How did the latimes.com attracted record traffic at a time when its best-established competitors were suffering slumps? The answer, according to the ship’s captain, Managing Editor/ Online Jimmy Orr, was a two-pronged blog content and SEO strategy that attracted users hungry for quality journalism.
While the L.A. Times isn’t necessarily about to outpace the New York Times or Huffington Post in terms of readers, it enjoyed a 5.4% year-on-year increase in uniques over June 2011. In the same period, the Washington Post saw a decrease of 9%, the New York Times slumped by 18.8% and the Wall Street Journal by a hefty 20.5%. It’s a social media strategy that clearly worked for the L.A. Times.
The cornerstone was a ramped up blogging strategy that, according to niemanlab.org, “opened new doors for reader engagement”. Weaving news into blog content and even breaking stories within blogs, fuelled engagement. Add to the mix a new SEO chief, optimising search-friendly headlines for the web, and traffic from search leapt by 65% year on year. The next ingredient, enhanced Facebook marketing drove reader comments, resulting in a happy vicious circle. A larger community created more traffic which created more conversation and shared around the Times’ content…and so on.
Orr puts the blogs’ traffic-driving success down to excellent content writers and high frequency posting. Integrating Facebook comments attracted quality comments as well as driving traffic from Facebook. In fact, by adding Facebook comments to about 50% of the site, including most blogs, latimes.com was able to get 450% more traffic referred from Facebook than at the same time the year before.
All in all, the latimes.com is a welcome success story within a climate in which many organisations, news and other, are struggling to attract all-important traffic. While the paper is still on a learning curve as it adapts to online, Orr sounds positive about the migration: “There is a misperception that when you put something up on the web, it’s a crapshoot whether people are going to see this or not going to see this,” he said. “In reality, you are much more in control of whether your story is read than many people think.”