Rebel Insights

Responsible Statecraft: SEO Growth After Switching to RebelMouse CMS

Responsible Statecraft: SEO growth after switching to RebelMouse

The RebelMouse team met the Responsible Statecraft team in 2023. We kicked off our partnership in April and launched the new experience in early September. The results we have achieved together are beyond impressive.

Post-Launch Performance

It’s exciting to see that a few months after launch we can report exciting growth — especially in traffic from Google.

Responsible Statecraft post-launch performance statistics

Performance Boosts in 30 Days

It’s not only about the traffic boost after the launch. We monitor the traffic from month to month and work with Responsible Statecraft on maintaining that growth.

Responsible Statecraft performance boost in 30 days

Knowing that Google is a top traffic source for Responsible Statecraft, looking at the data in Google Search Console is also exciting.

Responsible Statecraft Google Search Console performance statistics

Onboarding Journey

There are a few reasons why the Responsible Statecraft team decided to switch to RebelMouse’s platform:

  • Their site was launched in December 2019 on WordPress. They have grown considerably in that time — not just in traffic, but also across content providers (e.g., reporters, themselves, and outside contributors). They needed the right platform to support internal growth.
  • They were ready for the next round of traffic growth, especially in terms of SEO. Even with great expert content, they just weren’t getting enough traffic. There was a concern that their existing website was not fully optimized. The website architecture was old and it hadn’t been updated.
  • They were also looking for a complete strategy overhaul to give their readers more reasons to stay on their site and build loyalty.

Throughout the build process, we had amazing partners on the Responsible Statecraft side, including Kelley Vlahos, Editorial Director, and Ben Armbruster, Managing Editor. The best way to explain our work together is synergy. Each of our team members, with their unique experiences, perspectives, talents, and communication styles, created the growth that the Responsible Statecraft team was hoping for from the start.

Project Scope

Every project benefits from a clear roadmap and defined goals. We prioritize understanding our clients' objectives and providing cost-effective solutions. Our commitment to our clients' success fosters long-term relationships, as demonstrated by clients who have been with us for over a decade.

When Responsible Statecraft approached us, Adam Taylor, our Director of Strategic Solutions, immediately responded to their needs. He addressed their concerns directly, navigating budget constraints and roadblocks with empathy, patience, and personalized solutions. Adam's dedication allowed Responsible Statecraft to confidently migrate to RebelMouse and quickly maximize their online success.

Taxonomy

The breadth of topics and categories that Responsible Statecraft touches on is very significant. Previously, the site was heavily based on tags with only a few categories, which wasn’t the ideal way to organize all of the content.

While it can be a challenge to reflect a wide range of topics in taxonomy, our Senior Vice President of Product & Strategy, Alex Leo, started the project by performing a comprehensive analysis of all the tags and topics Responsible Statecraft had used previously. From there, our Director of Audience Development, Craig Kanalley, took a close look at common threads and found that a geographical structure would work best. This was based on the high volume of location-based tags the site had been using. We presented this to the Responsible Statecraft team and got timely and receptive feedback to move forward with the new taxonomy.

All of the content was divided into six regions: Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and North America. Within each region, there were countries and relevant categories.

Responsible Statecraft website taxonomy and structured data

This new taxonomy was reflected in the redesign with a Regions drop-down menu on the site’s main navigation. The new menu made it easy for users to pull up a region of interest and see the latest news, launching into a section page for each specific region.

A few high-level, common topics that the site covers were also a part of the new and improved main navigation: Military Industrial Complex, Washington Politics, Media, and Global Crises.

“I loved collaborating with the Responsible Statecraft team to improve their site’s taxonomy,” Kanalley said. “They are experts in their field and improving the organization of their content has made it a better user experience for anyone who visits the site, highlighting the great work that they do.”

Getting the taxonomy right was the first step, and from there, we were ready to build a beautiful design.

Complete Redesign

RebelMouse's web designer, João Marcos Oliveira, transformed Responsible Statecraft's vision into a reality that exceeded expectations. João's eye for aesthetics and understanding of UX principles resulted in a website that effectively communicates its vision and directs users to relevant content.

Kelley Vlahos testimonial about the website design process with RebelMouse

Responsible Statecraft website redesigned with optimized mobile version

Modernized and Refreshed Brand Identity

RebelMouse provided new logo options, because a well-designed logo is memorable and easily recognizable. We also offered new typography because having proper font sizes enhances readability, making it easier for users to consume content and understand the message.

Responsible Statecraft brand identity

Top Navigation

The design team also updated the main navigation by highlighting the main areas and incorporating drop-down menus.

Before

Responsible Statecraft's former navigational website before RebelMouse redesign

After

Responsible Statecraft new website navigation

Segmented Layout

Segmented layouts help organize content into logical sections. Each segment is dedicated to a specific message or topic. This enhances overall site navigation and the user experience.

Responsible Statecraft home page with segmented article layout

Article Page Improvements

Here are some of the page and website navigation improvements we focused on during the redesign journey.

Better Navigation

To enhance UX and contextual understanding, we included breadcrumbs and relevant tags.

article page navigation

Author Bio

Below each article, we have incorporated the respective author's bio with author structured data. This information helps establish their expertise, qualifications, and background. It lends credibility to the content and allows readers to assess the author's authority on the subject.

Responsible Statecraft article pages and author bios

More Relevant Content

We placed more relevant content below each main article, incorporating both internal links and “around the web” links based on the topic at hand.

author page with more relevant content

We also eliminated the site's footer and incorporated an infinite scroll stream of articles, so users can easily keep discovering more about any given topic.

Mobile Responsiveness and User Experience

The redesign phase included providing responsive layouts to ensure a consistent and optimal user experience across various devices.

website mobile responsiveness

Mobile Navigation

We moved the top navigation to a hamburger menu, including topic areas and main calls to action, to showcase more pieces of content instead.

 Responsible Statecraft's old mobile version (left) versus new navigation (right)

We built a mobile-friendly article page design, using the proper font sizes and optimal image ratios. Check out these before-and-after examples:

Article page mobile design before and after

Implementation

Our technical team is the team that brought all of this work together. Igor, a RebelMouse Solutions Architect, did a fantastic job of navigating the technical solutions, working with Ben and Kelley on understanding how the old site was set up, how to get all of the data from the old instance over to RebelMouse, and how to bring the new vision for the taxonomy to life.

Igor and RebelMouse Platform Engineer Dmitry worked together with Kelley and Ben on making sure that the home page not only reflected a beautiful design, but also had the right functionality from an editorial perspective. With the new look, the editorial team can easily highlight stories and move them around the site as a part of the editorial process.

“This was a pretty custom request because it was really important for the Responsible Statecraft team to have full control over the home page experience and which stories go where. It took us probably a week to find the best possible solution together and I’m really happy to see the Responsible Statecraft team using it so well. They have been great to work with on coming up with solutions,” said Igor.

Kelley Vlahos testimonial about building a user-friendly site

He built out a plan that was seamlessly implemented with Dmitry and Florian, a RebelMouse Server-Side Engineer. José, a RebelMouse Project Manager, made sure everything was planned and that resources were available from all sides. He kept all of us on track by making sure there was transparency on what we needed to prioritize, move, and what we needed from Kelley and Ben.

The Quality Assurance team, Natallia and Mariano, were the ones who made sure everything looked perfect before anything was shown to Kelley and Ben. It’s so important to have a thoughtful QA team as part of this process since it saves enormous amounts of time by preventing sending incomplete work or unnecessary back and forth.

Technical SEO

With such an amazing team, it’s easy to keep our promise to our clients — that we’ll always keep them modern and ensure that we improve their performance upon launch. Delivering high performance and great Core Web Vitals is our standard.

We care a lot about on-page and technical SEO, and we are very proud to have launched Responsible Statecraft’s site with a Semrush Site Health Score of 86.

These results were achieved by:

  1. Leveraging the power of RebelMouse’s CMS and our out-of-the box features, such as (but not limited to):
    1. Sitemaps
    2. Structured data
    3. Dynamic page titles
    4. Fallbacks for meta descriptions
    5. Correct canonicalization
    6. Absence of server or security issues
  2. Following the built-in processes that we’ve created over the years from migrating countless sites, such as (but not limited to):
    1. Cleaning up bad or old links (e.g., HTTP links)
    2. Optimizing JavaScript and CSS so that there are no performance issues
    3. Submitting sitemaps to Google Search Console
    4. Optimizing robots.txt files
    5. Defining rules for titles and meta descriptions for the most valuable pages
  3. Defining priorities and setting up plans with the Responsible Statecraft team on what is necessary to achieve before launch (such as making sure we have the taxonomy set up correctly) vs. the things that can be addressed later (such as optimizing titles for pages that are not as valuable).

Next Steps

Launching a site is not the finish line at RebelMouse — it’s the starting point. After the site was launched, Veronica, the dedicated Account Manager for Responsible Statecraft, teamed up with Zelle Gatoc, our Digital Strategist, and Rasselline Rose, our Data Insights Analyst, to work together with Ben and Kelley on systematically:

  1. Optimizing the technical SEO across the site even further. We work with teams who are not always technical, but we help support their editorial efforts so that they are following the best practices of technical and on-page SEO.
  2. Discovering new ways to distribute content across channels. We believe in diversification of traffic through different channels, such as Flipboard or SmartNews.
  3. Identifying the next design iterations to provide the best user experience possible. All design decisions are based on data and performance.

Kelley Vlahos testimonial about the RebelMouse team

It takes a village to raise a child and a team to build wonderful user experiences.

Responsible Statecraft and RebelMouse's teams

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