Compete.com shows a very telling account of how Nashville’s web traffic flows, but before you make any assumptions let me break down some basic analysis for you:
Unique hits and volume of content
The Tennessean has more unique hits than all of the other sites combine and then some. To be honest, it would scare me if it was anywhere close to comparable. The reason I say that is because the Gannett owned publication, despite its unfortunate layoffs, has the most people employed and thus the highest volume of content published per day than all the other sites. Now, lets take a look at a site like NashvilleIsTalking.com, which employs just one person to direct the flow of content on a daily basis — Christian Grantham, who to my knowledge, is responsible for that seven percent increase despite occasionally plugging stories from the parent site WKRN. And really I don’t even give that much credit to the parent site because information can be drawn/linked/shared from any of the local media organization’s web sites. So it’s really just coming down to sharing and engaging the community, which is my next point.
Engaging the Community
An engaged community can increase traffic to your web site by up to 40 percent (this number is based on my own experiences and those of others I know) when you are a smaller publisher who is just casually talking about what your doing while working on a story, or the local events in the area…basically just being a real person as it applies to your job. When you’re a bigger Web site its harder to attain that kind of increase but only if you have one or two people doing it. The point is that active communities draw a wider range of people to your site because they push links out to their individual communities. I’d rather have a smaller active community of 400 people on my site than a lethargic 20,000. (Tell your marketing departments to forget about doing contests if you can’t engage the community).
One more thing about big staffs…
If you’ll notice the traffic being down from the same time last year on both The Tennessean and Nashville Scene. Why is that? It could be for a host of different reasons. The first one is that when you cut your staff, then everyone connected to that person is less likely to bother making their way over to a site with horrible User Interface (not their fault), and confusing navigation. The people you get from those unique hits probably never even see the default home page of the site. I know I try to avoid them in general for the reasons I’ve listed above. (Also, its worth mentioning that every time someone does figure out how to push news out the way web readers prefer, they are less likely to re-read it.)
So what’s the best way to increase traffic? Keep all your old content online for longer than 10 days, meaning, indefinitely. Pay a visit to an SEO/web strategy firm like Sitening (and then pay them to teach you how to take advantage of what’s already there).
Thanks again to Erin Cubert who was promoted to the new role of social media person for The Tennessean. She’s the real deal: part designer, part reporter, part web geek. To my knowledge Gannett doesn’t have anyone like this at any of their other papers. So if you get a chance, introduce yourself and share your thoughts if your so inclined [@erincubert via twitter and erincubert.blogspot.com]