The Points Guy
Site Goals: Double traffic from 2.5 million UVs to 5 million in 18 months, identify lifestyle verticals to grab a wider audience, improve quality of credit-card and aviation news, and work with bank/airline clients to produce premium sponsored content including videos.
How We Got There: Expanded content output from 5 to 15 posts a day, identified low-hanging SEO fruit, hired/managed 10+ writers and editors for newsroom, overhauled photo department, promoted stories relentlessly across social media and embraced all new Facebook and Instagram features, and established daily reviews of credit cards, flights and hotels.
When I joined The Points Guy, the "team" included fewer than 10 people. My mission was to add structure (edit calendar, pitch meetings, traffic reports, fact checking, etc.), identify what works (and what doesn't) and hire freelancers as needed to reach our goals. This required an analysis and overhaul of the entire workflow, the programs we used, employee incentivising, and the budget.
Identified New Verticals to Grow Audience
TPG needed to find an audience beyond its core readership of credit-card enthusiasts and AvGeeks. We experimented with guest columnists expert in travel health (examples: jet lag and Zika updates), fashion (wallets, slip-on shoes, etc.), celebrity Q&As, and legal hot topics (what airline and airport employees can and can't do to you). After four guest posts each, we let Google Analytics and Parse.ly (and reader comments) help us decide which writers to retain and which to course correct or let go.
Added Daily Reviews to the Calendar, Updated the Template
This was one of Brian Kelly's wish-list items and we made it happen with the redesign. Initially we stuck with reviews of our three core interests: credit cards, hotels and flights (and lounges). We soon added reviews of luggage, airline meals, and travel apps/gadgets. We also developed a flexible new template for reviews that allowed any writer to insert a table of contents, a data panel, maps, and video.
Created travel-themed edit calendar and grew edit team from 5 to 15 people
Travel content is, of course, grounded in holidays, seasons and events (sports, music, food). We were covering industry news comprehensively, but missing big packages around some big-time national moments like Thanksgiving, the Super Bowl, and Spring Break. Developing the calendar gave us more lead time, more opportunities for sponsored content and more reasons to get media coverage in print, on TV and online.
Expanded news coverage to be 24/7 pushing daily content from 5 to 15+ posts per day
I hired an experienced news editor from Vice to lead our expanded news coverage. Together, we hired morning writers (7am start) and nights and weekends writer-editor teams. We broke original stories frequently, often thanks to reader-shared leaks; our fans wanted us to have the news first so they helped.
Developed Tentpoles like “The TPG Report” Increasing Engagement with Interactive Charts
and Visually Compelling Infographics
In 2016, TPG debuted the first of a series of "reports," which would include "The Best and Worst Airports in the USA," "The Best Domestic Airlines" and "The Best Loyalty Programs." Unlike other magazines and sites that merely collected survey results, our team pored over stats (some public and some developed in house) and crunched the numbers by identifying quantifiable criteria. In later iterations, the TPG Report would also feature charts that could be manipulated by readers to customize the weighting of the criteria, essentially allowing for custom results based on reader preferences.
Added much-needed levity with franchises like “Weirdest Stuff Intercepted by the TSA” and “Scary Plane Videos”
The site began to seem too serious, lacking perspective. Readers wanted fun "snacks" in addition to the well-researched service journalism that helped people optimize their travel. This content is also very shareable, which helped us find new readers.
Oversaw a fully responsive site redesign, raised photo standards, spearheaded infographics
The site went from being a glorified blog to a streamlined, focused, and attractive site, with lots of bells and whistles: vastly improved site-wide search, new logo, mini animations in the rollovers, dedicated video modules, article templates that allowed us to lose the right rail for big features, and enhanced compliance technology.
Produced Videos that Explained Points and Miles with Infographics
We did not have an in-house video shooter/editor so I hired an outside video company that could travel, shoot, edit, and work with multiple iterations to produce gorgeous videos quickly. We shot on location in out-of-the way places like Ghana and the Maldives and then found ways to make credit cards and loyalty programs fun and easy to understand. We also published a set of 10 much-needed evergreen explainers, adapted from "The Beginners' Guide.".