This Business of Art Fix #31: Bustle Sure Is Good At SEO and Other Important Stories

Welcome to the 31st “This Business of Art / Media / Web Fix,” in which I share with you things I read that I loved relating to the work I do here — online media, business, entrepreneurship, women in tech, start-ups, journalism, publishing, management, queer visibility, and so forth. You can expect this sucker to drop every-other Wednesday.


Search Engine Optimization

Ladies and otherwise-identified humans, today I would like to talk to you about a topic that has been heavy on my mind, and that topic is “how Bustle’s SEO is driving me nuts on a personal level.” As you hopefully already know, Bustle was founded by a man named Bryan Goldberg, who one day woke up and decided to start a women’s publication for ladies who like both makeup tips and feminist politics. He was not daunted by the fact that this was not a remotely original or new idea, and his site has indeed succeeded in a major way.

Prior to Bustle, Goldberg headed up Bleacher Report, which openly relied heavily on SEO tricks to stay on top:

The site’s deft use of search engine optimization (SEO) — the tweaking of content and coding to increase online visibility — propelled its unpaid, amateur writers’ fare to the top of Google’s search engine results, placing it on equal footing with original work created by established journalistic outlets. It’s a rare sports-related Google search that doesn’t feature a Bleacher Report article among the top results…

While nearly every major publication now has an SEO maven on board, Bleacher Report employs an entire analytics team to comb through reams of data, determining who wants to read what, and when, at an almost granular level. In this way, the site can determine the ideal times to post certain types of stories — thus meeting a demand that doesn’t yet exist, but will.

Reverse-engineering content to fit a pre-written headline is a Bleacher Report staple. “The analytics team basically says, ‘Hey, we think this is going to be trending, these eight to 10 terms will be trending in the next couple of days,'” says a former editor for the site. “We say thank you, and we as editors come up with the headlines and pass those on to writers to write the content.”

As Business Insider reported in March in an article about Bustle’s success, Bustle “has figured out a way to rank high in SEO, which was a Bleacher Report specialty.” I don’t know what this means regarding data or the time of day you publish a piece. I just know that every time I google a question — ANY QUESTION AT ALL! — Bustle shows up, and I feel weird about it. They write good articles and have some wonderful people working there and are paying a lot of women to write things! But they also populate the back-end of their site with articles written specifically to garner search engine referrals and these articles have no real substance. I doubt any of these show up on the homepage. It’s like a secret shadow business lurking beneath their real business! It’s the Bustle equivalent of Buzzfeed’s increasingly stupid clickbait lists!

Here, I made you this so you can understand where I’m coming from:

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In Amanda Hess’s Slate article about Bustle’s success, she observes, “paging through the site, these [really good articles] get buried under hundreds of quick, thin takes competing to gain traction in search engines or go viral on Facebook.”

I’m curious about how much of their incredible growth and millions of unique visitors they owe to a machine cranking out hundreds of posts a day that are essentially well-formatted Yahoo! Answers. Also, they were cluttering up my search results when I was trying to write this post about Orange is the New Black.

The end.


This Business of Online Media

+ Following their big loss in the Hulk Hogan case (financed by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Theil), and two other defamation claims, Gawker Media has been forced to file for bankruptcy. Nobody is going to lose their jobs or anything though everything is gonna be fine.

+ The Nieman Lab talks to Reddit’s first-ever head of journalism and media, Mark S. Luckie, about handling the White Men of Reddit, #Blacktwitter, and how publishers can find more success with their platform.

+ The New York Times plans to offer ad-free subscriptions

+ “Publishers as platforms” is a system that could cause a lot of problems.

+ “In May 2016, 50% more US users and 20% more EU users were socially loyal than directly loyal.  By socially loyal, I mean users who visit approximately every other day and come from a social referrer. This challenges our long-held notion that the “true” loyal audience is the audience that comes directly to our homepage. To me, this provides hope that in this mobile, article-first, driven-by-platforms world, quality content still prevails and will build a loyal audience.”


This Business of Journalism

+ Would you like Sarah Koenig to walk you through the assembly of Episode Three of Serial, the one about Leakin Park? Well, you’re going to be very pleased by this, then.

+ Esquire’s new editor wants the magazine to be “fun, funny, stylish and substantive.”

+ African-American News Media: Fact Sheet

+ Sports Illustrated is doing their best to get back in the game.


The End Times

+ Condé Nast Launches New Audience Data Platform Bla Bla Bla: “Condé Nast Spire is, according to the company, the “first of its kind.” It uses the data to build accurate micro-segments geared toward advertisers’ business goals and to create custom content that resonates with said micro-segments to ensure the timely delivery of the right message to consumers at the right time.”

+ Facebook is paying a bunch of publishers and celebrities millions of dollars to produce video content for their platform, including The New York Times, Buzzfeed, Vox, Huffington Post and Mashable. Also, Deepak Chopra. The Times and Buzzfeed are both getting $3 million from the social media giant.

+ I don’t know what Facebook Bots are, but Fusion does.

+ I guess Tumblr’s gonna have live video now too. So there you go.


Businesswoman’s Special

+ how to be a good listener

Going freelance won’t solve all your problems

+ how to become memorable when you meet someone for the first time

+ what to do when everybody thinks you’re an assistant

+ you didn’t get the job. do you really want to know why?

+ career-propelling money advice for creatives

+ how 21 frequent fliers beat airport boredom

+ why looking “professional” is so much more expensive for women

Riese is the 38-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2829 articles for us.

7 Comments

  1. Good article on being more memorable. I didn’t know I was already doing half the stuff. No wonder people remember me. Now if only I could remember the people I meet so I don’t look like a butch whenever I meet a person for the second time.

  2. decrying SEO-optimized seems like an unnecessary barb towards bustle, and the motivation for writing this seems that it’s because bustle is doing similar things to autostraddle, but at a higher visibility.

    google algorithms rank content, seo plays into that system. if you’re bummed about good content getting buried, that’s just a matter of how search engines work. bustle was smart enough to build out their backend to better their position when it comes to google results. to me, that sounds like……….the goal of a vast majority of websites.

    seo is a tool like any other. it’s your prerogative not to take advantage of it, it’s bustle’s prerogative (and gain) to use it. also, proper seo typically isn’t computer generated. google scraping algorithms are advanced enough to determine organic vs. inorganic/stacked keywords. so. there’s that. #thoughts

  3. I’m in the 0.01% of Google search users who just uses the -site: compound operator whenever I don’t want to see specific sites in my results. It’s articles like this that really humble me into realizing that I search like a librarian and probably have a completely different experience of the Internet as a result. ? I think the only time I have ever made it to Bustle is when you guys post roundups, and honestly? Without Autostraddle, I would be totally current events-lost.

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