Style Me Pretty announced on April 10th that it is being taken offline completely by April 30, 2018. For those not familiar with the wedding industry, Style Me Pretty is the queen that sits on top of the SERPs for over 150,000 wedding queries (around 18 million pageviews per month) …well at least they were sitting pretty until something happened….
As a content marketer, as soon as I heard the news that Style Me Pretty was taking down their website, including the content, I did two things:
- Reached out to clients that are in a relevant niche and said BIG OPP let’s recreate their best content so we can steal their rankings and backlinks.
- I dug into Style Me Pretty’s backend using tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs to find out the real reason behind the close.
You see, you don’t just close a behemoth of a site with that much ranking power and traffic willy nilly. Neither Style Me Pretty (SMP) or the company who owns SMP – Oath Inc., a subsidiary of Verizon – gave much in the way as why SMP was closing down completely. According to Wedding Sparrow, the SMP staff only received 24 hour notice before it was announced to the rest of the world (rough day…). The post by Wedding Sparrow also pointed to the sign that Oath has been closing other sites as well, possibly due to the shortage of advertising vendors or maybe the costs of being such a high producer of content. Another tweet by Jorge Tamez suggested a different reason why the site was shutting down:
Style Me Pretty is closing down. I heard from several people that their changes in their vendor listing structure really screwed up the people paying to be on that list. I guess it came back to bite them. pic.twitter.com/JXIfJKYaSZ
— Jorge Tamez (@leavejorgealone) April 10, 2018
While digging into their content I noticed a few downturns in their traffic, rankings and backlinks back in 2017 that could hint to the reason Style Me Pretty is shutting down.
Possible Reasons Why Style Me Pretty is Shutting Down
Since I don’t have access to SMP’s Google Analytics, I’ll be using third party tools to investigate. First, let’s take a look at Style Me Pretty’s organic traffic through Ahrefs:
A sudden downturn in organic rankings, and therefore traffic, happened in May 2017. If you keep track of Google Algorithm updates, you may remember the May update, where many Internet marketers suspected a quality update by Google, which punishes aggressive advertising, UX barriers, thin content mixed with UX barriers, deceptive ads, etc. Many of the sites who were hit with the May update saw a rebound in traffic a few months later. From this SEMrush screenshot, we see them rising in the search results once again though their metrics are still in the negative.
When Jorge tweeted about vendor issues, perhaps he was talking about advertisers? If SMP was focusing on making money by doing lots of advertising that made it difficult for their user to navigate their site or even want to be on it then perhaps their drop in rankings were due to ‘vendors’.
Lessons from wedding blogs out there (and all content producers for that matter), make it a priority to:
- Create in-depth high quality content
- Watch out for user issues that make it difficult to navigate your site
- Stop blowing your site up with ads – I’m not saying don’t include ads at all but you need to know what Google (and your readers) find as red flags for spammy, tricky ads and avoid them
There could also be a backlink connection. Backlinks are powerful and can make or break your site. In May 2017, we see a large chunk of referring domains drop off. See below for Ahrefs screenshot of backlinks (aka Referring domains). Backlinks drop off all the time organically, but not usually in this amount (2,000!). What this might mean is there were several sites linking to SMP that weren’t Google approved. Maybe a few got hit hard with the May update and their red flags transferred to SMP since they were linking to SMP (yes, this is the dangers of bad link neighborhoods…) and this drop in links was the SEO team trying to remove the penalty due to links. Speculation, of course. Let me know in the comments what you think!
What Really Happened?
Let’s circle back to vendors for a moment. Back in 2016, SMP made a huge change with their vendor structure, which created a bunch of 404 pages and their vendor section called “Little Black Book” was no longer ranking for geo specific keywords. Nicole Baas, who was a vendor, found the change to impact her referral traffic and reported it to SMP back in March 2017. From what I gathered, this correction to fix the broken links and the lack of organic rankings of the Little Black Book may have been the tipping point of Style Me Pretty’s demise.
The reason I think Style Me Pretty is shutting down is because the vendor change impacted 1) the number of vendors who were wanting to work with them and 2) it may have caused a Google Penalty that they are having a tough time correcting since their site is so large and perhaps it wasn’t making a big enough profit for Oath to make it worth keeping live and cleaning it up.
Psych! SMP is Staying Live…For Now
[Post Updated 6/7/18]
The SMP shocking shutdown does have a happy ending. Abby Larson announced April 25, 2018 that she and her husband bought back Style Me Pretty and will be keeping it open. According to my latest data check on Ahrefs, their traffic has slightly increased since the announcement, no doubt due to the publicity. And their followers, fans and vendors have shown a renewed interest (nothing ignites a brand like fighting for a cause).
In the end, the site lived happily ever after