The rise of technology in our daily lives has revolutionized the way we search for and approach news. If until a few years ago it was common to buy the paper newspaper, today to deepen a current topic we rely on search engines and social networks, real vehicles of information. For this reason, very often those who manage a newspaper or a magazine decide to land on the Web with a platform on which to publish news in real time, thus acquiring new readers.
It is to spread the credibility of the brand and its news also on digital channels that the Athesis Group, head of the daily newspapers L'Arena, Bresciaoggi and Il Giornale di Vicenza, got in touch with NetStrategy. Being in the #1 position on Google was essential, first of all, to spread quality news; secondly, to give wide visibility to companies that sponsor their products and services on news platforms, a significant source of income for online newspapers. The collaboration saw the NetStrategy team working in synergy with the client's IT department to identify and then resolve the technical gaps in the three news websites. What results did the SEO audit produce for Athesis Group? We see it in detail in this case study.
THE CUSTOMER AND HIS GOAL
The Athesis Group was founded in 1945 as the publisher of the most important daily newspaper in the Verona area, L'Arena, founded in 1866. Within a short period of time, the company acquired another historic newspaper in the Veneto region, Il Giornale di Vicenza, and subsequently obtained the management of the Lombardy newspaper Bresciaoggi and 3 radio and TV stations. Thanks to its online and traditional channels, every day it manages to capture the attention of 4,000,000 viewers.
Despite established brand authority, 2018 shows a decrease in user traffic to the sites https://www.larena.it/, https://www.bresciaoggi.it/ and https://www.ilgiornaledivicenza.it/. To cite an example, between 2017 and 2018 there is a decrease in visits to the sites reaching almost 30%. Without any intervention, this statistic would have been destined to increase dramatically year over year.
One of the causes of the progressive loss of traffic is identified in the fact that many articles are not in the #1 position on Google for searches related to local news topics. For example, when searching for "Albaredo accident" (a village in the province of Verona), the site www.larena.it was positioned lower than bloggers and newspapers with a lower brand authority.
Moreover, in the above example, when searching for the keyword " Albaredo accident", the article about the fatal accident occurred in Albaredo in those days was not positioned, but a generic page with the news of the Basso Veronese was positioned. A clear indication of the existence of problems related to SEO indexing and positioning of the website.
Having noticed these anomalies, Athesis Group decided to take action to improve the SEO optimization of the journalistic platforms and got in touch with NetStrategy. The collaboration officially kicks off in October 2018, with the macro-objective of making the 3 sites gain ranking and therefore new organic traffic. To achieve this, it is necessary to first identify the technical and User Experience gaps present within them by means of a technical SEO analysis and, subsequently, provide the Athesis Group IT department with the knowledge and tools to fill them.
Below we will go into the methods of collaboration and some of the problems identified and solved together with the Customer's technical team. For the sake of simplicity, we will refer to the website www.larena.it, on which the news regarding the territory of Verona and its province are published.
The beginning of the collaboration is preceded by a series of meetings: the NetStrategy team must get to know and confront face to face with the technical department of the Athesis Group in order to understand the functioning of the company and the activities that are carried out daily on the site. Every day, in fact, on www.larena.it:
- Hundreds of recent news items are published;
- Articles related to developing situations are updated;
- News considered obsolete are eliminated.
It is not a matter of studying the performance of a website with a few static pages; instead, it is a matter of identifying the technical issues present in thousands and thousands of different URLs. Considering NetStrategy's highly consultative role within the partnership, it is therefore essential to work in symbiosis with the Customer's technicians, especially after concluding the SEO analysis.
As soon as the steps to be taken to improve site ranking are clear, NetStrategy's SEO Specialists provide technical suggestions to Athesis Group's IT department. Before the changes are published, tests and audits are finally performed. In such a complex collaboration, the main ingredients to reach important goals are therefore the relationship of trust and the constant and profitable confrontation between the parties involved. This is the only way to achieve important results such as those we will discuss in the following paragraphs.
#1 SEO ANALYSIS
The focus of the collaboration between NetStrategy and Athesis Group was the SEO audit. The SEO Specialists focused on the study of the technical characteristics of the website (e.g. loading speed) and of the User Experience to understand which frictions affected the domain www.larena.it. From this information, an in-depth report was created: each issue was treated in detail, presenting examples and possible solutions. Elaborating a report has been an essential step, as it has allowed to reorder the ideas and define which activities were to be considered priorities and which ones secondary.
Among the main anomalies found in the website we could find:
- Low content loading speed;
- Absence of HTTPS security protocol;
- 404 errors;
- Evident delay in the indexing process of the pages;
- Duplicate content;
- Absence of specific meta tags for each article.
Once the anomalies of the site www.larena.it were identified, the SEO Specialists worked step by step with the Customer's technical team, providing specific advice for their resolution. Let's see in detail how the main frictions were solved and the website resumed growing in terms of organic positioning and new readers reached.
#2 TECHNICAL PROBLEM SOLVING
The objective of Google's spiders and crawlers is to identify the pages that best respond to the user's query on the search engine, placing them higher in the SERP. To achieve this result, it is necessary not only to publish exhaustive news from authoritative sources, but also to have a website that guarantees a prolonged stay of the users. Below is a list of the main technical interventions carried out on the website www.larena.it.
SITE LOADING SPEED
It is essential that pages load quickly: just a few seconds are enough to annoy the Web user and force him to abandon the platform. The website www.larena.it presented frictions in the loading of pages, especially in the desktop version: the score provided by Google Page Speed - a tool provided by the search engine itself - was equal to only 48 points out of 100.
HTTPS SECURITY PROTOCOL
One of the priority ranking factors is the presence of the HTTPS security protocol: this protocol, in fact, certifies to Google and to the users that the website has advanced security measures (for example, authentication and IP address encryption). At the beginning of the collaboration, the site www.larena.it was still using the http protocol, considered not very secure by the search engine: in some cases, even a warning of "not secure connection" appeared and this dangerously increased the bounce rate.
L'Arena's technicians, supported by the NetStrategy team, have migrated from the HTTP protocol to the HTTPS protocol, making the website safer in the eyes of Google and of the user.
For a newspaper that publishes online news, it is usual to delete outdated news to create space for more recent articles. This operation, however, can cause problems in the acquisition of SEO positioning: when a URL is modified or deleted, in fact, 404 errors are generated, because the server cannot find the resource requested by the user.
Using technical tools, it was possible to identify a large number of 404 errors on the customer's site. This caused a negative effect on the user's browsing experience, who was unable to find the news he was interested in, and consequently on the positioning of the pages. For this reason, the URLs that presented this anomaly were identified and, subsequently, redirects were made to active URLs that were still relevant to the topic of the page.
DELAYED PAGE INDEXING
One of the main problems found on the website www.larena.it during the analysis phase was related to a delay in indexing the pages of the website. This anomaly represents a risk for any domain, especially for a newspaper that publishes news and therefore needs to gain maximum visibility on search engines in almost real time.
The delay in indexing the pages was mainly caused by the following reasons:
- Poor presence of internal links to pages: crawlers move more slowly within the site and this causes a delay in scanning operations;
- Lack of proper sitemaps: crawlers are not able to recognize a linear structure of the site or to give priority to certain pages and, consequently, the indexing process is significantly slowed down;
- Insertion of news in the wrong categories. Contents were not effectively divided and articles dealing with similar topics could be in different categories, causing confusion to spiders and crawlers.
In order to solve this problem, the content ranking has been improved, allowing a faster and more effective scanning of the thousands of pages of which the site is composed.
#3 CONTENTS OPTIMIZATION
Contents - textual and multimedia - are essential within a website, especially for those who publish online news. It is also from these elements that the search engine chooses the positioning of the pages of a domain: as already specified, the goal is to identify the best answer to the need expressed by the user through the search of a keyword on Google. For this, it is necessary to observe in a SEO and user-friendly perspective every single element that is published inside the website.
One of the main problems found in this regard on the site www.larena.it concerned the so-called "duplicate content", i.e. those identical textual contents present in 2 or more pages of the same domain.
In this case it was necessary to proceed with the elimination of pages with duplicate content if they were no longer relevant; in the case of important pages, however, we proceeded with the strategic use of the "canonical" tag and the robots tag "noindex, follow".
#4 IMPROVING THE USER EXPERIENCE
After removing the technical friction and optimizing the content to make it unique and original, we proceeded with another aspect that is particularly relevant to SEO: improving the User Experience. In fact, the website must guarantee a satisfactory navigation experience to the user in order to increase the average stay time; this improves brand awareness and, at the same time, the organic positioning of the pages.
One of the frictions present in this sense on the site www.larena.it concerned the conspicuous presence of advertising banners in the area "above the fold", that is in the upper area of the pages of the site. The ads distracted the user from reading, annoying him and causing an increase in the bounce rate, a fact that is viewed with suspicion by the search engine.
Reaching the #1 position on search engines is nowadays fundamental in any sector, with particular reference to the editorial one: this allows, in fact, to improve the visibility of the headline, but also to spread credible and valuable news, thus avoiding to give resonance to what are called "fake news". It is also for this reason that the profitable collaboration between Athesis Group and NetStrategy was born.
What results did the SEO audit - with the consequent resolution of technical frictions - of the site www.larena.it produce? It is a well-known fact that search engine optimization is a medium- to long-term strategy that takes several months to bear fruit. However, with the L'Arena website, the results arrived after just a few months. The following graph compares data from December 2018 and January 2019 (very first months of activity) with the same period of the previous year: already after a few months from the beginning of the collaboration, we noticed a 255% increase in organic visits!
More than satisfactory results were also achieved with Bresciaoggi and Il Giornale di Vicenza. As for the Lombard newspaper, the site www.bresciaoggi.it between December 2018 and January 2019 achieved a 185% increase in organic visits compared to the same period in 2017-2018.
The site www.ilgiornaledivicenza.it even achieved a year-over-year increase in visits of 209%.
But the results obtained do not stop at the first months of activity: the resolution of SEO issues has brought effects also in the long run. After almost 2 years from the first collaboration (the activities are still continuing today), there is still a constant increase in visits to the website, so much so that in the period January-October 2020 there was a +525% increase in visitors to the L'Arena website compared to the first 10 months of 2018.
The benefits of the SEO audit are tangible: all the visits acquired allowed to improve the online visibility of the brand, making it even more credible and authoritative in the eyes of readers; moreover, starting from these results it was possible to increase the number of companies that decide to advertise within the 3 sites.
Performing a complete SEO analysis on 3 content-rich sites that are updated on a daily basis is certainly not easy: it is essential to know the company's needs and the ways in which it operates, trying to balance SEO with the importance of maintaining the ordinary activities to be carried out on the website. Thanks to the constant confrontation with the Customer and the experience acquired project by project, the NetStrategy team was ready for this exciting adventure and today Athesis Group can boast a better and more effective presence on search engines. For this reason, the collaboration continues today, with new and important strategic activities: there are many surprises waiting for the readers of L'Arena, Bresciaoggi and Il Giornale di Vicenza and we hope to include them soon among the new successes of our company.