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10 Ways to Turbo-Charge your Digital Offering

At last summer’s AOP awards,’s editor, Kate Lucey, won the award for Digital Editorial Individual 2014. We asked Kate what advice she would give other publishers looking to boost their web traffic. Kate had ten tips.

By Kate Lucey

1. Take away the fear

In today's era of 'oh crap, we need to do something with the website', staff everywhere are being asked to do more work for no pay rise, and no extra resource to help them. Naturally, the sudden introduction of ‘Oh balls, now we all need to do the internet,’ doesn't sit well with everybody - and often this is down to digital seeming a lot more complicated than it is. Obviously this will vary depending on your company, but to a lot of people that may never have used a CMS, the thought of uploading content to a website is beyond daunting. Baby steps are encouraged here; not to be patronising, but to embed the notion that writing for the internet is FUN, YAY, and that it doesn't have to be a terrifying onslaught of JavaScript. Concentrate on the content first and the tech later. Doing everything all at once will be thankless and intimidating.

2. Normalise your language

Magazine copy does not work on the internet. While you read a magazine as a treat, to escape from reality and the headache of being-constantly-plugged-into-things, you read copy online while you're still plugged into those things and don't have time for any crap, thanks. The internet is a chaotic and confusing place, and people respond well to organisation and normality. You're writing your copy for humans - humans who you want to seek out your copy on a search engine or be presented with your copy on social media. Write how those humans speak. What will they search for? What will they respond to? Nobody knows your audience better than you do, so speak to them in their language - not magazine spiel.

3. Add a little competition

A little competition never hurt anybody (ignoring a wealth of competitive sporting deaths…) and is - in my experience - a sure-fire way to make the internet seem more appealing to a team who've previously had nothing to do with it and shunned the burdens of having to write tiresome web stories (further reading: point 1). If a few people from your team are hopping on the digital train, making a competition around the performance of their contributions helps remove the resistance and make the internet ‘fun-yay!’, and reinforces the fact that your website is a viable property that people are looking at (even if traffic isn't great for now). There's often a trend in publishing houses for websites to be seen as a dumping ground for press releases and other PR-pleasing guff. This guff will of course not perform very well, and content that resonates with your readers will. Presenting the stats to your team as part of some friendly competition is a clear indicator of this, and will (hopefully) encourage team members to become creative with content.

4. Become obsessed with statistics

If you're going to make things competitive (in a friendly way - this is no time to introduce a tough regime; everyone already hates you for making them work on the internet), then making your team aware of your stats is crucial. There's no point putting content up because 'it'll be good for us to be seen to do this' if nobody actually sees it, and you'll only know if people are seeing it if your stats become your meth-addiction. Look at what content's working and consider what franchises you can break out of that content to get repeat successes. Look at what didn't work and consider why - was it just poor content? Could it have been packaged in a different way? Did the image let it down or give it all away upfront on social media? Experiment with different phrases and images on social media and use tracking links to compare the success rate. Look at your dwell time and bounce rate - are people reading your content? Or are people being sucked in with a misleading headline and immediately leaving the page after realising they've been duped? Breathing your analytics is the key to growing your traffic; learn how to read them and how to use them to incite change.

5. Explore traffic sources

Think about your audience; where are they most likely going to be looking for the content you're producing? If you're a news source, SEO the shit out of your copy (without butchering our fine English language) and prime your website for Google news. Use webmaster tools to guide you. If your audience are active on social media, create content that's shareable - people share content that makes them look good, and looking good on the internet means being funny or clever. If your content manages to be either or both of these things and your site has prominent social sharing buttons, you're on the right track. Of course these aren't the only two referral sources for traffic, but they're a good place to start.

6. Make digital a seamless second thought

People will always be resistant to piles of extra work, so the key to initial digital transition / upskilling in a team is to not add a lot of separate work, but to encourage the thought throughout the existing workloads as opposed to as-well-as. You'll already be working with content creators, so what content is your team creating that can be extended online? Are there overs from an interview or photo shoot? Is there extra research that could follow on online? Is someone conducting an in-depth interview that they could finish with five minutes of quickfire questions for some snappy web content? There will already be lots of opportunity to expand online. Don't be scared.

7. Don't do what everyone else is doing

What works for other people may not necessarily work for you. Plus, when you're starting out, there's no point competing with the biggest fish in the pond. Think specifically about what you want to offer, and be the best at offering that in particular. Don't be a jack-of-all-trades, be a master of one.

8. Give your users a reason to come back

Alas, the internet has to be regularly updated less it become just a digital version of a magazine - that nobody will look at. If you don't refresh your content, neither Google nor your users will want to bother with you. Soz. But there's no point publishing 50 articles a day just for the sake of it, and your audience needs a reason to come back to you. Whether it be because you're the master of your trade, as above, have a specific tone that resonates with your specific audience, provide exclusive content that can't be gleaned elsewhere, have regular videos on Tuesdays at 1pm, WHATEVER, give the world a big reason to love you.

9. Get the right people for the job

Those working in publishing sectors should be well aware that digital is more important than ever. If attitudes in your office aren't changing, bring in some different attitudes. If you can't change your staff, change your staff.

10. Experiment. Fail fast. Learn.

I've banged on a lot here, but the joy of the internet (it is a joy, promise) is that you can essentially throw a lot of crap at a wall and see what sticks. If something messes up, it's not on a shelf for a month leaving you flailing and helpless. If something fucks up, you can look at your stats and figure out what went wrong. Try new ideas - if they work, how can you expand them? If they fail, why did they fail and what have you learnt about your audience that you can apply to future work? It's constant learning, constant adapting - and a constant headache tbh - but it's FUN. Go play.