Is poor SEO behind thelondonpaper’s failure?

thelondonpaper is closing – with a pre-tax loss of £12.9m last financial year on £14.1m turnover. Maybe if they’d sorted out their SEO strategy, they’d have got more website visitors and sold more adverts? (See this story in video form).

thelondonpaper's poor appearance in google's results

thelondonpaper's poor appearance in google's results

They have no meta descriptions on their pages. Although the meta description doesn’t influence your position in google‘s search results, it does affect users’ propensity to click on each result.

With no meta description, google has to guess what to show in its results – and the picture reveals what it shows for thelondonpaper’s home page.

Would this tempt YOU to click through?

UPDATE: from someone who worked with the website team at thelondonpaper: “The website relaunch included a number of changes to improve the search engine optimisation of the site. These had a pretty substantial positive impact. The issue you raise was a known one and would have been fixed in time. In general though, recent website performance had been good.”

14 thoughts on “Is poor SEO behind thelondonpaper’s failure?

  1. Chris

    Just to get this straight, are you suggesting that decent meta descriptions might have made thelondonpaper more than £12.9 million in the last financial year?

  2. Pete Ashton

    If their business was on the web then you might have a point but as I understood it the point of thelondonpaper was to bludgeon the Evening Standard’s share of the commuter market with the weight of Murdoch’s bank account. In other words it was a loss leader.

  3. Dave Nattriss

    I’m a freelance developer who’s worked on for the last 2 years. Our traffic has actually beyond doubled in the 4 or so months since we relaunched our site (see,, ), while our rivals have faltered. So yes, this whole article has been ‘sexed up’ as it’s not at all true.

    The SEO problem you’ve spotted is kind of irrelevant as if you’re searching for ‘thelondonpaper’ you’ll just go to the site anyway. If you’re searching for something that we have an article about (ex. ) then the article content is shown in the Google search result.

  4. Joanna Geary

    “Is poor SEO behind thelondonpaper’s failure?”

    Errr. I think we can safely say the answer to that is “no”.

    I wouldn’t have commented, but I do feel a need to speak up for the innovative and hard-working web team at thelondonpaper.

    They relaunched the website in April as the first UK newspaper website to use the Drupal content management system.

    Whilst SEO is, of course, very valuable, suggesting the quality of their website’s meta descriptions was responsible for the closure of the entire operation is rather unfair!

  5. SEO Company

    just setting meta meta descriptions are not going to help at all, it is an old technique. it used to help but now it is history. those SEOs rely on meta descriptions who are not expert in SEO field or knowing nothing what field is all about.

  6. malcolm coles

    Everyone: Sorry for not replying, but I was on holiday. And sorry for the headline, which was completely overblown compared to what I’d actually written…

    So Chris, no I’m not suggesting that. It might have helped though …

    Dave, while that may be true for a search on thelondonpaper itself, it’s not true of all pages. So for a search on tottenham hotspur, the description google shows is:
    “gallery: all; Tottenham Hotspur; your pics. The ladies look out over the Firth of Forth to promote their ‘Warren & Hanbury …”.
    There are many other similar examples.

    If you’re trying to get people to click on one of your results rather than someone else’s, you’ve either got to rely on your brand or the text snippet. Not setting the meta description reduces the probability of someone clicking your result.

    Joanna, yes, the headline was a bit unfair (or maybe just stupid on my part) as you say. I wouldn’t say the meta description issue was the developers’ fault though. I presume they were developing to meet some sort of business requirements … Or maybe they vetoed the idea of using them in which case it was …

  7. malcolm coles

    Which leaves Inka Technology….

    Let me get this straight. You are leaving a comment on a dofollow blog using the keywords ‘SEO company’ to link to your lame website (if you’re going to claim to offer highly-skilled writers, maybe learn how to use an apostrophe? If you’d like me to make another 100 or so recommendations to improve your SEO, grammar and usability, do let me know …) – and you’re calling ME out for not keeping up with the times?

    As I said above, meta descriptions don’t help your rankings, but they do affect click-through rates. This holds as true today as it ever has.

  8. firstconversion

    As a londoner and an SEO, I can confirm it died under the weight of shit reporting. Now if it would only take the other rags with it.

    It slowly got worse and worse over the years, recycled content on top of yesterdays news

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