Improving your blog performance – the work doesn’t stop after publication.
If you’re working in a business that has multiple brands or products in its inventory, you’ll inevitably find that some things have to take priority over others. As a result of this, certain aspects of your brands might start to underachieve. This was partly the case with some of the blog sections on our sites at Friday Media Group, which were never a primary focus due to the classified nature of the majority of our business.
In July of 2018, the decision was made to turn two of our brands into ‘community hubs’, rather than just buying and selling marketplaces. This seems to be the direction that online business is moving in, with search engines paying particular interest in the educational value and authoritativeness of a site’s written content.
One of these chosen brands was Gunstar: a top UK firearms classified site that had just lost its market-leading position to a long-standing competitor. I was given the task of re-engaging with its audience, providing the shooting community with useful and interesting content, and tapping into as many marketing techniques as possible.
Jump forward to April 2019 and the Gunstar blog is seeing traffic improvements of more than 1,200% YoY, every single month. So how did that happen?
Tapping into all aspects of coverage.
The first key thing I needed to think about was whether we were really reaching our full potential – was our written content actually being put in front of the people who might want to see it? I’d decided that the answer to this question was no. The occasional social post and an attempt to appeal to basic ranking factors simply weren’t enough to get firearms enthusiasts reading our articles.
So I sat down and made a list of every area of online marketing that we could use to promote our blog content, as well as a few rules of my own that could be vital to creating content that’s engaging, genuinely useful, whilst holding the potential to go viral.
The areas of impact that I identified were: Social media, email campaigns, external forums, organic traffic, native adverts and onsite banners.
A combination of these tools was the strategy I wanted to go for as each one offers a unique opportunity for success.
Social Media isn’t just about sharing content you’ve already created – I started to realise that your presence on social media can actually be entirely different from how it is on the web. People browse social media for a completely separate reason to why they browse a website so it might not make sense for them to see the same thing on both.
With this in mind, I started to think about how I could actually create content specifically for social media. Of course, it can still appear onsite as this is where you want the traffic to go, but you can write your articles with a different audience and purpose in mind. To give a few examples, posts that appear to do very well are ‘Top 10’, Buzzfeed-style articles which are a quick and easy read for someone browsing through Facebook, and breaking news stories that’ll be emotional subjects close to the heart of the reader. Keeping on top of breaking news is a rule which will really benefit you to stick by.
At the end of last month, the shooting world was rocked by a series of law changes put in place by the UK government that affected shooters in a huge way. The potential for a social article covering this story was huge, and getting it live as soon as possible was vital. It turned out to be our most successful social post ever, reaching nearly 10,000 people and doubling our previous engagement records:
Email Campaigns are targeting a wholly different audience that are arguably the most engaged users of all. Don’t forget that these people have actively subscribed to receive updates from your brand, so it’s highly likely that they’ll take an interest in the content you send them. I was surprised to find that sending blog content out on emails was something that we’d never really taken control of before – so I started working with the B2C team to get this up and running. Since the start of 2019, our Gunstar email subscribers have received at least one content newsletter a month if not more. On top of this, a content module was added to the bottom of sales-based emails so that people opening ‘Shotguns for sale’ emails could also read articles about shotguns in the same email.
This was revolutionary for the blog, that started seeing huge traffic boosts on days where emails were sent out. Here’s an example of our monthly blog traffic from April/May – I think it’s clear to see when our newsletter was sent out!
Forums are a great way to get your articles in front of an engaged audience who share a common interest that’s related to your niche. They can sometimes be a bit outdated and might not work for all industries, but you’ll be surprised at the number of people who choose to stick with what they know – sometimes you can’t beat a good old-fashioned forum!
For the airgun sector, forums still work really well. There are a large number of communities who use sites like airgunforum.co.uk to share tips, advice and ask questions to other shooters, as it’s far more personal and casual than most other interactions.
I managed to get a very experienced airgunner on board as a brand ambassador at Gunstar who writes regular review and advice content for us. He swears by using forums to share his content, and we pick up a respectable amount of additional traffic from him posting our articles in forums.
Organic traffic is the conventional way to pull in readers, as search engines will automatically rank useful pages in preparation to be searched for. It can be quite tricky to know what you’ve got to do to get your articles featuring on page one of the search results, because Google’s algorithms are everchanging. But you don’t have to be an expert in SEO to know how to structure your articles in order to give yourself a great chance of ranking highly. I’ve found on many occasions that answering a users question as thoroughly and effectively as possible is the best starting block to build from. Here’s a graph to show you the organic traffic growth of the Gunstar blog over the last 10 months, which was only really achieved by applying more of a focus to this aspect of the site:
Of our top 10 organically performing articles in the last two years, seven were published after January 2019. This is no coincidence. At the start of the year I began to think about the topics and questions that genuine users will be asking, with the theory that we can start ranking higher simply by providing content that’s far more useful.
Of these top 10 performing articles, three were in-depth firearm reviews, two were ‘top 10’ style articles and another was an article titled ‘How much is your gun worth?’. This last article in particular is something that can be used as an excellent example of solving user queries. If someone is looking to sell a product, the first thing they’re probably looking to find out is how much they can actually sell it for. With this in mind I created a handy guide, talking through the steps you might want to take when working out the value of your gun. Google saw this article as very helpful and useful to people searching for related terms, and it therefore went straight onto page one within a week of publishing.
Other than the basic SEO checks, there was no real technical work done here!
Native Ads have probably had the biggest impact on traffic performance, as it’s proven the best way to link users of the main site with the blog. I conducted a brief analysis of the marketplace section of Gunstar and found that there wasn’t really any way in which a user could navigate from here to the blog, meaning we were losing a huge percentage of potential readers. I decided to team up with our ads department to get some of the blog content featuring on inbound native ads, like below:
Users browsing the ‘Shotguns for sale’ section can now be redirected to an article titled ‘Which shotgun should you buy?’. You can see how relevant this is to our audience. The implementation of these ads contributed to a monthly traffic increase of more than 1,000%.
Banners can work in a very similar way to these native ads – using other areas of your site to increase the visibility of your blog.
By combining all of these aspects of marketing I was able to see monumental increases in blog performance, without taking on huge amounts of new workload. I believe that this strategy is equally as accessible for you too and should be able to remain relevant regardless of your niche or industry.