Technical SEO Results In Millions Of Clicks From Discover & Top Stories
BroBible is a sports news, culture news, and gear media site that covers timely stories in sporting news. The sports and culture news world is saturated with digital publishers. Therefore, being the first news site to pop up in Google’s Top Stories or Discover feeds is a necessity for attracting traffic and increasing ad revenue.
In May 2022, BroBible completely lost their visibility in Top Stories results. This resulted in an opportunity cost of millions of organic sessions during the course of a year. In turn, they consulted with our technical SEO agency for support. Go Fish Digital’s goal was to get them back in Top Stories as soon as possible.
BroBible’s primary target audience is millennial men searching for off-the-beaten-path sports and culture news. With Google Discover being a mobile-only feature and Top Stories taking up a significant amount of real estate on mobile SERPs, we knew that we should focus our efforts there to recapture that audience and help BroBible regain their lost traffic.
However, Google’s Top Stories and Discover are fairly undefined search features, and there’s no “rulebook” for optimizing for this goal; therefore, we had to research and dive deep into what factors could be coming into play here.
We decided technical SEO was the best approach to take. Based on previous work, we hypothesized that improper technical configurations might limit Top Stories and Discover eligibility. Technical SEO was also scalable and allowed us to test and make changes quickly across their whole site.
To tackle and achieve success dealing with such undefined features as Google’s Top Stories and Discover, we started with in-depth technical SEO reviews and tests.
First, we performed a crawl to identify thin content. We wanted to test if removing low-quality articles helped get inclusion in these search features.
By doing this, we found 2,500+ articles that were outdated and not helpful to users:
We also looked at the indexation signals of the site. We found thousands of pages that were flagged as “Indexed, though blocked by robots.txt” in Google’s Index Coverage report.
When investigating the timing, we discovered BroBible had mass redirected all pages containing /slideshow/ roughly two weeks before they lost their spot in Top Stories.
We used the Wayback Machine to view the content on the /slideshow/ pages before they were redirected and found that they were extremely low quality, often containing a single image and no text, with publish dates as early as 2013.
On top of the redirects, we also found that BroBible blocked Googlebot from crawling the URLs containing /slideshow/ in their robots.txt file.
This mixture of contradictory technical signals from the BroBible site was confusing Google and potentially impacted the crawl efficiency of the whole site. Over time this may have diluted BroBible’s overall authority to the point where they lost their eligibility for the Top Stories and Discover features.
To fix these technical errors, we asked BroBible’s engineering team to apply 410 status codes to the /slideshow/ pages.
Within a matter of days, BroBible began appearing in Top Stories again.
Through this technical SEO testing initiative, we were able to reinsert BroBible back into Top Stories and Google Discover. In two months, BroBible saw
- +20% increase in programmatic revenue
- Clicks from Google Discover increased by +329% and impressions improved by +381%
- +105% clicks from traditional search. Impressions improved by +53%.
Despite little information or “best practices” around Discover and Top Stories, we were able to develop technical SEO hypotheses to get BroBible back in these coveted features. Through testing and verification, the site reclaimed their visibility and netted nearly +10M clicks in a two-month time period.
This innovative approach has fundamentally altered BroBible’s ability to earn organic traffic and monetize their business.