Case Study: Newspapers Writing For Search Trends?

The Telegraph is amongst the newspapers chasing web audiences by analysing exactly what potential readers are looking for.

Its list of “The best voucher codes” popped in to my RSS reader this morning, telling readers how to save money whilst shopping online.

The voucher phenomenon is growing, and my analysis shows recent coincidental spikes in people Googling for “voucher codes”

It’s a trend The Telegraph‘s deputy personal finance editor duly reports in two brief supporting articles

Of the five voucher code news articles articles Google search remembers from the last two years, four were published by The Telegraph. And we can expect more, as cash-conscious consumers’ search demand for the codes grows to what Google expects will be a new peak through a difficult 2011.

In other words, shopping voucher codes are a perennial and growing search traffic giver.

This is nothing new. The Telegraph has attracted readers with “Top 10” lists for a couple of years now, occasionally routing its links through to selected partners on an affiliate basis, giving the paper a share of any income those partners make in return for sending custom to retailers.

In the case of today’s article, MyVoucherCodes is the lucky traffic recipient. But, asked if it has any affiliate relationships with voucher code aggregators like MyVoucherCodes, Telegraph Media Group tells paidContent:UK: “There is no affiliate relationship.”

Discussing the topic during this Frontline Club debate in August, a Telegraph affiliate staffer explained the strategy: “A lot of research and working with the SEO team, working on popular keywords. We try and apply a kind of science to it to try and figure out what works best and then monetise it as best we can.”

He was talking in particular about “commercialising” refreshed evergreen article topics: “We write ‘How To Grow Crocuses‘ every year – the one we produced last year works very well and is doing very well in Google (NSDQ: GOOG). We pick up on articles that are already doing well. We can see things that have done well in Google for whatever reason. Then it’s just a case of reorganising to make sure that’s strengthened and put forward in a way that helps us out.” Indeed, voucher codes may be hot, but they also expire and reignite as retailers intro new offers.

There are seemingly few losers when publishers make money by, in turn, helping readers save money – news you can use. And clearly, a publisher can write about a hot space for editorial, as well as commercial, reasons.

Trinity Mirror (LSE: TNI) nationals digital publisher Matt Kelly, during the Frontline debate, criticised publishers who write to attract searchers, in what some might say is the style of Demand Media’s eHow

“Google puts up special themes on their logo,” Kelly said. “The other day it was the 200-something of Renoir – immediately beneath that are news results. The smart guys are now all sitting there, saying: ‘Get an article up about Renoir, quick!’ You appear in the news links.

“All over the world, people click that – but what’s the value of that as a business, that transient traffic? Why is The Mirror suddenly writing about Renoir? This is the kind of sickness that has pervaded the newspaper industry, this obsession with getting cheap traffic by any means.”

That, of course, is catering to potential news trends rather than utilitarian consumer search demands like the urge to save money.