The biggest hits to traffic and readership of large publications tends to happen not because of anything they’re doing, but because of algorithm changes, and Google has little mercy.
In the June Google Update, algorithmic changes saw some publishers gain across Search and Google Discover, but when one gains another is probably losing.
The unlucky one this time was Dailymail.co.uk. In the the span of 24 hours they took a 50% search traffic hit, and a 90% drop in Google Discover feed traffic.
With the scale of the Daily Mail’s traffic, taking those hits means missing on millions of clicks – clicks which have undoubtedly been passed onto their competitors such as The Sun, who gained a 54% increase in visibility.
SEO tool Sistrix has published its findings on the June update, showing the big winners, and the losers. Unfortunately for the Daily Mail, they’re among the hardest hit. There appears no rhyme or reason, as the biggest winners in the update are also similar news sites.
We’ve already seen the search rankings begin to correct themselves to an extent, but even if after two months traffic levels return to normal, that’s a tonne of potential new readers lost, and gained for competitors. The damage is done.
For a massive brand like Daily Mail it’s not the end of the world, but for a smaller publisher that doesn’t have the direct contacts at Google, or the clout needed to climb back up, it could be devastating.
There are huge benefits in platforms like Google search or Facebook news, but focusing the majority of your efforts on too few platforms and not having an array of channels to develop your audience through will eventually cause problems.
We can’t downplay how platforms like Google and Facebook have benefited publishers, and in many cases even helped build their entire business – but we’ve also repeatedly seen publishers get bitten, often at random, which is why every publisher big or small needs to find a balance.
“Indeed, this episode, once again, underlines the wisdom of the strategy of concentrating on our own audience rather than relying on third party platforms”
Publishers should have a constant drive to explore and optimise different channels, with the goal of eventually owning that audience and building direct traffic.
Not only does doing so future proof against massive hits at the whim of news propagators, but also allows publishers to discover new readers with minimal competition. Small and mid-sized publishers can’t afford to not be experimenting as much as possible.