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Here’s Why You Should Focus on Valley Elevation

Here’s Why You Should Focus on Valley Elevation

We've all experienced it. The dopamine-filled highs of watching site stats blast through the ceiling on our favorite web analytics platform after a piece of content goes viral. As digital publishers, it's in our blood to crave these spikes. But the sobering crash back to reality that follows, and the ensuing scramble to come up with the next piece of content that can match the previous peak, are seemingly inevitable. This constant seesawing is a frustrating and fatiguing experience, no matter the size of your budget or marketing team. What's a publisher seeking stability to do? Are we all targeting the right goals, or is there more here than meets the eye?

Enter Valley Elevation

Turns out there is more to your stats than just those towering summits. It's the concept of valley elevation, and it's been staring you in the face the entire time. Coined by Bradley Schwarzenbach and popularized by bestselling author Andrew Davis, valley elevation posits that you should be focusing on the depth of your metrics' troughs instead of its peaks.


RebelMouse-powered Azula's pageview performance following their replatform to our technology at the end of August 2017. Applause-worthy peaks abound but, more importantly, we see strong valley growth three months post launch.

Instead of chasing the next high, successful publishers focus on ensuring that their next drop isn't as deep as the one before it.

Why Is Valley Elevation so Important?

If we had to bet, chances are not every single piece of content you publish is hitting it out of the park. (Though if they are, kudos to you! We'd love to know more about what's working in your world.) In the regular world, content traction ebbs and flows depending on numerous factors, such as the quality of your creative and technical work, the breadth and depth of your audience, and whether or not the algorithms wake up on the right side of the bed. And like most, your site stats are going to spend more time on the ground than in the clouds.

This is why exciting spikes are not a true measure of the health or success of your site's traffic and engagement, nor an ironclad indicator of how well you and your team are (or aren't) performing. Like most things in life — stock market growth, raising a child, pursuing higher education — it's a marathon, not a sprint. You want to focus on best practices that will result in your valley floor steadily growing in elevation over time.

Put another way, which of the following scenarios sound more appealing to you?

  • Your site publishes content that goes viral a handful of times a month. But virality is fleeting and never guaranteed. And on days when your content takes off, your audience is largely unrecognizable. A flash mob that's gone as quickly as it came. You've satisfied the trending flavor of the moment, and you're lucky if they even noticed what site they were on before they left.
or
  • Your site publishes content that does not go viral as often as in the first scenario. But when your audience does show up in droves, they stick around and consume your other content. When they invite their friends to check out your articles, those new faces stick around, too. And they all come back periodically, whether or not you've recently published something earth shattering or not.

It's a rather stark comparison, but you'd take the second option every time. It's compound growth built on audience loyalty that you can reap the benefits of weeks, months, and years down the line.

"It's only when the tide goes out that you discover who's been swimming naked."

— Warren Buffett

What Does It Take to Grow a Valley?

In a nutshell? Best practices coupled with balance and consistency. Sounds simple — slow and steady wins the race, right? — but putting the discipline into practice isn't always the case. So let's take a step back and first look at what chasing peaks usually leads to:

  • Constantly shifting strategy and generally only throwing all your weight behind the latest trending topic, instead of branching out deeply into every area of expertise you specialize in
  • Creating content that offers few avenues for engagement or participation, and generally only exists to be consumed
  • Blasting your content across every channel and medium available to you with zero pacing, rhyme, or reason
  • Paying little attention to where your audience is coming from, who it consists of, or if they should even be on your site in the first place

By contrast, growing valleys requires:

  • Strategically building out topic clusters that keep your audience clicking through valuable post after valuable post on your site
  • Creating compelling content that organically sparks engagement, not begs for it
  • Enabling your audience by giving them the means to participate in discussions or provide feedback
  • Spending time understanding how your content is being consumed, so you can publish and promote it when your maximum audience is most receptive to it
  • Optimizing every part of your site for maximum conversion — so when and where a user enters your property is never a barrier to a good experience — and always iterating based on data tests you perform
  • Using the social and search platforms that most make sense for your business, and never dumping all of your eggs into one basket — all algorithms strike without prejudice
  • Reusing and repurposing evergreen content — both yours and others', with credit where it's due — to reinforce your expertise and avoid constantly sinking an enormous amount of effort into new content
  • Always searching for and connecting with relevant communities and influencers so they can become part of your army of content advocates and distributors

In truth, there may not be a limit to the number of ways you can grow your valleys. But the resounding theme, as we're sure you've noticed, is that you're constantly in tune with what is relevant to your audience, and operating around those needs without neglecting any one area. The right balance and direction may not always be exciting, but investing in a solid foundation tends to net exponential gains over the long run.

What Successful Valley Growth Looks Like

Earlier in this post, we showcased Azula's strong valley growth after three months of being on RebelMouse. Here's a broader look at how Azula has been doing since the end of August 2017.

True to what's expected, Azula has experienced a number of peaks and valleys over the past seven months. But as the trendline demonstrates, the majority of their valleys have settled at an elevation far above where they were when they started out on RebelMouse. That's the result of a loyal, growing audience consuming content on a 24/7 basis — not only when a grouper swallows a shark in one bite.

How RebelMouse Can Help You Grow Your Valleys

At RebelMouse, we have years of experience building digital properties that attract fervent audiences. Our global team is well-versed in every audience-building discipline, and our guidance is backed by and tested against mountains of data we've collected over time.

We take great pride in helping our clients realize their goals, and partnerships normally manifest in one of three ways:

  1. RebelMouse Platform: If your current platform isn't delivering the technical results you need, or hindering day-to-day operations, then we invite you to take a look at RebelMouse. Back when we began the company, we saw ahead of the curve and deliberately built our platform around social in every way. The culmination of our efforts resulted in what we call Social UX for Media, which propelled Axios into the limelight and turned it into a household name in under a year. Used in tandem with our proprietary Discovery functionality, you have all the tools you need to build a loyal audience that will jumpstart your valley elevation growth.
  2. Strategy Services: Media companies and brands alike often find themselves with surprisingly large divides between the key teams that drive the business. Editorial, data, product, sales, marketing, and revenue can all end up unintentionally working together in frustrating relationships and processes. Simultaneously, all the changes that are happening in digital distribution can cause greater conflict within the teams when figuring things out together, as well as create new obstacles. Bridging these gaps in a positive way that leads to an excited, happy culture with tangible loyalty metrics, new reach, and growth opportunities, is at the very core of what we do.
  3. A Combination of Both: A number of our clients build their properties on RebelMouse and lean heavily on us daily for our expertise. These are some of our favorite partnerships, as the line dividing us starts to blur and we morph into one big family, united in our pursuit of the same desires. Whether it's the Rebels for Good site network, or working side by side with founder and CEO Paul Berry, we provide something for everyone.

If you're interested in what it takes to migrate to our best-in-class CMS, or would like digital strategy help to get your current roadmap off the ground, contact us today. We'd love to discuss a potential partnership and succeed together.

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Why RebelMouse Is the Best Content Marketing Platform

RebelMouse is a unique platform and company. The company was founded on the vision that media companies would need an always-modern solution to thrive in the new connected internet, and that brands would have to behave like new media companies and use the same platforms.

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How to Optimize Your Website for Search


The RebelMouse platform features a rich search engine optimization (SEO) toolset that guides writers and editors to think about the right search phrase behind every story. It also empowers users to focus on small but meaningful modifications designed to improve organic search performance.

Here's a checklist of how we ensure the sites in our network consistently surge on search.

RebelMouse’s High-Performing Search Strategy Checklist

Structured Data

  • What is structured data?
  • RebelMouse's out-of-the-box integration

Optimize Your Website for Search: A Successful SEO Strategy Starts With Speed

Core Web Vitals metrics with meters for good, needs improvement, and poor scores

From web.dev

How exactly Google determines search ranking largely remains a mystery for publishers, but what we do know is that the search engine continuously rolls out updates to its algorithm. And while sometimes these updates are small and nearly unnoticeable, other times they result in massive changes around the way Google crawls content, often disrupting the rankings of webpages all across the globe.

One of these massive disruptions came in June 2021 with Google's page experience update. Developers are now feeling the impact of how their publishing platforms stack up against the new standard.

The update means Core Web Vitals are now a major factor in Google Search's ranking methodology, and sites big and small that haven't been prioritizing performance have seen their organic traffic hit stumbling blocks as a result.

The update has solidified the do-or-die importance of page speed as a key ranking factor. All too often, sites with poor performance plummet off of Google Search's page one results.

RebelMouse\u2019s core web vitals outperform traditional CMS solutions

Core Web Vitals scores are critical to your search performance. RebelMouse outperforms traditional platforms on the metrics that matter most.

Optimize Your Website for Search: Prioritize Google's Core Web Vitals

Google has set a high bar for the open web on what top performance should look like, especially on mobile. The following is a brief description of Google's Core Web Vitals.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): A website's LCP is the time it takes to load the main content on a page. Google wants LCP to happen within 2.5 seconds of when a page first starts loading.

First Input Delay (FID): FID quantifies a user's experience when trying to interact with unresponsive pages. You want your FID score to be low to prove the usability of your site. According to Google, pages should haven an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): CLS determines how often your users experience unexpected layout shifts or changes on a page. To ensure visual stability, you want your CLS score to be low. Google wants pages to maintain a CLS score of less than 0.1.

The RebelMouse Approach: We are able to outperform competitors on Core Web Vitals because site performance isn't just a goal, it's a company pillar that's woven into our culture. We use this focus on performance to help new media powerhouses and legacy brands alike make the most of the open web by growing traffic and building revenue without sacrificing user experience.

Through never-ending performance optimization, the sites powered by RebelMouse score higher on Google's Core Web Vitals over other CMS platforms, including WordPress.

traffic from Google and site behavior increases due to RebelMouse\u2019s SEO optimizations

RebelMouse's SEO optimizations result in big traffic improvements.

Click here to learn more about how to improve your Core Web Vitals scores.

Optimize Your Website for Search: Make the Most of AMP

Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a fantastic tool to increase mobile performance. The hyper-fast mobile format delivers a longer time on site for each reader, which encourages better conversion.

AMP pages are built to be fast and load almost instantly when clicked from Google Search, increasing user engagement and dropping bounce rates.

AMP is a rich environment, but implementing it properly can be time-consuming. AMP pages, in order to be fast, are highly structured, and companies need efficient tools to take full advantage of the opportunities that AMP provides. When implemented correctly, the impact on search traffic is remarkable.

The RebelMouse Approach: Our platform is fully optimized for AMP, and sites in our network use it as an often game-changing way to improve search performance.

Content creators can publish to AMP on RebelMouse with one simple click:

toggle on AMP configuration

On RebelMouse, optimizing your content for AMP is a one-click process.

Plus, our team is constantly making little tweaks to improve AMP performance for our clients. For example, we automatically enabled a required large-image setting across our sites to optimize for Google Discover. While the update may seem small, it has resulted in a significant and positive impact on traffic when an article makes it into Discover's feed.

Check out the visible boost it gave one of our clients, as tracked by Google Search Console:

Google Discover traffic spike

Our behind-the-scenes optimizations on AMP drive boosts to readership.

Click here to learn more about RebelMouse's AMP optimization.

Optimize Your Website for Search: Leverage the Right SEO Editorial Tools

how to increase search traffic

RebelMouse's SEO tools increase search traffic.

Our SEO technology centers around best practices for search, including detailed metadata that helps Google's site crawler identify, index, and rank your content quickly.

Here's a look inside our proprietary technology that helps our clients experience quick search boosts that turn into long-term SEO wins.

How to Optimize Your Website for Search: Define Your Search Phrase

It can be tricky to nail down which search phrase you want to win. Within RebelMouse's SEO tab, you can brainstorm your ideas in real time. Through the creative usage of APIs, we ensure writers and editors are armed with the right information when optimizing content for SEO. In the example above, the drop-down list is suggesting search phrases that are already performing well on Google. The number next to each recommended phrase is its monthly search volume.

This helps you determine which phrases are easy to win, or perhaps too competitive to strategize for, on an article-by-article basis. Click here to learn more about this feature.

How to Optimize Your Website for Search: Match Your Slug to Your Search Phrase

submit url to search engines

Easily update your URL slug to match your desired search phrase on RebelMouse.

The SEO tab in our Entry Editor is designed to repeat your desired search phrase throughout your content so that Google's crawler has every chance to index it correctly for search. With this methodology in mind, it's a best practice to have your article's URL slug match your desired search phrase. From the SEO tab, you can click the "Optimize Slug" button to automatically match your URL slug to the search phrase you want to win.

Click here to learn more about this feature.

How to Optimize Your Website for Search: Pick Smart Recirculation Links

seo outlinks

Access outlinks for your search phrase directly from RebelMouse's editing interface.

After you've defined your search phrase and optimized your URL slug accordingly, you can select highly relevant links to add as related content to the end of your article. We call these Around the Web (ATW) links. The SEO tab in our Entry Editor allows you to pick the best links from your own site, as well as from around the web, which leads to truly amazing traffic boosts. This is a proven SEO practice that's rewarded by Google. Since your article will link to pages already winning your search phrase, it can increase your own post's relevance score in the eyes of Google's crawler.

We automate the surfacing of both ATW and internal links for you, so it's as easy as ticking a handful of checkboxes to add them to your post. We've also done the math, and the data is clear: Adding ATW and internal links to the end of your articles can increase traffic coming to your posts from Google by over 300%!

Click here to learn more about this feature.

How to Optimize Your Website for Search: Craft Metadata Before Publish

what is seo metadata

Update your content's metadata easily on RebelMouse.

When it comes to Google's site crawler, providing clever metadata is one of the best ways to contextualize your content for search. From there, Google's search algorithm will rank your site for search queries that it determines are relevant to your content. Our SEO tab allows you to write your metadata right from within our Entry Editor. Plus, our character counter will help you make sure that your SEO headline and description match Google's best practices for metadata text length.

It's important to make sure your metadata is clearly written in a succinct way so that Google can quickly understand the nature of your content.

Click here to learn more about this feature.

How to Optimize Your Website for Search: Structure Your Content to Reinforce Your Search Phrase

RebelMouse's Particle Assembler is a content creation tool within our Entry Editor that makes it easy to transform your posts into media-rich micro pieces of content, which we call particles, that can both be shared individually and crawled separately on search. Our Assembler functionality gives your content more legs, which means more chances to generate more traffic.

Assembler is accessible via a couple of clicks in the formatting toolbar of our Entry Editor. From there, an organizational layout gets inserted into your article that guides you through the process of building out the particles that will shape your Assembler.

A look at how to add particles in RebelMouse's Assembler.

The best way to think of Assembler is by treating it as an enhanced list format. If your article is about vegan cooking trends, each particle can feature a new trend. But Assembler does not need to be a simple list. It can also cover the main points of your article and feature user-generated content or even related stories.

Assembler is a helpful SEO tool because it can generate a unique URL slug for each particle, maximizing your article's ability to get indexed by Google for more than one key search phrase.

Click here to learn more about this feature.

How to Optimize Your Website for Search: Make the Most of Google's "People Also Ask" Module

how to optimize for Google\u2019s people also ask

Strategize search phrases to win with Google's "People Also Ask" feature.

Particle headlines are a great way to make use of Google's "People Also Ask" module. This will help you identify search patterns of users who are interested in your search phrase. By tailoring your particles to those patterns, it's likely that your post will move up in Google's search rankings.

Click here to learn more about this strategy.

How to Optimize Your Website for Search: Use Alt Tags on Every Image

alt text for seo

Easily update alt text with your desired search phrase on RebelMouse.

Each particle is another opportunity to add relevant media to your post, and Assembler makes it easy to add alt text to every image you upload. Alt text is very important for accessibility, and can also have benefits for SEO. Briefly, alt text is text that is added to an image to describe it to search engines. It also allows people using screen readers to be able to know what the image is without actually being able to see it. You can easily add alt text to any image in RebelMouse from our Entry Editor. Adding your search phase into every alt text field will only bring you one step closer to the top of Google Search's first page.

How to Optimize Your Website for Search: Conquer Structured Data

Google\u2019s Rich Results Test tool will check your structured data

Google's Rich Results Test tool will make sure your structured data is entered properly.

Google's algorithm is now savvy about robotically written articles designed to win a specific set of keywords. As Google's search engine has gotten smarter, its web crawler software, known as "Googlebot," has also evolved in terms of how it indexes data.

But what if you could tell Googlebot the story of your website so that it doesn't have to make any assumptions? This is possible through the use of structured data, or as Google describes it, a set of "clues" provided to its crawler about what defines your content. Using schema, or a vocabulary you share with Google about every page on your site, you can tell Googlebot the story of your content in human language.

structured data populates information for Google snippets

Rank higher on search by populating structured data for Google's snippets on search returns.

By following these rules, you're giving the search engine explicit clues about the meaning of a page. Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying its content. For example, on a recipe page, these classifying components could be ingredients, cooking time, temperature, and nutritional information.

The better Google's crawler can understand your content, the more easily it can index it highly on search.

The RebelMouse Approach: If structured data sounds like a big undertaking, it doesn't have to be. Every RebelMouse site automatically populates key structured data so that Google can better understand your site. This, in turn, optimizes your pages to win in search results. Our out-of-the-box integration populates all the standard schema data with information about article content. This works on desktop and mobile web, and the data also gets populated for Google AMP.

out-of-the-box structured data integration

RebelMouse properly marks up structured data for content with our out-of-the-box integration.

Click here to learn more about our out-of-the-box structured data integration.

How to Optimize Your Website for Search: Be Mindful of H1 Tags

To put it simply, an H1 tag is a piece of HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, that marks the heading of your web page. Here's an example:

This Is the Title of My Content

For SEO purposes, H1 tags are designed to win a specific search phrase for your page. In fact, a recent study from Moz found that the HTML title tag is the second-most important ranking factor for SEO, behind only the actual content of the post.

This is because Google recognizes the H1 tag as the highest-level tag on your page. Think of it as your chance to summarize what your content is about clearly and succinctly for Google's web crawler. The more accurate and relevant you make your H1 content, the easier it is for Google to index it for search.

When writing HTML, there are six different heading tags available to you: H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6. Each heading has a different font weight. You can use this scale to organize your content's headlines and subheadings accordingly.

various heading tags can improve seo

Example of headings from W3docs.

The RebelMouse Approach: You can easily choose your desired heading in RebelMouse's Entry Editor by using the formatting toolbar:

choose headings to improve SEO

Select which headings you want to use right from RebelMouse's editing interface.

Once you choose your heading, it's automatically reflected in your site's code:

heading tags in HTML provide structure to your content for search

RebelMouse's headings are automatically implemented correctly to your site's code for search.

Note: You may have noticed that the H1 tag is not an option you can select in the formatting toolbar's drop-down menu. That's because it's best practice to use only one H1 tag per page. On our platform, we reserve the H1 designation for your article's headline. This is inputted into your site's code automatically.

Click here to learn more about H1 tags.

How to Optimize Your Website for Search: Follow Google’s Image Guidelines

structured data on Google Images

An example of Google Images information populated by structured data. Image from Google.

Google Images is undoubtedly the leader in image search online, and they have many guidelines on how images should be handled. Here at RebelMouse, we make sure that your site is able to follow those guidelines right out of the box. Google's recommendations fall under a number of general topics:

  • A great user experience
  • Be descriptive
  • Structured data
  • Speed
  • Alt text
  • Make images discoverable

The RebelMouse Approach: Being certain that everything on your site is optimized both for performance and for following Google Search's guidelines is an exhausting task. Fortunately, RebelMouse takes that worry out of your hands by building our platform around the principles of page experience and the belief that all sites built on our platform should be flawless. We follow all best practices for Google Image's guidelines.

Click here to learn more.

How to Optimize Your Website for Search: Measure Success with Google Search Console

page experience report via Google Search Console

A look at page experience data from Google Search Console.

Google Search Console is a free tool that helps you to understand and optimize your site's performance on Google Search. When Google visits your website for tracking purposes, it performs what's called crawling and indexing, a process of adding web pages into its search results.

Search Console will allow you to add or remove certain content from Google Search's results. The tool will also help you learn which keywords trigger your site to appear in Google's search engine results page (SERP), as well as which third-party sites are linking to yours. It also allows you to monitor your site's performance on search, including locating any errors on your pages.

The RebelMouse Approach: We offer full support to help our clients connect their sites to Google Search Console. Our strategy services also help you understand which content and site layouts are working the best for your audience through our custom Google Data Studio dashboards.

Optimize Your Website for Search With RebelMouse

boost your search traffic with RebelMouse

Google owns most of the referral traffic on the internet, and your site should reflect this reality. That's why the sites on our network follow all of Google's webmaster guidelines.

RebelMouse's proprietary technology works for any kind of site, whether you're a brand, a new media company, or a legacy publisher. SEO doesn't have to be something that only developers and analysts can understand and augment. Our product is designed to put the power of search in the hands of content creators, editors, and social curators, too.

Start winning on search with every publish. Get in touch with us today and let's start working together.

RebelMouse Matches Google’s Best Practices for Images

Being certain that everything on your site is optimized both for performance and for following Google Search's guidelines is an exhausting task. Fortunately, RebelMouse takes that worry out of your hands by building our platform around the principles of page experience and the belief that all sites built on our platform should be flawless.

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A Guide to RebelMouse’s Search Logic

RebelMouse has its own proprietary algorithm for on-site search across the properties that we power. Here's a breakdown of how our search logic works.

Searching on Site

Our search results are based on the relevancy of your search phrase. This is usually pretty straightforward, but sometimes you can customize your search page depending on your content. In the example below, RebelMouse-powered HealthDay implemented filters to categorize their search results on site:

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How to Fix Missing Meta Descriptions in France

There's a copyright law in France that now impacts the visibility of meta descriptions on search results, commonly called snippets. The regulation is the first implementation of the European Copyright Directive, which aims to improve online copyright rules in Europe. The law requires publishers to opt in to meta descriptions. Previously, they were enabled by default. Click here to read more about this change from Google.

The law caused meta descriptions to disappear in France for European news publisher and RebelMouse client Worldcrunch.

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RebelMouse Q3 2021 Platform Performance Updates

For many publishers and brands, Q3 2021 was about recovering web traffic lost to Google's page experience signals update that was rolled out over the summer. For us, the quarter was about continuing our success of delivering excellent Core Web Vitals metrics across our site network with platform performance updates both big and small.

As a globally distributed team, it's important for us to remain transparent about how we're able to power some of the best-performing sites on the open web. And while we're already looking forward to closing out the year stronger than ever before, here's a detailed look back at our accomplishments in Q3 2021.

We invested 1,946 hours into our platform in Q3 2021 alone, and all of the sites on our platform benefited from the work in various ways. Here are the key areas that we focused on:

  • 184 hours were spent on delivering new features
  • 1,010 hours were spent on improving existing features
  • 752 hours were spent on performance and infrastructure updates
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RebelMouse Clients See Performance Improvement After AMP Optimization

Performance is a major pillar of our platform, which means we are always making changes — both big and small — to improve page speed. Our focus on fast websites isn't platform specific, either. We want to make sure that users have a top-notch experience however they view your content, and this includes our integration with Google's AMP format.

Our team of traffic-obsessed developers recently implemented some performance optimizations to enhance our platform's integration with AMP, and that has improved the average response time for our clients. This means that users are able to access your AMP pages more quickly, which, in turn, improves your site's traffic from Google.

Here's a breakdown of the changes we've made:

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