Why Gourmet Died: Publishers, pay attention
Ian Lurie Oct 6 2009
I don’t buy the whole “Gourmet was a luxury brand in a recession” economy argument. How’d they get through the 70s? The 80s? The early 90s?
They’re dying, in part, because the publisher refused to accept the Internet as a business channel. Here’s a quote from CBC News:
“The magazine industry in the U.S. has been hit by a slumping ad market, with Gourmet’s ad pages down 50 per cent. The food magazine also lost out to internet recipes and food writing.”
How easily could Gourmet have avoided the chopping block? Oh, maybe change a title tag or two:
The hottest term out there? ‘Recipes’. Percentage of title tags on Gourmet that include the word ‘recipes’? Less than 1%. Most common first word in a title tag? ‘Archive’.
Then there’s the long list of ‘302’ redirects:
The fact that there’s one instance of duplication for every 10 pages:
And, of course, the endless PageRank leaks (most notably from the home page, which has 108 outgoing links):
Don’t even get me started on the forums, where the first word in every title tag is? You guessed it: Forums.
The most telling statistic
The real death knell is their keyword count:
According to Compete.com, Gourmet.com gets traffic from 355 organic search terms.
Epicurious gets traffic from 8,040.
That has nothing to do with brand, and everything to do with SEO. Gourmet has thousands of pages, and thousands of great incoming links. They could have doubled or tripled their traffic with a concerted, ongoing SEO campaign.
Just a little effort
For Gourmet, just a little effort might have made all the difference. Their only number 1 ranking for a really choice term is ‘gourmet’. That’s great, but it’s also branded and doesn’t bring the kind of researchers the magazine needed to survive.
Fix a few inconsistent linking issues, get the editorial team going on real SEO copywriting, change a couple of 302s to 301s, and who knows? They might still be around.
More food for thought
Gourmet’s SEO failures certainly didn’t help. But there are other ways they could have generated more online traffic, more pageviews, and therefore more ad sales:
- Have an RSS feed linked and subscription-ready on every page. Right now, they have a link in their footer that takes you to a page that then lists a bunch of feeds.
- Provide easy sign-up to an online newsletter. Newsletter advertising is pure gold for advertisers. So build a list and use it. I couldn’t find a signup form anywhere (may just be me?), and no, I don’t want to register. I just want news.
The tipping point
I’ll bet the tipping point for Gourmet came about a year ago, in a meeting. It went like this:
Person 1: We need to edit the title tags…
Person 2: Oh, don’t be silly. We need titles that will intrigue the user.
Person 1: But we need visitors, too.
Person 2: We can’t change the title tags. We can add a field to the database but it’ll take 4 months.
Person 1: Can we remove some links from the home page?
Person 2: No. Everyone wants placement on the home page. We have to make them all happy.
Person 1: Can we add an e-mail subscription form?
Person 2: People have to register to receive e-mails. We need that.
Person 1 gave up. Person 2 won.
Well, you sure showed them, didn’t ya?
It’s a crime
Instead, we have a great publication, with top-notch creative and copy, passion for their industry and a strong following that’s DOA.
It’s criminal. It’s a waste. And it pisses me off.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More