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Grand Rapids Business Journal Relaunches With A 500% Traffic Increase: Practical Social Media & Content Marketing Produces Stunning Results

January 07, 2013
Content Syndication | Performance Updates | Fulfillment Integration | eNewsletter Integration | Traffic Increase | Tactics to Increase Revenue | Client Profiles | Content Marketing | Revenue Generation

While many news outlets struggle to attract visitors, drive circulation and sustain ad revenue, Grand Rapids Business Journal’s recent site relaunch is establishing a new benchmark for business journals.

Prior to Gemini Publications’ relaunch of its flagship website, GRBJ.com, the company reviewed historic traffic with the ePublishing team to mitigate potential decreases: moving content, facilitating search engine reindexing and guiding readers to adapt to a new site requires proactive steps. At the least, GRBJ wanted to safeguard ad revenue.

And it worked. 

Analytics reports for the two months following the launch showed a dramatic increase in site traffic – from 6,400 to more than 32,000 visitors per month.

A 500% increase sounds almost too good to be true, but a review of GRBJ’s strategy proves that dramatic growth is a direct result of good execution. It created new revenue opportunities, including a reassessment of subscription and ad rates, while presenting ongoing marketing opportunities resulting from the ability to capture and analyze more user data from registrations and trial subscriptions.


Prior to relaunch, GRBJ.com saw nearly 6,400 visitors per month, viewing 16,156 pages.  As we referenced in our launch announcement, the goals for the new site were:

  • Increase site traffic
  • Engage readers, facilitate interaction and improve context
  • Streamline processes to present relevant, value-added content
  • Convert visitors to subscribers; increase revenue from ad and list sales, subscriptions

The Launch Plan

The GRBJ staff focused on four best practices in their launch plan: 9 Key Drivers to Maximize Traffic; Create Reader Loyalty; Engage Readers With Relevant Content in Context; and Convert Visitors To Subscribers (with actionable user data).

Maximize Site Traffic | 9 Key Steps to Drive Traffic to Your Site

1.     Integrate social media into the design:  If you think social media isn’t right for your audience, consider GRBJ’s results.  Their new design doubles down by making it easy for readers to link back to GRBJ.com and encouraging content sharing across the social sphere.

2.     Deploy social media as a content strategy:

a.     Use exclusive Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds.

b.     Place house ads in email newsletters and on article pages to encourage readers to Like and Follow GRBJ.

c.      Develop multiple feeds to help the site and GRBJ’s writers increase visibility and specificity.

d.     Create a Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn presence that readers can’t miss—encouraging them to share many different content types including articles, events and blogs.

The result? GRBJ has quintupled their Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers. More importantly, 44% of GRBJ’s referral traffic is coming from Facebook, with Twitter and LinkedIn also contributing.

3.     Partner With Newsfeeds: GRBJ shares its news with high-profile community and local sites and other distribution channels that contribute big direct traffic—11% of referral traffic—back to GRBJ.com.

4.     Push the envelope for new traffic:  Reddit currently accounts for a small percentage of referral traffic, but more than 98% of that traffic is new visitors.

5.     Offer a free trial to create traffic and user data: GRBJ announced a limited-time, free trial to encourage new users and return traffic, while building awareness and familiarity with the new website.  To capture user data, readers are encouraged to register for free eNewsletters, buy business lists and comment and share.

6.     Execute cross-channel marketing: to generate buzz for the new site and reach subscribers and newsstand buyers, GRBJ continuously promotes the relaunch and the free trial, in the print edition.

7.     Utilize audience segmentation: with ePublishing fully integrated with its eMail Service Provider, GRBJ has streamlined its eNewsletter process, and can now target segments within its audience for special interest newsletters – each linking back to the site and supported by ads or sponsorships.

8.     Highlight blogs for interaction, visibility, reach: GRBJ.com features several blogs, mirroring the main topics covered by the paper – Real Estate, Local Business, Entertainment and Sports Business – to encourage informal reader interaction while making the site more visible to search engines.

9.     Employ Redirects: by moving a large volume of content and putting redirects in place for each article moved to the new site, GRBJ avoided any potential drop in search engine visibility and traffic—from Day One. 

Reader Loyalty: Make Sure Visitors Come back

  • 40% of site traffic comes from links back to articles.  The eNewsletter Integration decreases editorial workload by helping GRBJ staff to publish and deliver multiple eNewsletters and automated topic alerts efficiently.  With article headlines linked back to the site, each newsletter drives traffic to the site, promotes sharing and creates new advertising opportunities.
  • Mobile- and tablet-friendly design ensures that GRBJ can meet the needs of those readers who want to access their news via mobile.  A small but growing percentage of GRBJ.com site traffic originates from mobile devices.
  • Built-in SEO: editorial toolscreate a search engine-friendly URL and metadata for all new content.
  • An automatically updated and submitted sitemap makes it easy for search engines to find and index new content.

Engage Visitors: Present Contextually Relevant Content

GRBJ knows that getting new readers to the site is only half the battle; converting trial visitors to loyal customers and repeat buyers requires a software platform that combines value-added content and customer data management.

Intuitive design coupled with ePublishing’s Content, Community and eCommerce Management Platform delivers contextually relevant, related content when readers need it, while increasing both time-on-site and pageviews.

  • Relevant Content: GRBJ.com engages readers with related articles, events and products presented in context.  Semantic tags link to topic pages that list all related articles. Editorial staff uses streamlined processes to manage site content, products, events, video, galleries and directories.The contextual presentation improves organic SEO and keeps people on the site longer—by automatically giving them more of what they are looking for.
  • Relevant, Engaging News: Image Galleries, Video, reader-generated content and other features create a rich experience, whether a reader is browsing the latest news or researching a local industry.
  • Search Results present a wide range of available resources—articles, pages, blogs, products, events, lists and classifieds—providing business professionals with a choice of resources for news, research and analysis.
  • Infrastructure= improved performance: faster page load time, smoother video and crisp image gallery delivery.
  • Author Tools encourage relationship building with individual authors and specific content by introducing authors at the end of each article or the beginning of each blog post, with links to other articles or posts they’ve written.
  • Trending Article Features encourage visitors to join the conversation, view more pages and share with colleagues.  Visitors quickly see articles that are most popular and generating the most comments.

Convert Visitors to Subscribers | Capture and Apply User Data

The bottom line for Grand Rapids Business Journal is the ability to convert a high percentage of the new site traffic to paying subscribers.  Built-in CRM tools and Integrations with Fulfillment and eMail help GRBJ staff target marketing and renewals as well as, deploy sophisticated content strategy.

  • It is simple for visitors to register with clearly visible subscribe options, short forms and easy-to-select free eNewsletters and Alerts.
  • Registered users manage their own account to add profile details, indicate content preferences, subscribe and view their purchase history.
  • Subscriptions and purchases of lists and other products are handled via a secure shopping cart on-site, supported by a PCI compliant infrastructure.
  • Quickfill QFIE Integration captures user information during the secure subscription process.
  • Commenters have the option of registering on the site or submitting their name and email via Disqus.

What’s Next?

ePublishing will keep watching and report best practices for how well GRBJ converts their new user base to increase revenue. They’ve started with the advantage of ePublishing’s CMS platform—with content, eCommerce, User Management and revenue generating features built into one system:

1)     Advertising and Sponsorship: after quadrupling key traffic metrics, GRBJ has new advertising, sponsorship and lead generation potential, including new mobile opportunities.

2)     Targeted Marketing: when the paywall goes back up and GRBJ begins metering, it will apply user information to target specific audience segments for marketing promotions.

3)     GRBJ will test for the best mix of free and paid content, to continually promote social sharing.

4)     Traffic data analysis will help GRBJ as they consider new products, ads and sponsorships and promote their list business.

5)     Most importantly, GRBJ will ask: can we use this opportunity to create a diversified business model and multiple revenue channels by expanding on our ad/subscription/list business?




Case Studies, White Papers & Product Information: best practices to implement a successful publishing strategy in the cloud.

Responsive Design, Contextual Content Increases Traffic 541%  Premium Content Strategy Delivers 160% Sales Gain

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