SEO-kémon: maximising search traffic for a new craze

Working in search at Mirror Online is like no other job in the SEO industry. I can’t think of another role where one day you’re finding keywords for lipstick and the next day you’re updating content on Stranger Things.

Our department covers a whole host of different strategies and most can be planned for. For example, the trends around football are similar every year and we even have a framework in place for breaking news stories. What can’t be planned for is a new craze that comes totally out of the blue.

Enter Pokémon Go

We don’t do anything out of the ordinary when we’re planning for events. We look into keywords and past trends and discuss what we think should be our main priorities. But for new crazes like Pokémon Go that come out of nowhere, there’s no way of knowing whether they’ll take off, until you’ve already lost the initial peak in search traffic.

Our first port of call is Google Trends.

Changing trends

The image below shows rising related queries when searching for Pokémon Go in Google Trends. If you’re new to Trends, it’s important to point out that the location can be changed and it’s good to play around with the time range. Related queries from the past 4 hours will differ from those for the past 12 months.

By looking at the related queries, we can start putting together our strategy and relaying it to the editorial teams. Content based on search queries won’t be the only content created, so we have to prioritise the pages that we think will return the most traffic

Before I go on, I should highlight that when a craze like this first starts the chances are that our first piece of content is, yep, a news story!

This was one of our first articles on Pokémon Go and though it didn’t perform amazingly well in search, it did let the Google bots know we were interested in the craze. However, it’s the next steps you take that will determine the traffic you get.

As people began finding their way through the new Pokémon world, we saw new trends appear. Looking at related search terms can help you rank in Google News for ‘Pokémon Go’ but also target terms such as ‘eggs’, ‘map’ and ‘gym’ that will build traffic over time.

In an ideal world, the plan would be to cover all the questions with in-depth content. But in reality these terms have a lower search volume and we have to prioritise.

In most of our pre-planning for search, we use Google Adwords for search volume data. But for a craze such as Pokémon Go, Adwords won’t have up-to-date data, so we continued to use Google Trends to determine which keywords to prioritise.

As shown below, some keywords are searched for more than others — and even then, that can change rapidly.

In the beginning ‘Pokémon Go gym’, out of the three suggestions, was the leading keyword. This began to slow down and ‘egg’ became the newest trend. Great, we thought, this looks like something that’s going to stay consistent. But yet again it changed and the ‘map’ keyword was at the top, albeit below the peak of the ‘egg’ search traffic.

With a new craze like this, it’s important to remember that keywords change and even evolve. As people played Pokémon Go they found new characters and different levels to explore. As this happens, it creates new keyword opportunities.

It’s often good to take part in the trend yourself. Play the game, find out the names of characters, learn how the gyms work and you’ll soon find yourself Googling for more information.

One of the keys to finding keywords for a breaking trend is knowing that you’re really no different from anyone else. What you search is generally what everyone else will be searching.

The internal struggle

With something completely new, there’s been no pre-existing content on the subject. As you create the sparkling new content on the trends you’ve researched, it’s important to make sure it contains internal links.

Internal linking isn’t a new thing in search but generally most ecommerce sites have static pages and the internal linking structure is set in place. In theory internal linking is the same on a news site, but in reality it’s a whole new ball game.

New page on Pokémon Go gyms? Okay, great, but how do we move people around the site once they’ve read the content? What pages do we think they’d like next? Will it be on Pokémon Go, or will they prefer news?

To find out this user behaviour, we use Chartbeat and a little instinct. If recirculation is low, then we look to edit the page to include new links. And after a while we can see a pattern of the links which are clicked the most. We can then use these links on multiple pages in order to offer the most attractive pages to the user.

Do the writers know the links to use or where on the page the links should be placed? If not, then we might create a spreadsheet with all related content to highlight the most authoritative pages.

Setting up a specific doc will also help with other areas of the project. We’ll work out who should take the lead from an editorial point of view and highlight new content ideas.

Don’t forget the latecomers

Though I’m discussing a craze, don’t forget that there will always be latecomers to the game. For example, there’s still over 1,000 average searches a month for ‘snes games’, and that came out in the ’90s!

Those latecomers will search the same questions as the people that were part of the new craze. Your content should already be out there for people to find, so it’s simply a matter of keeping an eye on changes to the game and new stories. And for Pokémon Go there’s an almost endless amount of news…

All of these articles should include the correct structure and link to similar articles on Pokémon Go. Because, let’s face it, even though the traffic is higher at first, the people searching in a year’s time are no different to the trendsetters.

After all is said and done

Having looked at the strategy behind succeeding in search for a new craze, it follows a similar pattern to any other search role. You have to adapt, research the right search terms and be constantly changing to stay ahead of the game. You just have a lot less time to do it all with a new craze.