When we started Unsung Nashville, we had three goals:
- Showcase our content marketing skills (interviewing, writing, web design, social media)
- Bring more local visitors to Parthenon’s website, and
- Engage with the Nashville community we love.
In its first year, it worked very well:
- Pageviews increased by 126%
- Website visitors increased by 235%
A few metrics, though, gave us pause.
People were visiting fewer pages and spending less time on the site, and they were more likely to leave after reading just one piece of content.
We expected these things, of course; we were rolling out a content plan focused on local Nashville culture where our previous content had been strictly B2B. Some people were going to come and go quickly, especially since we were using social media advertising for acquisition.
But with new eyes on site, we wanted to figure out a way to engage people more than once.
So we did four things:
1. We identified our highest performing content, made more of it and made it easier to find.
We knew top 10 lists were going to be huge for traffic, and they were. Today they make up 32% of the Parthenon website’s top-visited pages.
So we increased production of those from 25% of our Unsung content to 33%, and we re-categorized our content into fewer buckets (five) so the related content we serve to someone who finishes an article is more relevant to that reader.
For example, someone who finishes a top 10 list on outdoor fall events (tagged in both “The Top” and “Arts & Culture”) will be served up another list (Top 13 Nashville Holiday Gifts) and also a profile of a local historian from the Arts & Culture category. These options allow them to, in a sense, choose their own adventure while staying on-site.
2. We put storytelling where you don’t expect it.
Most listicles are quick and dirty, but we found you can tell a story inside a list, or rather a bunch of little stories.
Who are the people behind the place or product? How did you, the writer, find this specific Nashville thing? The whole point of Unsung Nashville is to tell untold stories, and that doesn’t just have to happen in feature-length profiles.
3. We shortened feature stories.
This is self-explanatory, but we saw that shorter stories were easier to digest. Now we get to the meat of the story more quickly, which gives visitors more time to read a second piece.
4. We shifted our social approach.
The fastest way to get more clicks from social is to target by interest (sports, education, food, the arts), but often that means you’re engaging a new audience for every topic, which makes brand awareness more challenging long-term.
By focusing on retargeting people who had engaged with our content socially before (friends and fans on Facebook, for example) and by using teasers that are more broadly appealing, we cultivated the segment of people that are interested in our storytelling rather than just our one-off topics.
We saw results.
The following metrics improved:
- Bounce rate decreased 4%
- Returning visitors increased 5%
- Pages per session increased 12%
- Average session length increased 39%
- We also doubled our email subscribers
People were able to find more of what they liked quickly, so they stayed on our site longer and engaged more, and we were able to take real steps toward building a repeat reader base.