Digital Publication SEO Case Study
An 828% Increase in Organic Traffic in 12 Months
The Goal of Publishing Anonymous Stories
This particular digital publication focuses on unfiltered and anonymous stories submitted and written by users. By sharing stories directly from the perspective of individuals, the publication pushes the boundaries of readers’ comfort levels by encouraging them to consider new perspectives and ideas and asking them to question how they interact and engage with others. Its purpose and mission are to repair civil discourse by breaking down echo chambers that hold back open-minded interactions.
Readers and subscribers of the publication are empowered to break free from their echo chambers by not only reading the narratives on the site, but by reading content they may not normally choose to read.
And by using a proprietary short questionnaire that determines the types of content users would typically be inclined to read, the website selects and shares with users pieces specifically designed to push them out of their comfort zone and think critically about their point of view. Civil discourse, repaired.
A Brand New Site in an Extremely Competitive Landscape
The digital publication partnered with Sure Oak soon after launching its new website, which had only 15 pages.
From the beginning, there were a few major challenges to confront. First off, the website was entering the extremely competitive landscape of digital publications and needed to establish itself as a worthy contender and an authoritative source for thought-provoking, personal stories.
To make things even more difficult, the content the site was publishing included an extremely wide range of topics, which isn’t exactly ideal for SEO. That meant it needed a strategy that would not only ensure each story ranked for relevant keyword phrases but that the homepage and other high-level pages ranked for terms related to its service offerings — e.g. anonymous stories.
Technical SEO Challenges and Keeping Pace with Growth
There were also some initial technical challenges, specifically related to architecture and page speed.
The original architecture that had been built out did not account for what would eventually be needed to keep pages organized — i.e. as the site grew, organization would likely become problematic.
In addition, the site speed was very slow, especially considering the fact the site — at the time — had only 15 pages. We knew the site speed would only get worse as the site grew.
So at the beginning of the program, it was imperative that Sure Oak not only establish a comprehensive on-page and off-page strategy; it was just as important to address the underlying technical issues on the website to ensure those efforts were not affected by crawl errors or low site speed scores.
Sure Oak designed a unique and specialized strategy for optimizing narratives in order to target relevant keywords and phrases without compromising or adulterating the existing content and remain true to the website’s mission of unfiltered narratives, while preserving each author’s intent and voice.
Despite constraints — e.g. predetermined page topics, limited editorial input, etc. — around optimizing content on the site, Sure Oak was able to vastly improve visibility in search engine results pages.
Examples of successfully optimized pages from their publish date to their current status include:
Narrative: I Had an Affair With My Best Friend’s Husband
Results: From six to more than 2,000 sessions per month a year later
Narrative: Why Do I Feel Guilty After Sex? My Christian Upbringing, That’s Why
Results: From one session to more than 600 sessions per month a year later
Narrative: I Love Someone I’ve Never Met
Results: From one session to more than 700 sessions per month a year later
Narrative: Life as a Female Police Officer in 2020
Results: From 0 sessions to almost 400 sessions per month less than a year later
Narrative: Kamala Harris and Sex Workers: Can They Work Together in a Biden Presidency
Results: From 0 sessions to almost 300 sessions per month less than a year later
Optimizing these narratives required a unique approach to keyword research and targeting. Intent played a much larger role, as most narratives touched on several topics. In order to determine which topic was most relevant to users, Sure Oak had to identify the most prominent theme within each narrative and build the keyword targeting around that theme. By consistently aligning narratives with searchers’ intent, Sure Oak was able to improve rankings and build the keyword portfolio of the site.
Specific keyword examples include:
Sure Oak also launched a large-scale link-building campaign to earn natural and strategic links to specific narratives on the site. The acquired links and referring domains were crucial to establishing the website as an authority in the competitive digital publication space and supported the overall goal of increasing visibility for target pages, as well as more holistically increasing the domain authority of the site.
In addition to the on-site optimization work and link building work, Sure Oak also worked collaboratively with the publcation’s development team to improve the website’s technical SEO. This included performing a technical audit to identify issues that needed to be resolved immediately and consulting on an ongoing basis to help maintain the health of the website as it grew, and to prepare for the future.
Impressions increased significantly as well. The number of impressions over a one-month period grew from 12,200 to 425,000 — an increase of 3,384 percent — the same month a year later.
The website went from ranking for 81 keywords to 4,122 keywords, a 962 percent increase, a year later.