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Stop focusing (so much) on SEO

While the subject line is a little clickbait-y, there’s an important point I want to make.

SEO should be thought of as an acquisition tool; the first step in building your audience.

Obviously, SEO is critical to the exposure and growth of media business, so it’s understandable why so many publishers focus on growing traffic via SEO.

However, what I rarely see is them channelling that same energy into converting their SEO-led traffic into an engaged audience.

The distinction I often make is traffic is vanity, whereas audience is valuable.

Traffic is hard to predict and almost impossible to control. Reddit or Google Discover might send you a million ‘bonus’ pageviews this month and then never ever again.

However, if you focus on engagement and have a direct connection to your audience, you’ll see far more consistency.

A highly segmented, niche audience is significantly more valuable than a mass of uncontrollable traffic.

Related: How to leverage Google Discover to grow your traffic

In a recent essay, Bleacher Report founder Dave Nemetz described how audience conversion was integral to the growth and valuation of the leading sports media company:

“(We realised) we couldn’t survive by depending on other platforms for our audience. We would continue to find new readers via search, social, and other sources. But our core focus was converting that audience so we could own the customer relationship and our distribution.”

He credits the decision to deploy modal boxes (pop-ups) for email collection as a turning point that saved the business. A decision that ultimately led to its USD $200m sale.

Read Nemetz’s full essay ‘The Leaky Bucket’ here.

Hungry for audiences?

Think of it this way:

SEO makes the entire pie bigger. Retention gets you a bigger slice of the pie.

So what are you doing to convert first time visitors into repeat, engaged and long-term visitors?


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These 4 companies do over $1.1 trillion in combined revenue, and all pay their web developers in McDonald’s coupons.

If you’re fretting over feature development, this humorous and observational tweet will put everything into perspective!

Ben May

Ben is Managing Director of The Code Company. He is passionate about working with publishers on clever and innovative ways to solve complex problems. He works with The Code Company team on all projects, bringing his perspective and problem solving skills to deliver great outcomes.

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