Fake news.If you’ve paid any kind of attention to recent headlines, you’ve heard the term before. Long before ascending to the presidency, or even winning the election, US President Donald Trump made far-reaching allegations about fraudulent news sources—including even mainstream news outlets such as CNN. Meanwhile, Facebook has pushed against the idea of fake news, and even innovated new algorithms to (ideally) suppress false stories from spreading.

Today, let’s consider the topic of fake news through the lens of President Trump’s CNN attack—not because we want to make any particular point about the president or the news network, but because the notion of fake news carries real significance for digital marketers. To emphasize the point, this is not a partisan political post; our interest today has more to do with studying actual data than with anything in the political realm.

Looking at the Data

The place to start, of course, is with hard numbers—and while we don’t have actual ratings information from CNN, we do have some analytics for CNN.com. Here are a few highlights:

    • Organic traffic—that is, from search engines: 55 Million visits per month on average.
    • CNN.com organically ranks for a little more than 9.4 Million keywords.
    • CNN.com ranks for near 1 million branded keywords, like CNN news, CNN Money, CNN Live, etc.
    • CNN.com has had constant growth during over the past three years.
    • CNN has more than 78.1 Million backlinks. This is important because each backlink is essentially a vote of confidence in the site’s veracity and authority.
    • Over 260 government sites (.gov) link to CNN.com, plus roughly 1689 educational sites (.edu) and 20 military sites (.mil).
    • The majority of CNN.com’s traffic is organic.

It’s also worth noting that, in basically all of these categories, CNN.com significantly outperforms its competitors, including the Fox News and MSNBC websites as well as The Huffington Post.

Is CNN Fake News?

Now, you may look at this and wonder: What does this really tell us about CNN? Specifically, does it tell us that CNN is fake news—or otherwise?

Of course, Web analytics alone cannot tell us whether CNN is reliable or not. That’s a deep epistemological question, and frankly outside the realm of online marketing. And our aim here isn’t really to validate or disprove President Trump’s claim about CNN anyway. Again, we are coming at this solely from the digital marketing perspective.

With that said, and with the admission that this data is a little one-dimensional (i.e. it’s only based in organic search results), our conclusion is that CNN is not fake news. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t sometimes inaccurate, as any news source is bound to be, but there is a lot of trust placed in this site, and a lot of authority for it. Across the Web, CNN.com is upheld as a valuable and credible source of information.

That’s the story of the numbers, and we hope that this exercise confirms an important point—not necessarily a point about CNN, but about the important role that hard data can play in evaluating online destinations.

Our own team of consultants rely heavily on data to make key marketing decisions on behalf of our clients; we invite you to contact us today to learn more.