Sports is as highly competitive online as it is offline. Like you, we were focused on getting noticed by our ideal customers within a crowded and fiercely competitive environment.
In sports, there are teams, leagues, major publications, TV networks and tens of millions of fans worldwide writing about their team and sport. How could we attract visitors to our sports sites when the competition for their attention was so fierce?
My first step? We produced a traffic generation plan focusing on three channels:
- Organic search
- Social media and
- Email marketing.
We knew that by consistently and methodically executing the plan we would see results. Traffic increased from 652,000 visits to 2,680,000 within two years! That is more than 2 million additional visitors!
More important than just driving traffic – we got the results we really wanted.
Sales increased from $731,000 to $2,460,000.
Plus, our Twitter accounts grew from 111,000 followers to more than 390,000 followers and our email list went from zero to over 29,000 subscribers.
The key to our success was in driving qualified, engaged traffic to our network that will likely buy something. So how did we do that?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO was one of our main sources of traffic, driving 40% or over 1 million visitors in the second year.
We faced three major challenges:
- We planned to produce 8,000 pieces of content per year, and we had to take that into account when planning for SEO best practices.
- The league, team and major media outlets were all viewed as authority sites by the search engine, making it nearly impossible to rank for one or two word terms. We had to find a better alternative.
- We wanted to build relationships with fans in the US and across Europe, so we needed a customized tactical approach for each site.
How did we achieve success?
- By implementing the SEO Best Practices we made sure that the search engines could find all the content that we were publishing on a daily basis.
- We used a combination of tools and plugins to make sure that the ongoing content had optimized title tags, had all the appropriate internal links and was automatically shared on the appropriate social networks.
- We took the time to research and understand our audience. What topics were fans interested in? Once we knew that we developed content for each topic that met our goals. We didn’t waste time and money producing content that fans weren’t interested in.
- We used a simple metric; revenue per search engine visitor to make sure that we were focused on the best performing topics and keywords.
Cultivating Referral Sites
Organic search was only one source of traffic. Another potential source of quality traffic was Referral Sites. Referral sites are where sports fans hang out and look for ways to interject themselves into the conversation and share our content. The process of identifying and researching quality Referral Sites is worth the time and effort.
Traffic from Referral sites has a different “feel” than organic search traffic. The ability to “feel” traffic is a benefit of years of experience generating qualified traffic. It’s a sense one develops over time and exposure to many different scenarios where audience building is critical.
People from fan sites were at a different phase in the buying cycle so we offered them chances to subscribe to newsletters or follow us on Twitter. This allowed us the opportunity to build a strong relationship with them.
Relationships built over time and within the context of a common interest could lead to sales down the road.
Content as a strategy
The best way to bring fans back to our sites is to produce interesting and engaging content.
Our content was written for fans by fans. Instead of just regurgitating the news, we gave our opinion on it. That drew fans and debate to the sites and kept users coming back again and again.
As we grew the network of sports websites we started with broad content and then became more niched and focused. This allowed us to reach the most passionate fan, the fans with a burning interest in their teams, who wanted to engage and interact with other fans.
We published great content several times a day, bringing those fans back to the sites on a daily basis.
We also used the scheduled post feature to ensure that we were publishing at the most optimal time to reach our target audience.
For example, London is 5 hours ahead of US East Coast and Milan is 6 hours so if we wrote a post in the US in the evening EST, we could set it up to publish at local times and ensure we reached the most fans at the optimal time.
We continually tested what were the optimal times to publish content, as we quickly realized that each site performed differently, even ones targeting fans in the same country.
We used social media to promote content and engage with followers and fans.
Social media was a great source of traffic. We focused on building up the followers of our social media accounts by creating a voice and tone that resonated with the fans. Our Twitter followers grew from 111,000 to over 390,000. That meant more fans were exposed to our content, and that drove even more visitors to our sites.
We also used a website called Tweetreach.com to measure the effectiveness of the tweets we sent out. I am a big fan of A/B testing and we found that we could increase the number of impressions and CTR on our tweets by as much a 3X just by testing different tweet formats.
For example as you can see from these tweets over two seasons, we learn’t that not including the price in the Tweet lead to a higher CTR and higher ROI.
Increasing qualified traffic from 652,000 visitors to over 2,68 million visitors in just 24 months was the result of a Traffic Generation plan that included performance based organic search, inclusion of select fan sites, the absolute necessity of well-written, on-topic content and the strategic use of social media.
Have a question on how to generate more qualified traffic to your site? Contact David Wilson, Braveheart Digital Marketing at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-770-8863.