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The New York Times flexes its SEO Muscle

We knew it was coming, and we knew the New York Times was “getting” SEO. And it didn’t take long. The King of Content is now dominating the Google SERPs across a wide swath of the keyword space, via the re-published, re-purposed, New York Times Archives. Each “article” is re-purposed on a clean, CSS-driven text page, clearly dated TODAY and not-co-clearly labeled as “originally published” back in 1997, 1998, or whatever all the way back to 1981. Of course cross-referenced, categorized, sub-categorized, ad-infinitum.

You can check for yourself on your own “current events” topics of interest. Look for (search results) and (archives) showing up in the #1 spot for search phrases, as if the re-published content was “fresh news”. Via Google referral, many of them are full articles. Via the New York Times archive search pages, my tests mostly returned pay-per-article results sets. Yes, there are ads on the pages.

Clearly if Google is going to rank “newly published” results as most relevant in a SERP, there is a nice big fat incentive to “re-publish” such archives fairly often. I wonder what the plan is, and what the monetization looks like?

[Update: Within a few hours of this post Google updated the SERPs.The result set mentioned in the comments was apparently “hand edited” – the NYT no longer ranks for that result. I just did my own re-check of one of my queries and it’s still query.nyt as #1 and topics at number 4. I suppose if it were important to me,  I would list them here and get the NYT removed. Isn’t that good to know? (that was “sarcasm“, by the way)]


  1. Smoke em if you got em. :D

    Monday, May 7, 2007 at 1:59 pm | Permalink
  2. Simon Chen wrote:

    John, this is a good post. Damn good. It just gave me one of those “ah ha” moments. Keep up the good work. Cheers Simon

    Monday, May 7, 2007 at 2:14 pm | Permalink
  3. Matthew Brown wrote:

    Awwww…you noticed!

    #2 for ‘sex’ is my personal favorite..I mean…well, not like that!

    Monday, May 7, 2007 at 6:57 pm | Permalink
  4. michael b. wrote:

    “Clearly if Google is going to rank “newly published” results as most relevant in a SERP, there is a nice big fat incentive to “re-publish” such archives fairly often”

    We have a website with 150 archived, keyword rich articles.(800-1000 words each) We have had plan to go back and re-optimize these articles, for improved internal linking, and keyword optimization.

    How would we go about doing something similar to what NY Times has done?

    Thank you for your feedback.


    Tuesday, May 8, 2007 at 11:06 am | Permalink
  5. Grump wrote:

    If any organization has quality content that deserves a high ranking in Google, it is certainly the New York Times.

    Who is it that deserves a higher page rank that you feel is being unfairly squashed?

    Tuesday, May 8, 2007 at 12:29 pm | Permalink
  6. Shoot, and it only took them a decade to figure it out! HAH!!!

    Tuesday, May 8, 2007 at 6:21 pm | Permalink
  7. john andrews wrote:

    Geesh I never anticipated all the “spammer” stuff on the web today. Pitiful. Bow your heads in homage to Matthew and his partners over there propping up the NYTimes. It’s SEO and it works and they did it and they know it, I know it, and you know it.

    Self-check for all who call themselves “SEOs”: if your reaction to this was to cry “spammer” you should re-consider your career choices.

    Tuesday, May 8, 2007 at 7:20 pm | Permalink
  8. Gram Gothko wrote:

    what “current events” search terms did you use to test? i tried three different queries ranging in time from 2007, 2006 and late ’90s and couldn’t match your findings. nyt never ranked number one and in the one query where it showed up 7th, the link went to a page with the first-published date clearly marked.

    it would be interesting if in the dawning age of corporate integrity and ongoing media scrutiny, if nyt said, screw it, we’re going to cheat.

    Wednesday, May 9, 2007 at 6:25 am | Permalink
  9. Matt Keegan wrote:

    I suppose The New York Times has to do something given that hard copy newspaper readership continues to drop. Still, it makes you wonder: will we see stories about World War II listed as TODAY?

    Thursday, May 10, 2007 at 12:55 pm | Permalink
  10. Dabo wrote:

    Regarding your website, the information is great but it’s Hard to read your blog! I have fairly good eyesight, but I wonder how others with less than 20/20 vision read your faded grey small font. Have you had anyone else comment on that?…

    Thursday, May 10, 2007 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  11. RH wrote:

    The traffic for the New York Times will skyrocket if they adopt the approach of using archived content. I believe that newspapers should be going down the same route as most people want to read online (either at work having lunch etc.). The importance though for google is to work out how much content will be listed in the top 10. Otherwise you could see some keywords being dominated by the papers.

    Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 6:42 pm | Permalink
  12. indrie anhie wrote:

    I just came upon this and was wondering if and how this would affect server resources considering that all pages are served dynamically. I might have missed it but what was the reason for generating the pages dynamically? Will caching plugins cache the pages?

    Saturday, December 12, 2009 at 4:51 am | Permalink
  13. Van wrote:

    The New York Times definitely needs to change with the times. Newspaper revenue has dropped off substantially and most dynamic news companies or papers are turning to the internet for a bit stake of revenue. Monetising their sites is the new issue and how much they should charge for people viewing their articles. SEO will be integral to these papers.

    Monday, December 21, 2009 at 4:52 pm | Permalink
  14. Irgy wrote:

    The New York Times it’s New York Times.

    Saturday, April 3, 2010 at 12:19 am | Permalink

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  1. […] I admired the New York Times for their SEO efforts in the past, and even followed up when some SEO people whined about unfair competition from the New York Times SEO efforts. But now The new York Times is demonstrating the greedy behavior that some of those SEO whiners feared. It’s not just The Times, but many other newspapers, magazines, and private websites getting to be Greedy Bastards these days. […]