By Graham Charlton

eu referendum

The EU referendum has delivered a nice traffic boost for the UK’s newspaper websites, according to ABC figures released this week.

Interest in the referendum was massive in June, and spiked on June 24th, the day after the referendum. Yes, that’s the same day that searches for ‘what is the EU?’ and ‘what does brexit mean?’ spiked.

This delivered a massive boost for newspaper sites in general, but especially The Telegraph and Guardian.

The Telegraph’s growth was bigger (up 20% month to month) than the rest, and I’m betting this was down (at least in part) to some smart SEO work from The Telegraph’s team.

Here’s the growth figures:

UK unique users, June vs May:

  • Telegraph up 20% MOM
  • Guardian up 14%
  • Mail Online, no change.
  • Sun up 5%
  • Mirror up 2.9%

Global uniques, June vs May:

  • Telegraph up 21%
  • Guardian up 9%
  • Mail Online up 5%
  • Sun up 12%
  • Mirror up 5%.

The Guardian and Telegraph are two of the more ‘serious’ newspaper sites (The Times’ paywall means it doesn’t figure here), which in part explains how they benefitted most from a news-event related spike.

By contrast, The Sun (not a serious source of news) was one of the few sites that didn’t experience a post-Brexit lift. The spike you can see comes after the 24th, and is from the Dream Team football app, rather than anything news related.

Perhaps, given that The Sun was very pro-Brexit, to the extent of not reporting any possible negatives, web users didn’t trust it as a reliable source of information.

Indeed, when the Sun did talk about the negatives post-Brexit, readers suddenly wondered why they hadn’t been told this before.

Sun’s ABC. Post brexit was lowest PVs for 2 weeks. Spike in PVs on 26th is nearly all from Dream Team app, not site.

— Malcolm Coles (@malcolmcoles) July 21, 2016

The Guardian’s growth

The Guardian reported its strongest month ever with more than 1 billion pages views for the first time in a calendar month, and a record 167 million monthly uniques.

In addition, thanks to content such as its live Brexit blog, itself the most popular article on the site ever, with 10m+ uniques, The Guardian enjoyed its highest day’s traffic ever.

It attracted more than 17m uniques and 77m pageviews on June 24, the day the referendum results were announced.

The Guardian does a lot of things well in terms of SEO, and there’s no doubt this contributed to these figures.

The Telegraph’s growth

The Guardian figures were impressive, but The Telegraph outstripped them in terms of month on month growth.

In charts tweeted by The Telegraph’s Director of Digital Media Malcolm Coles, we can see the Brexit effect:

And so did we

— Malcolm Coles (@malcolmcoles) 21 July 2016

I suspect than a strong SEO strategy has much to do with The Telegraph’s impressive performance. This strategy put it in a strong position to benefit from extra traffic around such a big news event.

It regularly has a prominent feature in Google News results, while it ranks well for key topics thanks to a well-executed strategy which includes effective internal linking and landing/hub pages for key topics.

For example, this is from a post on Mail Online’s strategy, showing how effectively the Telegraph used linking. It shows the performance of its ‘David Cameron’ page:


This page performs consistently as The Telegraph links the rest of its Cameron content back to this page, which indicates to the search engines that this is the page to show for that phrase.


This means that, instead of having several articles on the them competing against each other leading to fluctuation in search rankings, it has one dedicated hub page.

The Telegraph appears to have repeated this approach for the EU referendum, with a hub page for the issue. As I search this morning, it’s the highest-ranked newspaper site for the term.

telegrpah eu ref page

Thanks to this ground work and consistent linking, when the traffic spiked on June 24, The Telegraph was in a strong position to attract search traffic.

In addition, The Telegraph has been very smart in picking up traffic for informational searches around events like the referendum, or Euro 2016 – where the events are, the start times, where you can watch them, and so on.

For example, this page comes up for searches around the Tour de France today, providing information on stage start times, TV coverage etc.

TDF telegraph

This content provides useful information for searchers which directly answers some informational queries, but also helps to showcase the rest of the site’s cycling coverage to help it attract extra users.

It seems that this strategy has been applied across a range of news and sporting events, and is a great tactic to take advantage of ‘who, what, where’ searches.

I don’t have detailed data on where The Telegraph’s month on month growth came from, but I’m betting a smart SEO strategy enabled it to take full advantage of the extra interest in news around the Brexit vote.

Source:: Search Engine Watch RSS