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Increasing Traffic & Revenue for The Herald

For the Boston Herald, more readers means more business. For us, it means iterating on a century-old recipe to bring in more readers. We used open source technology to expand the publication's reach to a new audience.

The Challenge

Like many news gathering operations, The Boston Herald relies on advertising to fund the work behind its strong reporting and editorial voice. Online, that translates to page views. When the paper hired Third & Grove to support its digital strategy, The Herald was already seeing huge traffic volumes monthly. It was our job to boost it even more.

The Approach

Google has a reputation for being a bit enigmatic when it comes to which website elements it favors the most and how much that plays into search visibility over the long-term. But its open-source AMP effort (accelerated mobile pages) reduces mobile load time, resulting in both greater user satisfaction and a bump in rankings from Google and other aggregators like LinkedIn and Facebook. Looking around the marketplace, big names like eBay, Reddit, and Pinterest, as well as publishers including The Washington Post and Wired, were using AMP and seeing traffic grow.

The Technology

Often, efforts to improve user experience can lead to slower loading times, thus lower satisfaction and fewer page views. AMP helps make loading time appear instantaneous by using certain standard HTML elements and banning third-party javascript. Because AMP requires aspect ratios to be set in advance, layout calculations are already done, saving load time. The technology also doesn’t require much customization, particularly for sites that are mostly static. That means that AMP isn’t a burden on developers, should make users happier, and thus translates to more page views and ad dollars, a good thing for publishers.

Because we’ve seen Google roll back support for products or initiatives in the past, we didn’t want to commit to sitewide implementation without testing it first. Instead, we decided to test AMP on a small segment of The Herald’s site, making it easy to compare traffic between the old tech and the new. We were able to get the technology installed in less than a month.

Boston Herald AMP Page Performance Graph
Implementation of AMP occurred during the third week.

The Result

Almost immediately, we saw a significant increase in traffic from mobile users via organic search. Herald articles began to pop up in the Google News mobile search results carousel and elsewhere. We increased the average daily mobile traffic for our trial segment by 90% and increased new visitors using mobile devices by 125%. Because our client makes revenue from display ads based on page views, this increase means an immediate growth in their bottom line.