This month, during the pandemic’s Great Toilet Paper Shortage, Wirecutter’s December review of the best bidet became one of its most popular articles.
But it’s not all about bidets. The New York Times-owned site’s overall traffic and readership is up year over year – in some cases more than 50%. Wirecutter’s affiliate program is also seeing an extra boost in revenue as people turn to it to learn how to weather the pandemic.
“What we do shines through right now,” said Wirecutter general manager Linda Li. “Giving people sensible, practical and research-focused advice has become even more helpful and clarifying now.”
In response to this new surge, Wirecutter is also writing new recommendations and guides, such as a “WFH Starter Kit” guide and a list of household cleaners that kill the coronavirus. All its coronavirus coverage is organized in a central hub.
And some previous articles are getting coronavirus-related updates. For an article about meal kit delivery services, for example, Wirecutter added information about the food safety policies of its recommended products.
Wirecutter also already had a system in place to account for out-of-stock recommended products or price fluctuations, which it’s had to use even more in recent weeks as products sell out.
For instance, as thermometers went out of stock and prices inflated, Wirecutter recommended alternatives, for example, thermometers normally used to track fertility.
Wirecutter is now seeing a revenue uptick because, Li said, readers are making purchase decisions based on its recommendations. Affiliate accounts for the vast majority of its revenue.
Wirecutter has communicated closely with the merchants it works with, as both sides adjust to the unexpected new reality.
Many merchants have seen their online marketplaces flooded with suspect products capitalizing on demand spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. Wirecutter helps people filter through the noise.
“Our merchant partners are seeing us as a critical touchpoint between them and the end consumer,” Li said.
As competing publications have doubled down on their affiliate business, competition has intensified. Common categories, such as “best work from home desk,” are crowded with competition in Google search results.
Coronavirus or not, Wirecutter knows that its research-based approach resonates with its readers, so its underlying approach remains unchanged. “The only way to rank well in search is to perform better than others,” Li said. Strong rankings are a sign that Wirecutter content is getting through to readers despite increased competition.
“We see through qualitative feedback that the Wirecutter is the authority [readers] turn to.”