UK newspapers are becoming increasingly aggressive in their Google strategies, with more and more buying search terms to direct readers looking for news stories to their websites.

Back in October, we covered an article by Heather Hopkins at Hitwise UK, which looked into The Sun’s search marketing strategy. The article showed how the tabloid was pursuing a more aggressive paid search strategy, with some success.

In the four weeks to October 14, The Sun received 20% of its search traffic from paid listings, the only UK news site to receive more than 3% of its search traffic by this method.

The Sun was bidding for terms related to popular news events at the time, such as ‘Steve Irwin’ or ‘Richard Hammond’. Now it seems that other UK news and media sites are following suit.

Back in October, The Telegraph received just 1% of its search traffic from paid search, and The Times 3%. Hitwise figures show that both newspapers have increased this share, The Telegraph received 3% from paid search, and The Times 8%.

The Sun received 21% of its search traffic from paid listings, while it would appear that both The Daily Mail and The Guardian have yet to adopt such a strategy – both received 1% or less of their search traffic from paid listings.

The Wall Street Journal reports that UK newspapers have been pursuing this strategy in recent months, and cites the example of The Telegraph, which bought the term ‘’North Korea Nuclear Test’ back in October.

According to The Telegraph’s Digital Editor Edward Roussel:

“The most important driver of all readers (to our site) is Google, except for people who know us and come directly. Trying to figure out how to gain more prominence is something of a dark art.”

It seems a little bit odd that publishers of frequent, unique content, have to resort to paid search rather than focusing on organic listings. Roussel’s comment about search engine optimisation being ‘a dark art’ isn’t entirely accurate, as readers of our SEO how-to guide will know. 

Some publishers are ahead of the curve in this respect. The WSJ article reports that The Times is training its journalists to write their articles ‘in a way that makes their articles more likely to appear among Google’s unpaid search results’. More good work from Team Murdoch. Others will surely follow suit.

Perhaps publishers are missing a trick if they spend more on paid search than on SEO?