Google recently updated their search algorithm in an effort to move higher quality content to the top of its search results. Since Outbrain’s platform is installed on many of the largest publisher sites on the web, we decided to do some data digging to see the effect the algorithm tweak had on publisher search traffic.

We tracked the effect of Google search traffic into 91 of our premium publisher sites, looking at data from two weeks prior and comparing it to one week after the change. We were quite surprised with the results.

Overall, our premium publisher network saw a 48% increase in search traffic coming into article pages of their publisher sites!

When digging a little deeper, we found that the change had more of an impact on some content categories than others. Entertainment seemed to have the greatest impact (126% increase) which could be skewed a bit due to extensive Charlie Sheen and Oscar coverage.

The Big #Winners

A big surprise came from the Sports category where there was a 94% increase in traffic to Sports-related article pages. Local sports (i.e., articles about the local area’s sports teams) saw a 142% increase in search traffic from Google.

Although Mr. Sheen and the Oscars may have impacted the search traffic into the entertainment category, in looking at the data in more detail, traffic to local content (local listings, arts and culture, etc.) also received a significant boost with an increase of 115%.

Local Newspapers vs. TV

Traffic to local newspaper sites nearly doubled that of TV sites. We assume this is due to the fact that newspapers have a larger content offering than TV sites.

So, this is what we see on our end. Publishers, do you see anything different? Have additional thoughts? Please post in the comments below. We’d love to hear them!

See more information on NY Times Bits blog about the results, including quotes from Outbrain COO David Sasson. More coverage on PaidContent and Search Engine Watch.