Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
SEO content strategy delivers 77% rise in organic traffic
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust do more than look after The Bard’s old home, they keep his legacy and stories alive, inspiring new generations of Shakespeare-lovers via a range of in-depth online resources. Last year, Torchbox worked with the Trust on an organic search content strategy that delivered over 281,000 new sessions year-on-year to this content. Here’s how.
What we did
When Torchbox began managing Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s pay-per-click (PPC) activity on Ad Grants—Google’s free advertising platform for non-profits—we analysed user search trends over a 12-month period in order to better understand what users were searching for. In doing so, we were able to feed into the organisation's content strategy by identifying major content gaps that—if filled—would significantly improve the site’s organic search rankings, and enhance the Trust’s reputation as the go-to for all things Shakespeare-related.
Google Ads’ search trend data identified huge volumes of monthly user searches relating to each of Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust wasn’t able to capitalise on this search volume, because it didn’t have dedicated content relating to these searches. Our recommendation was to create new content around the major plays Shakespeare wrote, as part of the site’s “Shakespedia” section, as well as content addressing common questions we saw in searches like “how many children did Shakespeare have”.
These recommendations aligned with their existing content development plans, and helped them to prioritise this area of content when the opportunity came along for additional resource in the team to work on this project. The content was developed and published on their Torchbox-built Wagtail website, from September 2017.
But creating amazing content wasn’t enough—after publication, the pages still had extremely low visibility in organic search. We revisited this specific section in July 2018 and identified a range of on- and off-page SEO tactics aimed at increasing keyword rankings for searches like “hamlet summary” and “macbeth synopsis”. Our recommendations included:
- Creating a summary section for each play page, with a 2-3 sentence summary of the play, under an HTML subheading, e.g. “Macbeth Summary”.
- Improving title tags and meta descriptions to signal to Google what this content is about.
- Optimising image file names and writing descriptive alt tags.
- Linking back to the plays pages from internal blog pages using relevant anchor text.
Our SEO work has played a part in transforming organic search as a traffic source for the Trust. In 2018, we saw the following results for organic search:
- A 77% increase in organic search sessions in 2018 compared to 2017—over 281,000 more organic search sessions to the site.
- 24,000 organic search sessions landing on the new plays content. 3% of all organic search traffic now starts on one of these pages.
As of March 2019, in the 6 months since SEO recommendations were implemented on the plays pages, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust have seen:
Significantly increased visibility in organic search: the new play content now ranks in the top 3 organic positions for 98 new keywords, and for a further 522 new play-related keywords, the content ranks in the top 10.
- Currently top ranking search result for “romeo and juliet” after Wikipedia.
- 129 new featured snippet (position 0) places for play queries (worldwide):
- 116 new backlinks (links from other websites) to new play content from 33 new domains. Links are one of the top three ranking factors in Google’s algorithm.
Over the coming year, we’ll be doubling down on this work—improving a website’s SEO never stops, and there’s always more to do. We’ll be continuing our work gaining more valuable featured snippet placements, and strengthening the site’s authority by identifying internal and external link opportunities. And we’ll be looking for more content gaps to fill, in order to engage, inform, and convert users who want to know more about the life and works of William Shakespeare.