Removing BBC recipes may cost them over 320,000 monthly visits

In the wake of the BBC’s announce­ment that they would be remov­ing the recipes sec­tion of their web­site, we did some dig­ging into just how much traf­fic and val­ue they stand to lose.

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 2 comments

The BBC have announced plans to ‘close or archive’ notable sec­tions of their web­site includ­ing BBC Food, News­beat, News Mag­a­zine and iWon­der.

The most sig­nif­i­cant of the cuts will see the entire recipes sec­tion of their web­site tak­en offline. Alas, no longer will bud­ding bak­ers be able to find Mary Berry’s clas­sic recipe for Tarte au cit­ron (at least on the BBC web­site).

Evi­dent­ly the BBC recipes are much loved, and there was an imme­di­ate pub­lic out­cry yes­ter­day (on the day of the announce­ment). At the time of writ­ing, a peti­tion call­ing to “Save the BBC’s recipe archive!” has amassed over 170,000 sig­na­tures.

This extent of the back­lash prompt­ed the BBC to address the issue fur­ther, and it’s now emerg­ing that the archive is like­ly to be moved to BBC Good Food, one of the the UK’s lead­ing recipe web­sites (owned by the BBC but not itself part of the Cor­po­ra­tion). As Dan Bark­er wrote, this may have been the inten­tion all along, and the move could poten­tial­ly mean the move­ment of a high­ly lucra­tive selec­tion of con­tent from a non-prof­it mak­ing con­text into a prof­it-mak­ing one.

Many ques­tions remain unan­swered, but just how much the BBC Recipe archive is worth from a dig­i­tal and SEO per­spec­tive — and what they stand to lose — is a top­ic worth explor­ing.


Unprecedented Culling

From an SEO per­spec­tive, this kind of ‘culling’ is a com­plete­ly unprece­dent­ed move — hav­ing asked a few sea­soned SEO friends if they could recall any oth­er instance of a huge and author­i­ta­tive domain, vol­un­tar­i­ly culling a sig­nif­i­cant part of their web­site like this, we drew a blank.

The actions, which are per­haps moti­vat­ed by com­pe­ti­tion con­cerns, are sur­pris­ing in that such a deci­sion is almost nev­er made by brands or dig­i­tal pub­lish­ers, at least not with­out a sig­nif­i­cant effort to pre­serve audi­ence or site equi­ty.

As a result this is a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to analyse the impact of the BBC’s actions from a com­pet­i­tive and SEO per­spec­tive. In par­tic­u­lar, we’re going to look at how and what the BBC stands to lose by dis­solv­ing the recipes and food sec­tion of the site, how this may affect the search land­scape, and which com­peti­tors oper­at­ing in the space are best posi­tioned to gain.

BBC Food by the numbers

We’re going to look specif­i­cal­ly at BBC Food, as this is the sec­tion that the Cor­po­ra­tion has stat­ed is like­ly to be tak­en off the BBC web­site com­plete­ly.

In a nut­shell, here’s what the /food sec­tion of the web­site is worth to the BBC, as of this month:

  • Pages in this sec­tion receive an esti­mat­ed 326k vis­its per month, from organ­ic search.
  • Those vis­its are dis­trib­uted across 6,894 pages (although our crawls sug­gest that upwards of 30,000 URLs exist in this site sec­tion).
  • If pur­chased via Google AdWords, those clicks would cost an esti­mat­ed £97.6k.

For the intents of this study, we exclud­ed pages from food pro­gram­ming (/food/programmes) as these are expect­ed to be pre­served.

Content and pages

The BBC Food sec­tion doesn’t only con­tain recipes — there are numer­ous cat­e­go­ry, tax­on­o­my and archive pages which allow users to browse by ingre­di­ent, chef, cui­sine type, occa­sions (such as food for Father’s Day) and oth­er options. It’s our expec­ta­tions that these pages will also be archived or removed in line with the recipes they sup­port — sug­gest­ing that there’s much more at stake here than a hand­ful of recipe pages.

Of all these pages, 77.7% per­cent are com­prised of recipes, which are sup­port­ed by addi­tion­al pages con­tain­ing infor­ma­tion­al con­tent about ingre­di­ents (i.e. /food/crostini), tech­niques (/food/techniques), and chefs (/food/chefs).

Here’s how each sec­tion of the site breaks down by share of the total esti­mat­ed traf­fic that each sec­tion receives from organ­ic search:



As you can see, the recipes them­selves draw the lion’s share of the esti­mat­ed traf­fic with 71.5% of the total (229,556 est. vis­i­tors), and ingre­di­ents bring­ing in 23.1% (74,287 est. vis­i­tors).

Rankings and Visibility

BBC recipe pages are well known for being high­ly vis­i­ble in the search results. But just how vis­i­ble are they? The fol­low­ing graph shows the rank­ing dis­tri­b­u­tion across /food.



In total 2,759 of 6,894, or 40 per­cent, of all traf­fic gain­ing pages in the /food sec­tion rank in a top ten posi­tion when users make rel­e­vant search­es. This dis­tri­b­u­tion shows that a large amount of the con­tent which cur­rent­ly exists on this site is of a suf­fi­cient­ly high qual­i­ty to con­sis­tent­ly rank high­ly (in the top 10 results). These are strong pages, with good con­tent, which per­form well.

Power Pages

As you might expect from the strength of these rank­ings, the BBC has a num­ber of high­ly author­i­ta­tive pages rank­ing for high vol­ume com­pet­i­tive key­words, and nat­u­ral­ly draw­ing a high vol­ume of vis­its.

The top ten pages include recipes for sweet scones, chick­en kor­ma, prof­iteroles, and may­on­naise.

When we fac­tor in media val­ue, we get an idea of what the BBC web­site stands to lose from some of their most valu­able pages. Accord­ing to our cal­cu­la­tions, the most valu­able indi­vid­ual page in the food sec­tion is the recipe page for cia­bat­ta (worth an esti­mat­ed £8,593 per month in media val­ue), fol­lowed by a page col­lat­ing pan­cake recipes for pan­cake day (worth an esti­mat­ed £4,330 per month in media val­ue).

At scale, these pages rep­re­sent lucra­tive con­tent, which com­mer­cial web­sites could eas­i­ly mon­e­tise through adver­tis­ing or affil­i­ate prod­uct sales.

Competitor Landscape

At present /food wins a sig­nif­i­cant share of online vis­its for recipes and infor­ma­tion­al cook­ing con­tent online. Much has been dis­cussed as to whether com­peti­tors will now be able to step in and cap­i­tal­ize on the clos­ing down of /food.

At present, there are a num­ber of ded­i­cat­ed recipe com­peti­tors (exclud­ing web­sites and brands which offer recipes as an exten­sion of oth­er ser­vices, e.g., super­mar­kets) oper­at­ing the the UK food and recipes mar­ket, which are per­haps best posi­tioned to cap­i­tal­ize.




BBC Good Food is the largest recipes site in the UK, so assum­ing the con­tent is migrat­ed smooth­ly, it should cement its posi­tion as the lead­ing author­i­ty in the space. To put their lead into con­text, even if sec­ond placed com­peti­tor were, hypo­thet­i­cal­ly, able to cap­i­tal­ize on all of the equi­ty of BBC recipes, they would still trail in sheer traf­fic to BBC Good Food by sev­er­al mil­lion vis­its a month.

Final thoughts

The BBC recipe archive is undoubt­ed­ly pop­u­lar and much loved by the British pub­lic, and the removal of the resource will result in a notice­able loss in traf­fic and val­ue for the domain.

For us, what’s par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing here are the par­al­lels between the BBC’s (poten­tial­ly) polit­i­cal deci­sion to make large-scale changes to their web­site with a seem­ing lack of con­sid­er­a­tion for the impact to their SEO (and to their vis­i­tors), and the kinds of deci­sions we often see senior deci­sion mak­ers in large organ­i­sa­tions ini­ti­at­ing.

Many SEO agen­cies and prac­ti­tion­ers will have hor­ror sto­ries of how their busi­ness­es’ com­mer­cial and polit­i­cal pres­sures force changes to site struc­tures, con­tent and strate­gies — fre­quent­ly in a way which fails to opti­mal­ly con­sid­er the impact on exist­ing, and poten­tial future SEO per­for­mance.
So when your com­peti­tors, or oth­er large play­ers in the mar­ket make these kinds of shifts, the smart play­ers make sure that they’re pre­pared to take advan­tage of the gaps these deci­sions cre­ate.”

Jono Alderson
Jono Alder­son

Glob­al Head of Dig­i­tal, Linkdex

Brands com­pet­ing in this mar­ket­place face a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to mobilise their con­tent, out­reach and mar­ket­ing strate­gies. Those who use this kind of data to iden­ti­fy tac­ti­cal oppor­tu­ni­ties, quick­ly, will be able to mop up on some of the traf­fic and brand equi­ty which the BBC will inevitably lose as a result of this deci­sion. That could shift the bal­ance of pow­er in the mar­ket, and rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant com­mer­cial win.

Hav­ing worked close­ly with peo­ple who worked on the food site, it is sad to see the invest­ment in research, plan­ning and care tak­en to pro­duce a resource of con­tent that was pas­sion­ate­ly loved – with pan­cake day actu­al­ly being a spike in traf­fic for the BBC (the sim­ple pan­cake recipe from BBC always came first)!

in 2011 the BBC team pro­duced a visu­al­i­sa­tion of the research they had been con­duct­ing to under­stand what to pub­lish through the year – this visu­al­i­sa­tion shows the vol­ume of data avail­able.

I am fail­ing to under­stand what is actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing with this archive, but it seems that mov­ing and archiv­ing the con­tent seems more chal­leng­ing than the nor­mal approach which is just to ignore it.

The recipes attract about 2% of the over­all traf­fic to the site how­ev­er, this it is impres­sive ever­green con­tent which shouldn’t require the lev­el of invest­ment in main­te­nance that news and sport require.

Gerry White
Ger­ry White

SEO & Ana­lyt­ics Con­sul­tant, JUST EAT, ex BBC


Using the Linkdex plat­form, we con­duct­ed a domain lev­el crawl of the entire domain, and inves­ti­gat­ed the /food direc­to­ry, where all of the recipe and food con­tent cur­rent­ly resides.

Linkdex’s vis­i­bil­i­ty tools allow you to see the key­words peo­ple are using when they find pages in the Food sec­tion of the BBC web­site, and where those pages rank in the search results. This, com­bined with our pro­pri­etary click­through rate mod­el­ling for each rank­ing posi­tion, pro­vides us with an esti­ma­tion of the traf­fic which those pages receive each month.

Using this fig­ure, we cal­cu­lat­ed an esti­mat­ed media val­ue for each page, by mul­ti­ply­ing the esti­mat­ed vis­its for each page in ques­tion by the cost-per-click (Google AdWords) of each key­word it ranks for. This is a use­ful proxy for under­stand­ing how much the mar­ket val­ues those key­words, which cor­re­lates with their com­mer­cial val­ue (and the abil­i­ty of web­sites and busi­ness­es to con­vert search­es for those key­words into sales or cus­tomers).

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex's data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

Inked is published by Linkdex, the SEO platform of choice for professional marketers.

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