Case Studies for Brands

The Fulcrum and the Digital Media Playbook for Traffic Growth

The Fulcrum traffic growth story

Simultaneous efforts on multiple fronts are key to growth in digital media. This couldn’t be more clear than our work with The Fulcrum, which has experienced significant growth since the beginning of the year.

The Fulcrum is the perfect partner. They’re eager to learn and they’re committed to ongoing efforts which have led to audience growth, reaching tens of thousands of new people. With the tagline “Leveraging Our Differences,” their stated mission is “a platform where insiders and outsiders to politics are informed, meet, talk, and act to repair our democracy and make it live and work in our everyday lives.” From finding common ground to civic engagement, ethics and leadership, and even pop culture, they cover a number of engaging topics that tie into current events. The site is a project of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.

“Collaborating with Co-Publisher David Nevins and The Fulcrum's team has been a pleasure,” said Isabel Agudelo, Account Manager at RebelMouse. “Their clear vision, determination, and willingness to put in the hard work to improve performance have played a crucial role in The Fulcrum's success with us. We look forward to more projects together!”

These are the initiatives we focused on with The Fulcrum during this period of growth:

Many of those focus points match up with Google News Initiative recommendations, and it’s no surprise that these efforts have led to a boost in traffic from Google, plus other sources.

seo audit success growth numbers with the fulcrum

“This kind of growth wouldn’t be possible without The Fulcrum team’s willingness to embrace our recommendations and promptly take action based on them,” said Craig Kanalley, Director of Audience Development at RebelMouse. “(Co-Publishers) David and Kristina Becvar are excellent leaders, and they move quickly to get things done. It’s such a pleasure to work in partnership with them.”

Technical SEO Audits

Technical SEO is so important these days, but it’s never a one-and-done effort. Continuous monthly audits are a huge component of growth, as fixes are made and validated, issues are prioritized one by one, and new issues are tackled quickly as they arise.

Here’s how we approach the technical SEO process:

technical seo process for growth

We put this into practice with The Fulcrum, beginning monthly audits in January with industry-leading SEO platform Semrush. The results speak for themselves with a 74% decrease in issues from January to April and a 98% decrease in total errors (the most severe issues).

semrush audit results

By May, we had eliminated 100% of errors and the site health score improved to 88, which is significantly higher than industry average. The efforts have been rewarded with increased search traffic.

During the same time period, Google Discover traffic has also been on the rise with 11 times more clicks and nine times more impressions.

The numbers are up year over year as well, with a 12% increase in clicks and a 31% increase in impressions from search versus the same three-month period in 2023. Google News is up nearly four times in clicks and three times in impressions year over year.

We didn’t see these increases overnight. Several issues had to be resolved before we saw the growth occur. These included addressing the following:

  • Duplicate Content
  • Duplicate Title Tags
  • Duplicate Meta Descriptions
  • Broken Links
  • Missing Meta Descriptions
  • Missing Alt Attributes

david nevins fulcrum quote

Launch of Recirculation Units

We launched beautiful new recirculation units to improve the user experience and increase engagement. Our design team created an eye-catching carousel that includes thumbnail images, author names, and publish dates under a “Top Stories” heading. The posts featured are periodically refreshed based on traffic numbers.

the fulcrum recirculation unit

In addition to appearing in line after a few paragraphs of each article, The Fulcrum had the idea to place the unit at the top of the site as well, including on the home page.

the fulcrum home page with top stories recirculation unit

These recirculation units appear in both mobile and desktop experiences to maximize visibility and impact.

After launching the recirculation units on March 7, The Fulcrum saw an increase in engaged sessions by 38%, and in the following month, time per user was up 10%.

Improved Internal Linking

We recommended the use of SmartLinks to supercharge internal linking across The Fulcrum, which is beneficial for user experience, time on site, and SEO.

The Fulcrum’s editorial team fully embraced this concept, designating 240 keywords for SmartLinks. These are phrases and words handpicked by their team that are most relevant to their coverage, like debt ceiling, 2024 election, common ground, money in politics, and election reform, as well as key people.

Every time one of those phrases is mentioned, it links to a specific page of their choosing (such as the examples above). The brilliance of SmartLinks is that they are applied to all new content in the weeks and months ahead, as well as all existing posts.

Through this process, The Fulcrum added thousands of internal links across thousands of posts. These are instantly helpful links for readers seeking more context, and they reinforce important explainers and pillar posts with more incoming traffic. Another benefit of SmartLinks is that they apply across distribution channels, like SmartNews, bringing even more traffic back to The Fulcrum.

Taxonomy Review

During the Technical SEO Audits, it became clear that The Fulcrum had too many content sections. We suggested that they give those a close look and a refresh, and they did exactly that.

At the end of 2023, The Fulcrum’s website was divided into 25 “News & Opinion” sections under five larger categories, plus eleven sections under a “Pop Culture” heading. Some were duplicative in nature and others updated very rarely that they didn’t all make sense. Plus, 36 sections in all is a bit overwhelming.

By March, they had replaced their navigation with 10 sections that better reflected their coverage and made more sense for readers:

  • Bridging & Common Ground
  • Business & Democracy
  • Civic Engagement & Education
  • Corruption
  • Electoral Reforms
  • Ethics & Leadership
  • Governance & Legislation
  • Inclusion & Diversity
  • Media & Technology
  • Pop Culture

This was a vast improvement, and a major win for The Fulcrum’s website. The new taxonomy not only greatly improved the site’s organization, it also enhanced the user experience.

Distribution Channels Review

We performed a full review of The Fulcrum’s current distribution efforts and identified new opportunities, such as a partnership with Nordot for distribution and a fresh stream of revenue.

By the end of this process, it’s clear that The Fulcrum is now set up for success, boasting a fully optimized Flipboard account, a SmartNews presence with more internal links back to The Fulcrum than ever before, and an updated Google News profile that reflects their new taxonomy mentioned above.

Editorial SEO Strategy

Whether it be refreshing old content to make it relevant again or making sure every piece of new content is fully optimized for SEO, we’ve discussed editorial strategies and best practices for SEO growth with The Fulcrum.

In addition to their Technical SEO Audits, The Fulcrum has put these recommendations into practice and it’s no doubt a part of their overall growth.

Social Media Strategy

Our efforts have not been isolated to The Fulcrum’s website. We conducted an audit of The Fulcrum’s social media presence, as well as the social channels for their sister site Citizen Connect, which also promotes The Fulcrum’s content.

While The Fulcrum does an excellent job of branding their content on social media with a consistent look and feel that is familiar to their readers, there were other opportunities. Everything from the way captions are worded to the frequency of posting was evaluated. A potential opportunity was identified by pairing The Fulcrum’s content with universal memes that resonate on social media.

Our analysis found that the use of questions in their graphics generated higher engagement, such as this example — a perfect prompt for social media discussion:

social media graphic from the fulcrum

At the end of the day, we’re seeking measurable results from their social media channels. In addition to experimenting with paid media on X, The Fulcrum has seen those benefits with organic social media traffic on the rise. LinkedIn referral traffic increased 83% in the three weeks since our social media review, and generally The Fulcrum has seen increases on every social platform since the start of this year.

Video Strategy

The Fulcrum is working on a relaunch of their YouTube channel and plans to further develop their video content strategy.

We walked through best practices to grow their YouTube audience in the months ahead, while making sure that their website visitors also benefit from the video content. Look to see more videos on The Fulcrum as they continue these efforts.

And that last part sums it up well. Digital media is never a one-and-done effort, it’s a continuous process that involves focusing on multiple fronts for audience growth. Part of this is due to the ever-evolving nature of technology, including the rise of AI, which we’ve discussed with The Fulcrum in terms of opportunities in the future. The Fulcrum’s team understands that incorporating a multi-faceted approach to digital media strategy is a recipe for success, and they've experienced the growth firsthand.

david nevins the fulcrum growth quote

Ready to grow your audience and increase traffic to your website just like The Fulcrum? Request a demo of RebelMouse today and let’s start working together.

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