10 Growth Hacks That Helped Metro.Co.Uk Achieve 27 Million Monthly Visitors

In this post, WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting client Metro.co.uk‘s Head of Development Dave Jensen shares some insights on how their popular site achieved an incredible growth since its migration and launch on WordPress.com VIP. Originally posted on his blog, he’s agreed to share it here on VIP News as well. 

Metro-Monthly-Uniques

Metro Monthly Unique Visitors (Jan’12 – Feb’14)

Over the past 12 months Metro has been on an amazing growth curve. Some of it is being in the right place at the right time for algorithm changes but a lot of it was planning and then execution of a growth (hacking) strategy.

Hack 1: Responsive Design

Metro-Monthly-Uniques-Mobile

Monthly Unique Visitors from Mobile (Jan’12 – Feb’14)

We decided a responsive design would be the best way to capitalise on the explosive growth in mobile. A nine month redesign process culminated in Metro going responsive on 7th Dec ’12. We immediately saw growth from social referrals with Twitter’s almost doubling over night. The other benefit of responsive sites is that there is only one URL. As this is the key used to store ranking information in search and social algorithms you don’t want this split between multiple domains like m dot.

The key takeaway is that if you give people a great experience on all devices then they are much more likely to read, share and return to your content.

twitter-referral-visits-nov12-feb13

Weekly Visits from Twitter (Oct’12 – Feb’13)

Hack 2: Focus all development efforts on growth

Screen-Shot-2014-03-04-at-12.46.50

WordPress.com Stats for Metro (Dec’12 – Feb’14)

We also migrated to the hosted platform as a service provided by Automattic on vip.wordpress.com. This enabled all of our costs and resources to be focused on growth as they didn’t have to worry about caching, servers or anything that didn’t improve experience for our readers or editorial users. The amazing thing about the platform is that it is a flat fee. This means that although our traffic has grown 350% year on year our costs have not changed. The depth of their out of the box features plus ecosystem of plugins ensured that we did’t have to worry about commodity features such as SEO, site maps and editorial workflows as someone else had built and open sourced an approach.

Hack 3: Open up content creation to anyone

metro-blogs-traffic

Metro Blogs Monthly Unique Users (Dec’12 – Feb’14)

The other great thing about the WordPress platform is that it enabled us to allow bloggers to contribute content directly into our core CMS. This started out as a feature for Metro employees but grew to encompass a much wider set of sources. Club Metro is now the most prominent and now contributes over 1M unique visitors a month. Having blogs content on the same domain placed amongst the rest of Metro’s content ensured we leveraged our existing algorithmic rankings. A single editorial workflow also helped keep the overheads low. The added bonus that most bloggers were already using WordPress and can write from anywhere helped us secure some top talent.

Screen-Shot-2014-03-04-at-13.08.38

Club Metro Article

Hack 4: Facebook page as a major marketing channel

173,000 Facebook Page likes Feb ’13 to 562,000 Facebook Page Likes Feb ’14

Social referrals were another large contributor to growth. We focused on growing our Facebook page “Likes” as a content marketing strategy and this was very successful. We had always been careful to only send a small amount of our best posts out a day on our Facebook page. This had a solid base of users and growing this was a key goal for the last year. We employed many strategies including competitions with like gates and boosting posts. Competitions were effective in bringing in users but there were a lot of repeat entries. Varying the prize helped to minimise this and our email based CRM platform really helped to drive entries. The most cost effective way we found was boosting posts as friends of people who already liked Metro were shown a great piece of our content. They were then much more likely to then go on to like the page. As they were similar to people who already liked Metro they were very receptive and continued to engage with our content.

Screen-Shot-2014-03-04-at-12.52.27

Metro Facebook Page

Hack 5: Made to share content

metro-social-referrals

Weekly Social Visits to Metro (Jan’13 – Feb’14)

Ensuring that not just the content put out on the Facebook page was made to share also really helped grow our social referrals. When the content is written they set a success measure of 100 shares on an article and then set performance targets on achieving that on 25% of our content. This has allowed some interesting conversations around the areas of the site where that was less prevalent. More than anything it is a very easy test for all of the content creators to know what they should focus on. If it won’t hit that bar then find something else. A key growth hack we developed was the ability to show different headlines for social and search so we didn’t impact our search traffic.

Metro-Social-Content

SEO and Social Headlines on Made to Share Content

Hack 6: Made to share UX

metro-made-to-share

Share and follow functionality on Metro.co.uk after the Made to Share focus.

The other side of social was increasing the number of people sharing from the site. The development team had a made to share focus where we introduced much larger, clearer social buttons and reduced the number of clicks it took to share. This with the addition of a sticky sharing bar that floats on desktop has seen a large increase in the number of direct shares from our site. This seems to have also affected the amount of people copying and pasting links from the site from the subtle reinforcement due constantly present share cues. It would also seem that Facebook take direct site shares as a strong signal in their algorithm as we have continued to see growth from social.

Hack 7: If something feels wrong don’t give up on it

metro-search-referrals

Referral from Natural Search (Google Fixed, July ’12)

After the redesign only 20% of our stories indexed in Google News had our pictures next to them. We spent months experimenting on different options before we finally managed to ask Google the right question in July ’13 so they could fix it for us. It turned out that they were still using the Webmaster Tools account we had been using before the migration which pointed to our old domain that included www. Not only did this change help our referrals from Google News but it gave us a major kick in all search referrals. It would have been much easier to give up on this earlier but relentlessly focusing on this until we solved it really paid dividends.

Hack 8: Let technology automate repetition

metro-releases

Metro Development Releases to Production (Nov’12 – Feb’14)

Automation of all of our development and test processes allowed us to release 4.5 times on average every day (apart from Fridays) for the past 12 months. This enabled short feedback cycles and decision making to happen at a much faster pace. We have five different environments that are used for testing before we push code live. This kept errors to a minimum and kept the feedback flowing. This environment of automated front end tests and frameworks was a major investment but has continued to pay dividends.

Hack 9: Ensure proximity of key people who are focusing on a goal

Single Goal: 700,000 Average Daily Mobile Visitors in September 2013

A single goal of growth allowed us to work together cross functionally and a focus on data and numbers ensured that feedback was alway digestible. Content, social and tech sitting together and working together enabled the good ideas to come to the top quicker and equally the bad ones get ignored. Equally focusing on data helped take emotion out of decision making which enabled data to win arguments. This sped up innovation and focus. In most cases we have done less but done what we have done better to achieve growth.

Hack 10: Get out of the way

Screen-Shot-2014-03-04-at-12.22.49

Voticle: Are you a true Brit?

Once people are working cross functionally together towards a goal then get out of the way and let them get on with it. In the past two months we have relaxed our process and now the content creators are working directly with the developers on new article formats to continue our growth. Out of this we have developed five new ways of displaying content from quizzes to lists and beyond.

Screen-Shot-2014-03-04-at-12.23.06

Quizicle: How much of a Londoner are you.

Conclusion

None of the above would have been possible without the adoption of a lean mindset and the approach of build, measure, learn, iterate. It has been an amazing 12 months of growth at Metro and an great feeling to be part of a team that came up with and then executed a plan which delivered these results.

It was a pleasure to work with the below as well as many others on this journey.

Thank you to Dave and the Metro.co.uk team for sharing their tips with VIP News.

Want more information about WordPress services for your enterprise site? Get in touch

Canadian Olympic Committee launches Winter 2014 Games site on WordPress.com VIP

Today, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) officially re-launched Olympic.ca, marking the 3-month countdown to the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Derek Kent, CMO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, remarked on the site’s redesign: “Our vision is to create a website that is best-in-class among National Olympic Committees. We know our fans, athletes and our partners are hungry for Canadian Olympic team content. This and the next generation of the website will ensure our athletes’ stories are told, and shared in more compelling ways with fans at home and around the world.”

We spoke with Todd Denis, Director, Brand Connections of the Canadian Olympic Committee, about the decisions made regarding the Olympic.ca redesign, which is hosted on WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting.

Canadian Olympic Committee

Q: How is the website different from previous Olympic Games?

We wanted to make sure that the entire digital experience was driven by a ‘fans first’ approach. We’ve seen mobile traffic on Olympic.ca go from 15% in 2012, to 30% in the first half of 2013, and as of October, 2013 it was at 40%. So, in addition to the more obvious social hooks, we knew that re-designing around fans meant meant we needed to be ‘mobile first’.

We had our design partner Zync focus on how things would actually behave as mobile content and navigation – on function, then form – making it easy to share articles, photographs and videos, with a content and menu system built specifically for those smaller screens.

And the site lives within a responsive grid, as we felt this provided our best immediate mobile product, while putting us in a great long-term position to benefit from the constant evolution in responsive design.

Canadian Olympic Committee _Samsung_Responsive-showcase-presentation_970x580

“WordPress.com VIP allowed us to focus on the fan experience and front-facing content, instead of the servers powering it.” — Todd Denis, Director, Brand Connections, Olympic.ca.

Q: Why did your team choose WordPress.com VIP as the platform for the Olympic.ca website?

We had to ensure that the site would be ready for any traffic and performance load that the massive Olympic Games audience could throw at it, but we also had to be aware of the limited internal resources we could expend on site administration. We were already running a self-hosted WordPress site, but it was in serious need of a technology and stability update. WordPress.com VIP allowed us to focus on the fan experience and front-facing content, instead of the servers powering it.

Q: How long did it take to put the project together, from start to finish?

From initial RFP to final launch was more than six months, but it was approximately 16 weeks as a pure timeline around UX, wires, content migration and development. We worked with Toronto based brand and marketing agency Zync, and their programming partner Trew Knowledge, to design, develop and support the site.

Q: How will your team use social media to complement the Canadian Olympic Committee website, and to drive traffic to it?

The site is social from top to bottom, with best practices in place for social sharing and channel promotion. But we’ve also got widgets that pull in context specific content from our social channels. For example, while the universal footer across the site is a direct pull in from Instagram, many of the Twitter feeds are grabbed based on the context specifics of the athlete or sport tags on the page. It’s these small things that help build to a more engaged fan-to-athlete experience.

We will also be launching a Canadian Olympic I.D. in the coming months, which will initially behave as a sort of registration system on the site to help streamline saving and sharing of content – and the I.D. will be powered by social registration to help us better understand who our fans are and what type of content they enjoy.

Canadian Olympic Committee_Samsung_Smartphones-white_970x580

Visit Olympic.ca and see for yourself the new site!

Want more information about WordPress services for your enterprise site? Get in touch

Why Big Brands and Enterprises Love WordPress

Earlier this month, hundreds of WordPress developers, content creators, and users gathered in Leiden, The Netherlands, for the first WordPress conference for all of Europe, WordCamp Europe. 

I was present and it was a great opportunity to hear how European countries are accelerating adoption of WordPress with big and small brands alike. I presented “Why Big Brands Love WordPress” — a presentation which delves into the reasons why big brands are choosing WordPress and what they have to say about it, directly from their mouths. At WordPress.com VIP, we work with a lot of enterprise and big brand clients as well as we work with those global brands to tell their WordPress stories right here on this site, so we often hear the many reasons why they pick WordPress and continue to love it.

Here’s the presentation (slides). The Russian translation is now available at the bottom of this post.

Here’s the video of the presentation from WordCamp Europe which is on WordPress.tv.

If you know of any examples or quotes which you’d like to see featured in a future version of this presentation, let us know!

Here’s a peek at some of the reasons Why Big Brands Love WordPress:

  • It’s easy to use.
  • It’s beautiful.
  • It Scales.
  • You own your data.
  • You can launch quickly.
  • It integrates & plays well with other services.
  • It goes mobile and Responsive.
  • You can iterate quickly with a small development team.
  • It can humanize data.
  • It’s a dynamic platform.
  • The WordPress Community.

Here’s just a sampling of the sites and clients included in the presentation:

Links about WordPress.com VIP & the WordPress open source project:

Some WordPress.com VIP clients mentioned in the presentation:

Other WordPress sites mentioned: 

Russian Translation

Thanks to Alexey Vidanov for the Russian Translation.

Interested in WordPress services for your enterprise site? Get in touch

WordPress Powers Health Care Reform

In March 2010, President Barack Obama signed landmark comprehensive health care reform known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and also known as ‘ObamaCare’.

Yesterday, a critical component of the legislation rolled out, giving American consumers the chance to purchase health policies on the open market by joining a pool of other buyers, which legislators and policy analysts believe will ultimately drive down the cost of health care for everyone. In some instances, these exchanges are being run by the states and in other cases, the federal government is administering the marketplace.

We were very excited to see that WordPress is the dominant content management system being used to power these exchange websites and as a result of this powerful platform, yesterday, millions of Americans from coast to coast researched their heath care options and began the open enrollment process.

Here are some great examples of WordPress being put to work behind large, enterprise-level websites who are dealing with complicated data structures, high traffic demands and of course, sensitive security.

Get Covered America

http://www.getcoveredamerica.org/

Get Covered Illinois

http://getcoveredillinois.gov/

HealthSource RI

http://www.healthsourceri.com/

New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange

http://www.nmhix.com/

Connect For Health Colorado

http://connectforhealthco.com/

Hawaiʻi Health Connector

http://www.hawaiihealthconnector.com/

Massachusetts Health Connector

https://bettermahealthconnector.org/

Maryland Health Connection

http://www.marylandhealthconnection.gov/

Hungry for more information? The Kaiser Family Foundation (powered by WordPress.com VIP) has a great resource on their new website. If you’d like to get in touch to find out more about hosting your website on WordPress.com VIP, you can contact us here!

Andrew Nacin: How WordPress Evolves Without Breaking Everything

Andrew Nacin is one of the lead developers of WordPress. At our August Big Media Meetup, he gave a short “flash talk” on how WordPress evolves while maintaining backwards compatibility — here’s a video from the event.

Other talks from the event:

Interested in coming to a future event? Be sure to join our Big Media WordPress Meetup group.

Josh Kadis: Building qz.com, a web app powered by WordPress

Josh Kadis is the web applications technologist at Quartz. At our August Big Media Meetup, he gave a short “flash talk” on building qz.com on WordPress, which we’ve shared here. Quartz just celebrated its one-year anniversary, and you can learn more about it by reading our case study here.

See Josh’s slides here.

Other talks from the event:

Interested in coming to a future event? Be sure to join our Big Media WordPress Meetup group.

Austin Smith: Elastic Search on WordPress.com in Action

Austin Smith is a managing partner at Alley Interactive, a VIP Featured Partner Agency. At our August Big Media Meetup, he gave a short “flash talk” on Elastic Search on WordPress.com, which we’ve shared here. You can read more about the VIP Search Add-On here, and see it in action at KFF.org.

Other talks from the event:

Interested in coming to a future event? Be sure to join our Big Media WordPress Meetup group.

Code For The People: How Media Explorer Was Made

With the new Media Explorer plugin, you can now search for tweets and videos on Twitter and YouTube directly from the Add Media screen in WordPress. Media Explorer is a joint project by WordPress.com VIP and Code For The People (a VIP Featured Partner). In this post, CFTP’s John Blackbourn shares the technical and user experience decisions that were made while developing the plugin. 

Embedding a YouTube video or a tweet into a WordPress post is powerfully easy.

There’s no HTML, no shortcode, no dialog box or Settings page – just the magic of oEmbed, baked right into WordPress core. But it’s so simple, and so unassuming, that many people just don’t know it’s there; and it’s not something they’d ever go looking for. With Media Explorer, we wanted to expose that magic within the user interface.

The end goal was to make retrieving externally-hosted content as easy as retrieving items from your own site’s Media Library, without even having to open another browser tab.

The initial plan concentrated purely on integration with Twitter with an architecture that would easily allow developers to add support for other web services like Flickr, YouTube, and Scribd.

Once the base of the plugin was completed with the Twitter search functionality, it was exciting to see YouTube support added in double-quick time, with no changes to the core plugin. It’s what WordPress development should be all about.

media-explorer-twitter-map

Continue reading

A Behind The Scenes Look at Atlantic Media’s Quartz

Quartz, the business news publication of Atlantic Media, launched in September 2012 on WordPress.com VIP Cloud Hosting.

The site had been in the works for about a year prior to that and development started in earnest over the summer, a rather short window. The Quartz team agreed pretty quickly that they didn’t want a custom-built CMS and the problems that come with it, and instead felt like WordPress was the best CMS that suited their needs.

We spoke with Josh Kadis, Web Applications Technologist at Quartz, about the site and its incarnation on WordPress.

Netflix’s “House of Cards” gets first major Emmy nominations for online-only show - Quartz

Continue reading

The StartUp Government Agency – A Case Study on Consumer Finance Protection Bureau

Dan Munz, Product Director at consumerfinance.gov, CFPB; Greg Boone, WordPress Developer at Excella Consulting & David Kennedy, Interactive Designer at Rock Creek Strategic Marketing present “The StartUp Government Agency – A Case Study on CFPB” at the recent WordPress in Government workshop.

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, consumerfinance.gov, was created a few years ago by the U.S. government, and they chose WordPress to run their popular consumer-facing site. The team explains the decisions they went through before choosing WordPress, how they use behavior-driven WordPress development, and the lessons they learned along the way.

Want more information about WordPress for government or enterprise sites? Contact WordPress.com VIP Services.