Search Engines and Brands Now Most Trusted for News (and You Can Be, Too)

April 9, 2018

What happens when the largest generation of humans on the planet decide they just don't trust traditional media anymore?

They turn to Google.

Edelman's most recent Trust Barometer trust and credibility survey spells big trouble for mainstream media, which is now two percentage points less trusted by the general public than search engines as a source of news and general information. It's the first time mainstream media has fallen behind online search in Edelman's annual study.

 search engines trusted news source Edelman Trust Barometer graph showing millennials are most trusting of digital media

The difference is greatest among millennials, 72% of whom prefer search engines as their most trusted source of information.

When it comes to business news, newspapers have declined sharply as a first source for information, a first source for breaking news, and even as a source for confirming or validating news. In fact, the only place traditional media is holding steady against search engines is with television, as a first source for breaking news.

Even then, you can see that people prefer to go online and verify the news they see breaking on TV:

 search engines trusted media comparison graph showing online search to dominate in terms of general information and validated news

So this is all fascinating, right? But what does it mean for businesses?

Your Customers Find Your Business Authors More Credible Than Journalists

According to Edelman, if a person uses your company or your products, they find your business authors more credible than journalists or even NGOs (non-profit agencies)!

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that things like this (headline from Mediaite) haven't helped mainstream media's credibility:

search engines trusted news source controversial headline  

Or this, from The Guardian:

search engine trusted news source reading "heathcare ruling: cnn and fox news report wrong decision 

Or this example from just this week, which made all kinds of media look stupid for gleefully promoting an End of Days snowstorm, even going so far as to give it the name Juno (headline from Global News):

 search engines trusted news source headline reading meteorologist apologizes on twitter for getting #blizzard2015 forecast completely wrong

What is even happening with the news? That could be a book on its own, but the Coles notes version is this: decline of print, questionable news media ethics from the top down, hypercompetitive print advertising market in decline, yadda yadda.

What it means for you, dear marketer, is a massive opportunity to step in and offer readers a credible and more trustworthy alternative.

So Your Brand Wants to be a News Outlet…

If you aren't actively blogging and participating in a comprehensive content marketing strategy, you're missing out on a huge opportunity to get information in front of a receptive audience.

Edelman's study underscores the importance of current events coverage as part of your blogging strategy. Of course, you want to offer evergreen content, as well – this one blog post we published on email subject lines in March 2014 earned 200,000 visits by the end of the year. Optimize these helpful, informative and timeless posts for search engines and you'll enjoy a steady stream of traffic to them for years.

Adding news and current events on your business blog gives you fresh content to engage readers on a regular basis and also:

  • furthers your brand's reputation as a trusted authority,
  • shows topic and industry expertise,
  • and enables you to appear in search engine and social search results for trending topics.

When you're blogging about current events, try to offer a unique perspective, advice, or commentary. This post, for example, was about a study that supposedly showed that Google AdWords don't work. Larry shared his opinion about it, but also offered readers tips to help them do better in their AdWords campaigns and avoid seeing the same results as eBay. It was something different and earned over 33,000 views, most in the week it was published!

Sharing your opinions and advice gives your brand content personality and helps your content stand out from mainstream media coverage. You want readers to come to appreciate your point of view.

Credibility in Brand Reporting is #1

The most important aspect of your brand-as-news-publisher strategy, of course, is winning and earning that reader trust. To do this, your content must be accurate. Fact-checking in mainstream media has dropped off big time in recent years as media outlets compete to break news in real-time, which is certainly a factor in their declining trust score.

You're probably not connected enough to have many "firsts," but you can always do better. Let them duke it out for the first tweet or sensational headline about a breaking news story and focus your efforts on building out a story people will actually want to read.

search engines trusted news source image of truck reading "free candy"

Here are a few other tips to help your brand capitalize on the brands-as-publishers trend and win readers for news stories without sacrificing trust:

  • Keep your editorial efforts separate from marketing. Just as advertising and editorial were traditionally separate in mainstream media (though the lines have been blurred big time with native advertising), so too should brands establish an editorial team for news free of the influence of marketing. Your other content can be integrated with marketing, but avoid it with news.
  • Always fact-check – always. Find multiple sources to verify information, but understand that sometimes, even that isn't enough. With the Blizzard 2015 story, for example, nearly every media outlet in the country echoed the doomsday predictions. It's easier to verify something that has already happened, so approach those speculative stories with extreme caution, lest you become part of the echo chamber.
  • Don't edit after publication. People hate that. If you realize you made a mistake in your reporting, add an "Edited" note at the bottom of the article and explain your edit. Credibility is instantly shot if people realize you're changing your posts after publishing them.
  • Learn how to cite sources. This applies for images as much as written text and quotes. Always explain where the information you're reporting came from and link back to the original source, where appropriate. Get your bloggers and blog editor familiar with either the Chicago Manual of Style or the APA version.
  • Employ SEO best practices in all of your blog content. Is there any point in all of this work if you're not promoting your blog posts and optimizing them for search? Clearly, this is where people (especially millennials) are looking for information. Set yourself up to be there.

Becoming a trusted source of news is a great undertaking for brands, but the benefits can be massive.  Incorporate news into your business blog schedule, even if you can only manage a post or two a month and gradually build from there. It's worth it!

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