In May of this year, the BBC announced far-reaching cuts to their web presence. “Soft news“ content such as magazine articles, recipes and travel advice would be reduced. The BBC’s director-general, Lord Hall of Birkenhead, said that the broadcasters’ websites “cannot be all things to all people“. All this is nothing new. On the chart bellow, we can see that the Visibility for BBC.co.uk on Google has been decreasing for years. Mainly due to two reasons:
(1) On 26 February 2010 the BBC’s web output was cut by 50%, with online staff numbers and budgets reduced by 25% in a bid to scale back BBC operations and allow commercial rivals more room. On 24 January 2011, the confirmed cuts of 25% were announced, leaving a £34 million shortfall.
(2) In 2004 the BBC used the Public Value Test as the cornerstone of its manifesto for the renewal of its charter. The BBC took on a pioneering role in this endeavour.
5 years ago, the BBC.co.uk had a Visibility Index of 1,000 points on Google. Today, they are left with 628 points. The BBC pretty much reduced its marketshare on Google by 37% over the past 5 years. So what does this Visibility Index value of 628 points actually mean today?
How big is the BBC.co.uk on Google?
If we look at the top 20 of the most visible domains for the UK, we will find the BBC on position number 8, a heavyweight with 628 points. Directly below them we have the commercial domain TheGuardian.com, with 563 points. At position 19, we have the Dailymail.co.uk with 327 points (List of top 100 Domains in the UK).
The BBC.co.uk has 25,900,000 indexed URLs within Google. They rank for about 2,44 million popular keywords on Google and for 469,105 of those on the first page of Google’s search results. Another 62,115 keywords have rankings within image- and news-verticals.
Running a direct keyword comparison with the BBC’s nearest competitors, TheGuardian.com and Dailymail.co.uk, we can see that the BBC.co.uk and TheGuardian.com have 56% of keywords in common, and a 49% overlap between the BBC and Dailymail.co.uk. They are clearly competitors, no doubt about it.
Breaking the Visibility Index score for the BBC down into hosts, directories and URLs
The BBC is going to cut “soft news“ content, such as magazine articles, recipes and travel advice. The BBC.co.uk contains a variety of content ranging from news, sport, music, science, technology and entertainment, amongst other things. 60 of the 256 directories on BBC.co.uk with measurable Visibility on Google are actually quite relevant to the entire domain (list of directories).
Directories on BBC.co.uk
Let us take a closer look at the most visible directory overall on the BBC.co.uk: /news/. If we were to treat the directory as a domain, it would actually take position 44 of the Top 100 UK Domains by itself. This directory alone was clearly more visible than the entire domain Mirror.co.uk, until recently, and still is more visible than Independent.co.uk:
To get an idea of just how big some of the BBC’s directories – such as /schools/ and /food/ – are, I would like to compare their Visibility on Google with the Visibility of the entire domain Rollingstone.com, which comes in at position 99 of the Top 100 UK Domains.
The travel section is also on the BBC’s chopping board, but we cannot explore this section in the UK, as it is hosted on BBC.com/travel/ and not available in the UK. The travel directory on BBC.co.uk (https://www.bbc.co.uk/travel/) is all about motorways and traffic news.
Hostnames on BBC.co.uk
Looking at the domain BBC.co.uk, we find that the BBC prefers to use directories over hostnames (list of hostnames). It is important to note that they have a hostname called news.bbc.co.uk, which, at the moment, only ranks for archived or timeless news. But if we added the Visibility of bbc.co.uk/news/ (150,7 points) and the news.bbc.co.uk (23 points) host together, we get 173,7 points of Visibility on Google.
This would put the news section of BBC.co.uk at position 37 of the Top 100 most Visible UK domains. Right below Microsoft.com (190,19), but ahead of Google.co.uk (169,05) and Nih.gov (166,87). In other words, this one section of the BBC domain would be 8 places above the entire Mirror.co.uk domain.
URLs on BBC.co.uk
Google can understand the relation between content and domains very well, and when Google considers you to be an authority on a subject matter, if you like or not, you will also start to rank for keywords that you do not even use on your site or which you would have never expected to rank for. It is on you, what you decide to do with this.
The BBC.co.uk holds such an authority for some topics, that their URL for the subject “weather in London” is more visible than the large majority of domains in the UK. This URL alone has about as much Visibility on Google.co.uk as the entire McDonalds.com domain:
The URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/2643743 ranks for 2,336 keywords related to “weather london“. The most remarkable thing here is the fact that 2.100 of these keywords rank on the first page of the search results (see the entire list of keywords).
BBC Recipes: going from BBC.co.uk/food/ to BBCgoodfood.com
In his blog post BBC ´Recipes – A Possible Explanation’, Dan Barker gives us a detailed step-by-step explanation of what went on with the BBC’s plans. In response to the petition to save the site bbc.co.uk/food/ (with more than 100,000 signatures), the BBC clarified the following:
As Dan explains, the central question is: why did the BBC simply announce that they were closing ‘BBC Food’, without explaining that they’d be moving the content to ‘BBC Good Food’? If that is what they are planning, then let us look at some of Dan’s quotes in his article:
- The ‘BBC Food’ section of the overall BBC site competes with ‘BBC Good Food’, which is a completely separate website.
- ‘BBC Good Food’ is part of BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC which is charged with maximising profit inn order to help fund the overall BBC. BBC Worldwide is a £1bn+ company, which generated just under £140m profit last year, and passed £226m across to the parent organisation (ie. theoretically keeping the license fee down).
- If the BBC close ‘BBC Food’, and migrate the most valuable content across to ‘BBC Good Food’, this increases the likelihood of them making profit.
In effect, they take a directory full of taxpayer funded content, such as bbc.co.uk/food/ – a directory that itself is as visible as the entire Rollingstone.com website, or in other words, there are only about 98 domains, of the millions of domains in the UK, which are more visible – and shift it to their commercial arm:
If we were to see a 1:1 Visibility transfer from bbc.co.uk/food/ to bbcgoodfood.com, then BBC Good Food would jump from position 63 to number 38 of the most visible domains in the United Kingdom. Thereby increasing their marketshare by 56%, while, at the same time, getting rid of a competing domain.
The Visibility Index is a reference number for a domain’s visibility in Google’s search result pages. It will therefore also express a domain’s marketshare on Google. Where this is concerned, it is not important for just how many keywords you rank, because we also consider the search volume for each keyword and the click probabilities for the ranking positions within the keywords. An example:
TheGuardian.com ranks for 2,86 million keywords on Google.co.uk and the Dailymail.co.uk ranks for 2.82 million keywords. While both domains have close to the same number or ranking keywords, we see a much larger Visibility on Google for the BBC, which itself “only” ranks for 2,44 million keywords (a good 400.000 fewer keywords than the other two). This is due to the fact that the BBC either ranks on better positions for their keywords or they rank for keywords with a higher search volume, or both.
I hope you enjoyed this weeks post and we wish you a nice weekend!