As everything has been unraveling regarding Better.com CEO’s decision to lay off 900 employees during a Zoom call, many people online have been expressing their ire towards the CEO for making this decision.
The story quickly went viral, receiving quite a number of links. The other metrics, however, remain in question as we proceed through this analysis.
There was even a TikTok video that went viral, revealing the CEO’s message to employees over a Zoom call. In fact, this video has been viewed over 3.5 million times in three days. It has also generated more than 1,558,000 likes and 16,000 comments. Many of these comments are not exactly positive, because this lay off has hit a nerve for people worldwide.
To evaluate the overall impact of SEO efforts on this type of tactic, we looked at several different attributes of the big picture in Semrush and AHREFs, including these metrics before and after (before the move to layoff workers – October, 2021, and after the move to layoff workers – December, 2021).
- Overall Organic Traffic
- Branded Traffic
- Overall Backlinks
- Referring Domains
- Referring Pages
- Domain Rating
This analysis does not include any information about the Better.com site that may be revealed by reviewing their private Google Search Console/Google Analytics accounts.
In Semrush, we have discovered the following interesting metrics:
- Overall branded traffic decreased from 75% in October, 2021 to 38% in December, 2021.
- Overall organic traffic increased significantly by 122,307 from October, 2021 to December, 2021.
- Overall ranked organic keywords declined from 1,063 in the top 3 in October, 2021 to 1,055 in December, 2021.
- However, overall organic keywords in the 4-10 position increased from 2,500 in October, 2021 to 2,836 in December, 2021.
- Referring domains decreased from 4,747 to 4,703, with a net loss of approximately 44 domains.
- Overall backlinks have increased by 24,204 from 214,844 in October, 2021 to 239,048 in December, 2021.
Clearly, branded traffic still took a hit, and did not achieve much of an increase. Based on traffic numbers for this site in the past, it still only achieved a modicum of an increase in their traffic as a result of all that hard work.
This is something we want to avoid: doing a lot of hard work and not getting much of a result afterward. You’re really just spinning your wheels at this point.
Overall Metrics in Semrush: December 2021
Semrush Branded Traffic: October 2021
Below, you can see the Branded traffic trend in Semrush before the layoffs. This traffic is as of October, 2021. They began seeing dwindling traffic numbers around this time.
Semrush: Branded Traffic Trends for Better.com – October 2021
If we are going based on these metrics alone, then the stunt did not help matters at all. In fact, doing this stunt could have made things worse:
Semrush Branded Traffic: December 2021
Semrush: Branded Traffic Trends for Better.com – December 2021
For branded traffic share, this decreased significantly from October 2021 to December 2021. In October 2021 they had 75% branded traffic share. In December 2021 this decreased to 38%.
Semrush Organic Traffic and Keywords, October, 2021
Below are the organic traffic and keywords to Better.com, from October, 2021.
Semrush: Organic Traffic and Organic Keywords for Better.com – October 2021
Semrush Organic Traffic and Keywords, December 2021
Below are organic traffic and keywords to Better.com, from December, 2021.
Semrush: Organic Traffic and Organic Keywords for Better.com – December 2021
If we go by these numbers, Better.com lost ground in terms of ranking keywords. But not by much. They lost 22 keywords out of the top 3. They saw the most gains from positions 11-20 and positions 21-50.
However, they did gain significantly in organic traffic from October, where they were at 247,259 in organic traffic. In December 2021, they ended up at 369,566 in organic traffic.
Clearly, they have seen some benefit from their stunt. But it’s definitely not all positive, as we will see further in this analysis.
Better.com Did Not Gain a Significant Number of Referring Domains
For Better.com, the referring domains they gained between October 2021 and December 2021 are minimal, at only 42 referring domains.
Semrush: Referring Domains for Better.com – October 2021
Semrush: Referring Domains for Better.com – December 2021
Clearly, this stunt did them no favors and could have easily slowed their growth as a result, as negative online backlash resulted in the public relations executive team handing in their resignations after the fact.
Their Backlinks Increased Quite Significantly
Below are backlinks to Better.com, October 2021 compared to December, 2021.
Semrush: Backlinks for Better.com – October 2021
Semrush: Backlinks for Better.com – December 2021
Clearly, they benefitted significantly in backlinks to the tune of 30,915 backlinks as a result of this stunt.
These are the metrics we obtained from AHREFs, and a brief analysis of each:
- Overall AHREFs Rank actually decreased from 58,600 in October, 2021 to 50,689 in December, 2021.
- Referring domains increased from 4,562 in October, 2021 to 5,351 in December, 2021.
- Referring Pages dramatically decreased from 655,298 in October, 2021 to 270,031 in December, 2021.
- Overall domain rating increased from 72 in October, 2021 to 73 in December, 2021.
These are the overall metrics for Better.com via AHREFs:
AHREFs: Overall Metrics for Better.com – December 2021
AHREFs: AHREFs Rank for Better.com – October 2021
AHREFs: AHREFs Rank for Better.com – December 2021
Better.com experienced a decline in their overall AHREFs rank from October 2021 to December 2021.
What Happened To Their Referring Domains?
Purely from a referring domains perspective, this increased from 4,530 to 5,665. Not a significant increase when you consider their overall link profile, but still nothing to sneeze at either. This could still be beneficial depending on the search results they are targeting:
AHREFs: Referring Domains for Better.com – October 2021
AHREFs: Referring Domains for Better.com – December 2021
What About Their Referring Pages?
It looks like Better.com was also doing some maintenance on their site. Their referring pages dipped sharply from 646,707 in October, 2021 to 252,718 in December, 2021.
AHREFs: Referring Pages for Better.com – October 2021
AHREFs: Referring Pages for Better.com – December 2021
Finally: What Happened To Their Overall Domain Rating?
In October, 2021, their domain rating was 72. In December, 2021, their domain rating increased to 73.
AHREFs: Overall Domain Rating for Better.com – October 2021
AHREFs: Overall Domain Rating for Better.com – December 2021
SEO Insights From This Analysis
Before the layoffs, everything was going quite well with their SEO numbers. The site had a steady increase in traffic every month. This does not appear to be a decision that was done just for the exposure and brand awareness value alone. It’s well known that the mortgage industry tends to decline around the winter months, simply because most people tend to avoid moving during the holidays. In addition to this, there are other potential factors involved that would lead to a layoff such as this.
That being said, judging strictly from SEO factors, as opposed to offline metrics and industry trends that may be impacting this kind of activity:
Clearly, overall branded traffic took a major hit between these dates – before the news was announced to after the news was announced. While the overall number of backlinks have increased significantly, this has not translated to a significant effect on increased rankings for organic keywords. In addition, this also has not resulted in a significant traffic increase either at the end of the period we are measuring.
While the overall number of backlinks have increased, their effectiveness remains in question.
It is possible that a more immediate, significantly positive effect while not observed in this data—could continue to increase in the coming days.
We don’t think, however, that laying off employees en masse` should ever be something that’s used for a perceived SEO increase. If you need that perceived increase in backlink metrics, just use Money Robot or SEO Autopilot. Google may ignore those links for the most part. If you know what you’re doing, you may be able to generate that perceived increase that you need without being hit by a Google penalty. But, we do not recommend this approach unless you are very experienced with this type of thing.
How People Around The Web Are Reacting
Most of the feedback regarding this decision has generally been negative. This is generating a lot of resentment and mostly negative online sentiment.
Our own CEO posted the following to Facebook and LinkedIn, and received the following responses.
Facebook Post and Replies:
LinkedIn Post and Replies:
Is Any Publicity Really Good Publicity When You’re Trying to Build Backlinks?
While some may believe that any publicity is good publicity, this can actually be detrimental to most businesses when it comes to online marketing. No one wants to do business with someone who is routinely mean, marginalizes others, or is unpleasant to work with in other ways. This is where that belief is wrong.
Studies of social media numbers, reputation analysis, and actual brand amplification analysis reveal that those businesses who routinely garner better, feel-good online reputation activity enjoy more success as a result. Angering users and the internet population on the whole is not likely to do you any favors. While your traffic and SEO metrics may increase, your online reputation can take a hit, taking any trust you may have built up to that point away with it.
There are many instances where brands that suffer negative backlash online may have a very hard time recovering. Even though they may have a significant uptick in SEO metrics initially, the backlash can ruin customer relations and the business may not recover.
While this is not an example that features layoffs, this is one example of what not to do when you’re trying to cultivate a positive reputation about your business online.
We do not recommend taking the layoffs approach as the first approach to increase your SEO metrics. In the case of Better.com, while they achieved over 20,000 backlinks, their other metrics did not reflect the increased value at all. And in some cases, their other metrics decreased, which is the opposite of what we want to see happen in these cases.
Instead, and this is especially true if you like and enjoy the people you work with and don’t want to let them go: we recommend taking additional measures behind the scenes to increase your SEO metrics. You can create a Facebook ads campaign. You can build more links. You can create more outstanding content that can drive even more traffic and engagement to your site.
We hope that you have enjoyed this case study into how Better.com could have improved their marketing overall, and that you’ve learned not to focus on just short-term quick gains.
Better.com Executives Resign Amid Online Backlash Over Their Handling of Layoffs
Just days after Better.com unceremoniously fired 900 of their employees over a Zoom call, their executives have resigned.
According to CNN – three of the company’s top communications executives – Melanie Hahn, head of Public Relations, Patrick Lenihan, VP of Communications – and Tanya Gillogley, head of Public Relations have all resigned.
These resignations all follow the mass layoff last week that terminated approximately 9% of the mortgage lender’s staff.
Better.com is managed by SoftBank.