Earlier this week, President Trump accused Google of intentionally suppressing conservative news outlets and hiding news that casts the administration in a favorable light. In his series of Tweets, Trump specifically called out “Fake CNN” as being prominent on Google.
Well, Mr. President, when it comes to ranking in Google search results, there are rules (or best practices). These rules are in place to improve user experience, and websites that provide the best user experience are rewarded by the Google search algorithm. And these rules are no secret. Google routinely publishes information to help webmasters improve their chances of ranking in search results.
That’s SEO – adhering to Google best practices to rank higher in search results.
When the president refers to “Republican/Conservative & Fair Media,” we all know he’s talking about Fox News. Trump has frequently expressed his love for Fox & Friends, Sean Hannity and other Fox pundits. So why isn’t Fox News ranking in Google? As SEO experts, we quickly identified a major issue.
Three Real Reasons Fox News Doesn’t Rank in Google
1.) Fox News Has an Unsecure Website
Secure websites (those that begin with HTTPS) ensure an encrypted transfer of data, allowing users to safely share important information without worrying that it will be intercepted by a third party. Secure website content is also protected from being covertly altered. Since internet security today is more important than ever, search engines are prioritizing websites that utilize this extra level of protection.
Google has been considering HTTPS in ranking decisions since 2014, prioritizing security even more over time. Additionally, Google released a new version of Chrome in July that alerts users when they’ve landed on an unsecure site, placing further importance on securing websites.
Fox News has an HTTP website, meaning it has not been secured with an SSL certificate and therefore experiences lower rankings compared to other news outlets that have implemented HTTPS. Ranking well in the search results is a science, and we can’t expect websites that don’t play by the rules to perform better than those that do.
Again, it all comes down to user experience. Protecting website visitors is a good user experience. Potentially exposing website visitors to getting hacked is not.
2.) News Articles Are Not That Mobile-Friendly
If you’ve ever read a news article on your phone, you know how frustrating it is to wait for that page to load. Pop-up ads? No thanks. Auto-play videos? Ugghh. User experience is absolutely crucial when it comes to ranking in mobile search results. And that’s why “mobile-friendly” pages have a search advantage over non-mobile-friendly pages in mobile search results. Although Fox News has a mobile-friendly website, we ran an analysis on one of its top news stories.
Not bad! A 75/100 is equivalent to a C grade. And Cs get degrees. So how does this loading speed score compare to CNN’s? We ran the same analysis on one of CNN’s top news stories. It’s worth noting that the Fox News story we tested takes aim at the liberal media, while the CNN story takes aim at Trump. Surprise, surprise! We tried to find the same news story covered by both outlets but could not find anything recent. (This is an issue we won’t discuss here.) The CNN story proved to be much more mobile-friendly than the Fox story, which could be a major factor in the site’s position in search results.
3.) The Website Is Poorly Optimized
Based on a quick 500-page crawl of the Fox News website, one of our favorite SEO tools (SEMrush) flagged 57 errors and 804 warnings. We’ve certainly seen worse, but we expect much better from a major news outlet. An optimization score of 73% is a low C grade. Some of these errors or warnings are rather minor, so take the grade with a grain of salt. This information does indicate, however, that there are issues that should be addressed.
How Does CNN Compare?
CNN was called out in Trump’s tweet for having prominent placement in Google search results. CNN does have a secure website, which theoretically gives it a competitive edge in Google search and the Google News feed. In terms of other SEO factors, CNN didn’t fare well in the same 500-page SEMrush crawl. The website scored a lowly 53%, with 340 errors and 6,605 warnings. Looks like CNN also has some issues to fix.
At the time this blog is being published, it’s true that Fox News isn’t ranking in the “top stories” search results for “Trump news,” and CNN appears after the first few results. At first blush, it appears a non-secure website and poor mobile optimization may be keeping Fox News out of Google search results and the Google News feed. We really just scratched the surface of the investigation. Fox News (and CNN!) could benefit from a much more in-depth SEO technical audit. They just need to find a solid SEO agency with decades of experience and client success. Hit us up.
Christina Marbury and Gillian Cobb contributed to this report.