How will removing BBC recipes affect search?

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  • May 18, 2016
Mike Jeffs

Mike Jeffs

Commercial Director

Yesterday, the BBC announced that over 11,000 recipes will be removed from its website. This forms part of the ongoing changes the broadcaster is making as part of addressing its market impact.

“The recipes are being “archived or mothballed”, a source said, and will “fall off the face of the internet” after the food site is closed, with no live links.” Guardian.

Based on the fact that the BBC has such a high authority domain and a wide reach, what will this mean for the search landscape?

Visibility and value

bbc.co.uk food visibility - Branded3

Search Metrics shows that the /food subfolder on the BBC site (which houses the 11,000+ recipes) has a visibility score of 217,368, with an estimated traffic value of £32million:

bbc.co.uk food visibility and value

Based on this value alone, it already begs the question about the purpose of removing the recipes:

“The move is understood to form part of a plan to cut £15m from the corporation’s online budget and focus on distinctive public service content.” BBC

Substitutes and competitors

The value of the bbc.co.uk site is huge, and whilst I doubt that the BBC has had (or needed) a huge SEO investment to rank in the first place, the niche subfolders do offer a huge coup for brands that can secure the spot as the bbc.co.uk/food’s replacement.

This is bigger than just recipes, and could in future include travel, news and other sections of the BBC site which will have similar-sized traffic values.

Recipes

Now at this stage, this isn’t a particularly scientific way of looking at who stands to gain from www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes no longer being around, but let’s look at the SERP for ‘recipes’ which has around 77,000 searches/month:

Recipes SERP - May 2016

Based on this one term alone, Jamie Oliver currently stands to gain an increase in click through rate from being an extra place up in the rankings – all without having to change strategy.

Multiply that by the near 2million other keywords, and there’s a huge pot of traffic/clicks that can be monetised for other recipe sites: everything from lamb tagine (22,200) to buttercream icing (18,100).

Links

Presumably there is someone out there who is frantically scraping the BBC site to collect all the great content, or alternatively those who may resort to printing it out instead…

There are those that have promised to publish the recipes anyway, but this is unlikely to have the same reach for organic traffic as the main BBC site based on sheer domain authority alone.

The BBC has since confirmed that the existing URLs will still be live but not linked to and removed from search engines indices. This does then still leave the small chance that they may find their way into the Google index if other sites are linking to them, which we’ve seen before.

So, let’s talk links. According to Ahrefs there are approximately 117,000 referring domains to /food with near to 1million dofollow backlinks. That’s SEO currency that one would assume will be redirected back to another BBC page, although the BBC might consider redirecting that value to the BBC Good Food site instead.

BBC Good Food

The BBC has confirmed that they will still have their commercial bbcgoodfood.com site, which actually houses far more content, including the how to, ingredient and lifestyle content that bbc.co.uk/food/recipes does not have.

Redirecting the bbc.co.uk/food content into this site would be a sensible move, and would likely give a visibility boost to bbcgoodfood.com.

Interestingly, this site appears to be a more favourable result for users anyway, judging by the growth in visibility for this site alone. The below demonstrates how Google appears to believe that BBC Good Food is a better result for users, as it has in fact overtaken the main BBC domain for visibility over the last two years:

bbc.co.uk food visibility vs bbcgoodfood.com

Opportunity

Whilst the BBC Good Food website has larger visibility than bbc.co.uk/food, it only shares visibility across 143,746 keywords. So, add back in the context of the near 2million keywords that bbc.co.uk/food ranks for and that leaves a pot of circa 1.8million keywords up for grabs for bbcgoodfood.com alone.

The best way of grabbing that opportunity would be to get the value from bbc.co.uk/food; in fact this is probably the best experience for users, too. This is where other competitors could be rubbing their hands together in a similar way to Currys after the demise of Comet.

Summary

So why am I writing about recipes from a search perspective? Well, whenever pages are to be removed/changed/replaced, there is always some SEO value in them.

It’s often something that brands forget to check for, and – as we’ve written before – digital assets are often hard to value and – when they are – it is often done inaccurately. Take note BBC.

Update 18/5/16

The BBC have confirmed a U-turn on the so called moth-balling of recipes, however there are still concerns from competitors on the leg up that transferring the recipes to bbcgoodfood.com will have. I’m with Steve on this;

Based on the value of the traffic that is being removed (which could be transferred over to bbcgoodfood.com) it would be a good deal for a competitor providing the migration of those URLs is done right.

Update 19/5/16

The BBC have confirmed that the URLs and content will be migrated over to bbcgoodfood.com:

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