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Your Publishing Niche May Determine Your Search Success

Having a startup magazine in the finance and health publishing niche used to be a slow crawl to success, but has Google changed that?

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Publishers are seeing big increases and decreases in organic traffic to their Portal subscription websites after June’s Google Phantom update, which focused on freshness of high-quality content. The data comes from a study by SimilarWeb who released numbers from the top 20 media sites for the month of June.

Depending on your niche, you may have seen an uptick, or a downswing. For example, Finance saw 16% growth, News and Media rose 14%, and Games rose 13%. In the News and Media category, SunTimes.com alone saw a 307% uptick in organic search volume.

Unfortunately, publishers in the Career and Education niche saw a 25% drop in the same time period. Advisory-type media companies in the How-To Ask and Expert niche dropped by 20%.

On a month-to-month basis, and with a small sample size, it’s hard to speculate on why some niches, like finance, would grow so tremendously, while education would drop so low. Since the update primarily had to do with content freshness, we can only assume it has to do with the frequency of which these types of sites get updated.

If it was based on content only, it would seem like the reverse of what we’ve seen in the past, where financial news sites could take much longer to be indexed, and education sites under a .edu domain were indexed and ranked highly. However, financial news sites are updated frequently, and .edu sites are often updated much less frequently.

We’ve had several financial publishing startup clients over the years, and they, along with the health niche, have historically taken longer to get indexed and rank after launch than any other niche.

It’s not a mystery. Google knows that financial and health advice shouldn’t come from just anyone, and they seem to apply more strict algorithms to these niches. Until now, apparently.

An example of a health niche publisher breaking through the Google barrier

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Maybe you’ve heard us talk about Natural Health Advisory, a Mequoda client who was recently acquired by one of our other clients, University Health News.

Last year, Natural Health Advisory won our yearly Mequoda Rocket Award, an award that honors the fastest growing website among Mequoda’s Gold Member websites. Before its acquisition, NHA was one of the country’s leading providers of validated, scientifically backed natural health information. And last year, they experienced growth in traffic of 368%, a massive feat for any online business.

When publisher Tom Vick met with us for the first time, he had hundreds of articles, and wanted to reach out to build a digital publishing company. He asked, “Do we do print?” And our answer was, “No, we don’t think so.” Given the size of his competition in the natural health space (albeit most of those “competitors” with inferior content), we decided a four-legged approach was best: a health portal and directory to publish abundant amounts of free search-optimized content, and two premium products to sell: a newsletter and library, which would all be done digitally.

Tom’s hurdles, as it turned out, weren’t limited to a competitive online space. Natural health blogs are abundant, and many of them are not so high quality. That’s the very reason why Tom launched in this niche – to give readers a fact-based alternative to the junk floating around the web.

We discovered that much like similarly plagued industries like finance and investing, Google has a tight set of standards for this type of content, and it took two years before Google let us play.

For two years we were seeing the gate, and it wasn’t letting us through, even though Tom’s team was producing extremely high-quality content, written by medical professionals, and backed by scientific studies.

Then one day, when the site turned two, the flood gates opened and Google began indexing and ranking Tom’s content appropriately.

It was an illustrated lesson on patience, and we talked recently about the idea that it’s a heck of a buffer to entry – that 24-month buffer zone. And if you’re thinking of launching a health site from scratch, you’re likely to encounter the same thing.

It took two years for Google to vet the site, see who was linking to Tom. The authority standard that Google holds health and investing sites to is higher because it needs to be. If there are two topics where you don’t want bad advice, it’s investing and health.

It’s never been a better time to be a niche publisher

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Investors like journalism again because it’s quality content, not quantity. It reaches specific audiences. Now, who else do we know who creates that kind of content? Why, it’s the niche publishers Mequoda has always served! Imagine!

And not only do we believe in the quality of content created by niche publishers, but we’ve also noted before that by reaching that “very specific audience … in a deeply authentic way,” niche publishers are also able to deliver more and better leads to their advertisers. After all, if you make martial arts floor mats, where will your advertising dollars be better spent – at ESPN.com or BlackBelt.com?

So, while we see the data that a Phantom update has affected publishers directly in different niches, even flipping finance in a more positive direction, it’s not enough data to tell us which niches are more Google-friendly than others. It’s clear that this update boosted search for news websites, but let’s be honest—they weren’t well optimized or search-friendly before so they could only go up in rank.  The New York Post increased by a whopping 155%. Actual headlines on their site are “People in line for cronuts unfazed by nearby corpse” and “Male escorts are making crazy money at the RNC,” so how else were they going to get search traffic? Certainly not through good old-fashioned SEO.

In fact, after we launch a few more financial and health sites, we’ll let you know if anything has changed about the difficulty in ranking when you’re in the financial or health niche. In the meantime, tell me your niche and let me know how your search traffic has increased or decreased over the last month or two.

Posted in Multiplatform Publishing Strategy

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