Thursday, February 17, 2011 leverages SEO tools to increase search traffic, local visitors

Many local publishers see search as a driver of a broader, more national audience. But, the online arm of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, has used search engine optimization (SEO) to increase visitors in its own backyard by 33 percent.

The online arm of Florida’s largest newspaper generates about 21 million page views and 3.7 unique visitors monthly. While search is the site’s primary traffic driver, the web team until recently had lacked a formal SEO strategy. But with up to 200 content assets being published each day, the team realized it needed a more sophisticated approach.

To help realign its production efforts around SEO, the web team implemented Optify’s Real Time Marketing, a hosted software suite that includes keyword tracking and page optimization features. Optify, which the company has been using for the past eight months, has helped increase year-over-year search traffic by 22 percent and boost visitors from the Tampa region by 33 percent – a key metric in the Times' battle against local competitors.

Since deploying Optify, the web team has added between 300 and 400 keywords, which are segmented by topic area – county pages, movies, politics, sports, etc. Keywords are also used to optimize advertising across the site. Optify makes suggestions on missing keywords or alternative keywords to increase performance, and ranks keyword performance against competitors. But it’s the depth of the keyword tool that has provided the biggest lift to editors’ SEO efforts.

“The tool has focused us a lot more,” John Schlander, senior editor of online operations at, said in an interview. “Previously, we were on top of high-level keywords, but there’s so much more power in a news site when you can leverage the long tail of search. Optify is helping people grasp that.”

The software – and the reports it can generate – has helped Schlander convince other editors, and the sales team as well, of the value of SEO.

“They can really visualize the importance of SEO,” he said. “Previously, we were blowing a lot of SEO opportunities. Now I’m able to show them why we’re doing well or not doing well. When I can say we’ve increased our DMA [designated market area] visits by one-third, that sells itself.”


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