Image by Shayan
Ever find yourself wondering why web traffic isn’t so great to your exclusive, hottest story of the year special section? You’re not alone.
This problem isn’t unique to newspaper special sections and it isn’t rare. Special online sections can produce disappointing traffic numbers for a variety of reasons, and it won’t solved by going gonzo with multimedia and Google Maps.
Before rounding up the web staffers to create interactive flash games and eye-popping graphics to build site visitor interest, take a few moments to understand why special sections can produce unimpressive metrics.
1. Your site visitors aren’t interested
Often web news readers are looking for specific topics or niche coverage. The web offers people with niche interests the ability to fine-tune what they’re looking at, helping them skip content they may find disinteresting. Although your special coverage may get high readership because its on the front page of the newspaper, the numbers may not translate online where people can choose what news is important to them.
2. Poor promotion in print
If you have more special coverage online, you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you’re not telling your print readers. And make sure you deliver! Special coverage online doesn’t entail a repurposing of your stories. Tell print readers you have graphs, maps and interactive elements. Tell them you want to hear their thoughts in the comments and you will republish the best comments in the paper. If you want traffic on your site, use the biggest marketing resource you have (the paper) to its fullest potential.
3. Poor promotion on your site
Site visitors need to be told that your special coverage is available and how it matters to their interests.
If your new section has a business angle, play that story up on the business section and link users to your full special coverage. Cross-promotion will help lead more visitors into your special coverage.
Another good practice is to preview stories for your site users. Find ways to tell visitors that something big is coming and they should pay attention this week. Build some anticipation so regular readers are sure to come back on the day you launch.
4. No one’s visiting your site
Do you know which days most people visit your site? Is it Monday? Wednesday? Imagine going through all that hard work to get up a special section on a Thursday, and that’s the day when the fewest people visit your site. Try to launch your special sections on days when the most people will be on your site to get the best chance of more eyeballs.
5. Poor external web promotion
Promoting a special section doesn’t stop at blowing up a promo on the homepage of your news website. If you have a nicely search-optimized site, a big chunk of your traffic is coming from search engines and referring sites. Why not tap these resources to promote your special section? Here’s how:
- PPC (pay-per-click advertising) – Try buying a couple keywords or putting up search ads to promote your special section. The downside of this one is you are actually paying for traffic, which may end up being more costly than the revenue generated from ad impressions on your special section pages.
- Social networking sites - Have any social media mavens on your web staff? Ask them to promote your special sections on sites like Facebook or MySpace. Promote your big initiatives through niche Twitter accounts related to your site. It’s a big wide web out there. If you don’t leave home to meet new readers, it’s less likely new friends will come visit you.
6. Lack of blogger outreach
A lot of people turn to blogs and aggregation sites to stay up on news they’re interested in. So, why not try to enlist niche and community blogs in your online media army? If you’ve got a hot story, leak a few details to a blogger who can build a buzz. This isn’t giving a story away, it’s building interest among readers who won’t necessarily ever see your special package. Fish image by Malias
7. Your special section has a new URL
Putting a special section in a new address creates a number of issues if you want a site reader to actually see your stories. First, your site must inform visitors of the content and then train them on where to find it. Then, your site must continue to overtly promote the location of the special coverage. Try instead to promote your special coverage on a page that already has high traffic, relieving readers from having to learn new navigation and cashing in on your section’s established Page Rank.
8. No backlinks = no search engine love
If search engines can’t find your special sections, how do you expect readers to? Typically, a new URL can take some time before getting a decent Page Rank, which will stymie traffic you can get from search engines. You can help speed up this process by collecting a large number of inbound links from other sites. Try to focus on soliciting links from .gov and .edu sites because those carry more weight with search engines. And don’t be afraid to social bookmark your content and send updates to bloggers.
Have any advice?
What do you do when launching a new special section to ensure you get clicks? Share your thoughts!