Gawker’s Multi-Million Dollar SEO Mistake


Think SEO is expensive? Try losing 30% of your traffic and revenue overnight due to mismanaged and/or ignored SEO. That’s basically what happened to Gawker this year.

Not to pick on Gawker, but seldom do business people get so much transparent traffic data to see a direct cause-and-effect of a major redesign gone bad (unless they blow a hole in their own foot at some point). So that makes this a uniquely teachable SEO moment. So what happens when you run web properties generating tens of millions of dollars in organic traffic, and one day you push a site redesign to the loud guffaws of many an experienced SEO? Look no further than the graph below.

How much did this mistake cost Gawker? $2 million, $5 million, maybe $10 million of revenue lost to bad SEO. And it’s not like selling mattresses– people don’t come back when the store is open. Missed search traffic can’t come back… you either get the click when the user searches or its lost forever. SEO doesn’t look so expensive anymore.

If you’re responsible for a search-driven web property, for the love of Mike, be smart about SEO. Test, test, test. Hire people who have the battle scars. If Gawker wasn’t owned by a sole proprietor, you can bet there would be some uncomfortable Board meetings with the title of “Why We’ve Missed Our Revenue Forecast for FIVE Months.” The bottom line is, never take your organic search rankings for granted.

Austin SEO Power 40

UPDATE: A new list is available, and it’s MUCH bigger! Please visit my Austin Startups List site to see all 1,400+ websites/startups in Austin.

This list highlights which websites in Austin are most successful at driving valuable organic traffic from Google. The number next to each is the estimated max monthly value of each site’s organic traffic, (Search Traffic Value from SEMRush):

  1. Dell, $17,104,654
  2. Indeed, $13,700,900
  3. RetailMeNot, $12,140,303
  4. University of Texas, $3,566,742
  5., $2,922,996
  6., $1,928,227
  7., $1,691,223
  8. Golfsmith, $1,669,038
  9. Vast, $1,455,373
  10., $1,421,483
  11. VRBO, $1,034,535
  12. HomeAway, $884,072
  13. ExpertVillage, $808,083
  14. WebmasterWorld, $769,794
  15. New Home Source, $563,245
  16. Ticket City, $554,225
  17. Academic Superstore, $551,353
  18. Spiceworks, $543,295
  19., $537,803
  20., $489,395
  21. Solarwinds, $438,009
  22. National Instruments, $405,766
  23. UShip, $371,866
  24. Austin American Statesman, $315,876
  25., $304,882
  26., $303,974
  27. Apartment Home Living, $260,799
  28. Aspyr Media, $257,203
  29. Deals2Buy, $215,481
  30. Fox 7 Austin, $204,597
  31. Freescale, $184,797
  32. Gowalla, $181,514
  33. BuildASign, $150,811
  34. NetSpend, $140,665
  35., $139,831
  36. B Side Entertainment, $125,566
  37., $122,003
  38. Austin Chronicle, $120,594
  39., $113,352
  40. KVUE ABC Austin, $103,988

What motivated this list? I saw an an interesting post on Quora recently asking about the most successful consumer web startups to come out of Austin.  Despite living her for 10 years, I’m still surprised by the quiet little success stories I uncover, so I thought it would be interesting to see if I could find any new ones that might be overlooked by the startup press and the Statesman. So I pulled the list of Austin startups from Crunchbase, AreaStartups, and my memory and then got data from SEMRush on the estimated “Search Engines Traffic Value,” which is a function of a) rankings, and b) the value of a site’s keywords.  From the perspective of an SEO, this list represents which websites in Austin are most successful at attracting organic traffic from Google.

One interesting factoid– Austin is home to 5 out of the Top 10, and 14 of the Top 20 SEO power websites in Texas (,,, among them).

If I’ve forgotten your company, please get in touch to let me know!