As one of the most popular news sites on the Internet, the the BBC News website has recently been updated.
What’s interesting about this update though is that a lot of the changes seem to be SEO driven. In November last year, BBC editors wrote a blog post explaining how they were already making changes specifically for the benefit of Search Engines.
Lets start by looking at the evolution of the BBC News website over the years courtesy of the Wayback Machine:
BBC News Website 1998 -1999
BBC News Website 2000 – 2001
BBC News Website 2002 – 2003
BBC News Website 2004 – 2006
BBC News Website 2007 – 2009
As you can see, the layout has stayed fairly static over the years, with the main changes being to fonts, color schemes and additional graphics.
OK – so now let’s take a look at the new site:
The first thing you notice is that the categories are now across the top of the page, rather than down the left. This gives the page additional real-estate for larger graphics, and more importantly longer headlines.
I mentioned earlier that the editors had blogged last year about how the site changes were SEO based. In a post by Steve Herman he explains how they decided to make the headlines on article pages longer for the benefit of search engines (chasing the long tail?)
With the extra space gained by moving the categories to the top of the page, they can now extend the headlines as they did with internal articles. There are also theories that links higher up the page are given more weight than those lower, in footers or sidebars (as on the original layout).
The next change is quite subtle and I doubt a lot of people will notice – the original home page at http://news.bbc.co.uk now 301 redirects to http://www.bbc.co.uk/news. Is this a sign of the BBC trying to improve their www. site by sending to link juice and PR it’s way?
The BBC have now embraced social media and have added the usual share buttons to all articles as you can see in the screenshot below.
BBC Editor, Steve Hermen said last November “A growing number of users come to stories on the BBC site from places other than our own front page – for example search engines, other sites, personal recommendations, Twitter or RSS feeds”.
This change will make it much easier for readers to share news articles on the major Social Networks.
There’s more emphasis on links to other (in particular – popular) articles now – an example of which you can see below:
More page space has been dedicated to related articles and analysis and there’s also a push to include more media with additional links to image galleries and videos.
By creating additional inter-article linking, is this a sign that the BBC are trying to spread the flow of link juice throughout the site?
Whether you like the new look or not will be a personal choice, but as you can see from above, it looks like the BBC is taking SEO seriously.
So seriously, that their willing to use SEO as a reason to change the look and feel of a site which has been popular with readers for many years!