Comparing search and social media data around the U.K. election: Our analysis

Significant events tend to serve as barometers of changing reader behaviors, and as a result, can point to future optimizations for content creators. Therefore, we used the recent U.K. election as an opportunity to give us a better idea of audience interactions with content via search and social media during major events.

More details on our findings below.

Audience attention soared during U.K. elections

Our analysis of audience attention across nearly 100,000 U.K. election-related articles showed a massive spike Dec. 13, surpassing 100 million daily engaged minutes. This coincides with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s victory, as we see below.

Prior to that, the largest increase (at about 40 million daily engaged minutes) was in late May/early June timeframe. This corresponds with the resignation of former Prime Minister Theresa May. 

(To learn more about Engaged Time, see: Using the Engaged Time metric to grow audiences, unlock loyal readership)

Social exceeds search in audience attention

When comparing search and social attention during the election by daily engaged minutes, something interesting happened — more readers turned to social media over search.

daily engaged minutes search and social UK election

The graph above shows that social attention rose sharply to more than 25 million daily engaged minutes during the election — nearly double the Engaged Time coming from search.

U.K. election attention by hour — a similar social story

Social also surpassed search attention when taking an hour-by-hour look at readership during the election. 

uk election engagement data by hour

There were more than 3 million Total Engaged Minutes per hour at its peak, while search saw as high as 1.4 million on Dec. 13. Though attention from both search and social showed strong engagement, social media far surpassed search.

What makes this U.K. election data intriguing?

As we mention above, this data is somewhat surprising, as it suggests a flip of the script on our past research on traffic breaking news events, using Brexit as an example. In that analysis, we saw that readers tended to favor search before and during the events. Social was preferred in the aftermath, as audiences looked to share their opinions and information.

Brexit Top Stories Covered and Consumed

(For further reading, see: Capitalizing on readership during major news events)

Takeaways on our U.K. election traffic analysis

Below, some additional thoughts from our post-U.K. election analysis:

The pre-coverage playbook is still going strong

We’ve encouraged content producers to optimize for search and social well before major news events, setting them up for success well beforehand. 

Yes, fewer readers flocked search than social in this analysis. However, there is still a major case to be made for pre-event SEO and linking strategies.

Sign of the mobile times

Our research has shown that direct mobile traffic has surpassed desktop, setting the stage for mobile-friendly platforms to thrive.

This also makes the reader behavior patterns we’ve outlined above less surprising. We’ve seen that mobile readers are showing greater loyalty across multiple channels. Not to mention the rise of mobile-first news aggregators such as SmartNews and Chrome Suggestions emerging across the world. 

These shifts only emphasize the importance of proactively reevaluating your content channel strategies. This will ensure that more readers will first (and know where to) turn for information during major events regardless of how they get there.

Subscribe to Chartbeat’s newsletter and get even more research, insights, and event updates straight to your inbox every month.

More in Research