Speaking at the FIPP Digital Innovators Summit (DIS) earlier this year, Sarah Wilkins, digital editor of ALT.dk at Egmont Publishing, highlighted the value of placing a solid SEO strategy at the core of publishing. Often neglected by brands chasing the quick wins believed to be offered by social, the effectiveness of search engine optimisation has to a large extent been forgotten in more recent years. But making friends with Google can have its benefits, and especially for an industry that makes its money through the publication of content on its own pages, it pays to have a solid site.
“We have merged eight different websites into one, because we had eight strong women’s magazines, but each of their websites weren’t going particularly well,” said Wilkins. “And our slogan at Egmont Publishing, which owns AlT.dk, is that we bring stories to life. We didn’t really feel back then like our stories had a particularly long digital life. So we saw the potential of merging these eight sites into one, partly because of SEO value: we would have bigger muscles, people would be able to find us more easily on Google.”
“Also, we saw the potential in being able to target audiences more precisely by just having a bigger site basically, being able to cross-post our content on our eight different magazines/Facebook pages more easily. So there were many pros, and on top of that we believed that the fact that out print brands out so strong would provide a sort of quality stamp of approval online. Because we have eight strong brands, so we believed that merging them would be a success.”
In addition to enhanced Google rankings, solid SEO can also offer success in more pragmatic terms. By focussing on a single site with a single joined-up audience strategy, ALT.dk has been able to significantly streamline Egmont’s publishing process.
“Each brand had its own website, own web editor, own team of journalists, and they were sort of competing with each other’s content. Because many of the articles were dealing with the same subject, or had the same headline, and that’s never a good thing competing internally. So we decided, let’s merge, and make sure that we have one strong version of the story instead of many weaker ones. And within that SEO optimising is a huge part of what we do day-to-day right now. As well as produce original ALT.dk content.”
We asked Sarah if the company’s historic recipe database had been leveraged to add SEO impact to the publication. Offering content that is literally being typed in by consumers during organic search is of course a great way to tailor a brand’s product offering to the specific wants and needs of potential audiences.
“Exactly. Our recipe database is huge. We have 12,000 recipes right now, which is big for us, and again we optimise them all the time. We can see that hey pour organic traffic into our site all the time because people always Google the same recipes. Every summer they want fish, or strawberry cake, and every winter it’s always more sort of comfort food. So yes, food is big.”
On the question of whether we were beginning to see a resurgence in SEO practices within publishing, Wilkins is enthusiastic. She also says that the past temptation to see SEO as being less glamorous than social is also a trend that is coming to an end.
“I definitely think so, yes. You can see now that publishers are starting to search for SEO experts much more than they used to. And it’s definitely becoming part of the culture in a way that it hasn’t been before, finally. But there’s huge gains there, so we’re happy that we saw this three years ago and decided to sort of go all in there. Because we have this huge database – our magazines have been living for years – so we have such a huge database of good content that should of course have a long digital life. And SEO is the way to keep it alive.”
“It sounds less glamorous, for sure! But we see the glam in it, we think it’s important, we can see the value in it. As well as of course as staying on social and still producing content that isn’t just about SEO. We want to be newsy as well, we want to write about the stuff that people are talking about right now, we don’t want to be in the past. We want to continue to have a pulse.
Finally, we asked Sarah to assess where the ALT.dk brand is right now and where Egmont plans to take the publication in 2018 and beyond.
“We were really happy to see recently that seventeen percent of our readers are male. Again, we know that this has to do with SEO right, because if you are Googling a certain recipe or an interview with a famous person, it doesn’t matter the gender. You just want the best content and the best content is going to rank pretty high on Google. So we’re the biggest lifestyle website in Denmark right now, we’re not just the biggest women’s website. So we want to continue down that path, and welcome men as well of course!”
“We have several goals in 2018 and beyond, but the main ones are branding of ALT.dk. Because again our eight women’s brands are extremely strong, but this new site ALT.dk needs to be known as something else, right. So branding is something that we’re looking at, we want people to be visiting us directly so that we can become less dependent upon social media. That’s a big goal. We want more commercial partnerships as well. We have partnerships with ecommerce companies that are going really well, and we want to continue to do that. And then we want a better user experience: we want a better site, we want it to be a pleasurable experience on which to read our good stories.”
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