, display and other online advertising. So more kerfuffles around dubious search marketing practices are guaranteed.


Chinwag Live: Search vs Recommendation – 2nd September 2008
Chinwag Clinic: Search Marketing Surgery – 30th September 2008
Chinwag Live: Search & Location Based Services – 7th October 2008