How Mobility Quotient increased JustBeer’s monthly user traffic by over 290% in just ten months—from 53K visitors in Sept 2019 to over 158K visitors in July 2020. Spoiler alert…it’s all about a hyper-local SEO strategy.
JustBeer is Mobility Quotient’s in-house project; a public platform that supports the blossoming craft beer industry and gives beer enthusiasts around the world a place to immerse themselves in beer culture.
More about JustBeer
Three years after launching, JustBeer attracted roughly 50k monthly visitors and scored high on Google’s authority index but lacked local search presence and required user experience improvements. In late 2019, MQ deployed a series of new features and changes which had a positive impact on traffic growth and platform relevance. We will cover our discoveries and changes in the case study below.
JustBeer's mobile app - showing the wide-range of product features
Since the launch back in 2016, JustBeer had become outdated. Originally designed for the early-phase content, the JustBeer site had limited navigation which now prevented access to the full depth of content. Pages like brewery listings, beer records, events and articles had grown significantly in number since the original launch, but were now buried behind the user interface and difficult to get to. Articles and keystone content while interesting and relevant to JustBeer users, lacked SEO best practices and as a result search indexing was taking a hit. The platform needed a tune up.
From the beginning, MQ had always planned for JustBeer to offer a hyper-local experience. It’s a no-brainer that "local" is a smart way to connect small craft breweries to near by consumers. Local focus was part of the original product designs too. However, there exists a challenge when building large products from nothing. The old adage 'chicken or egg scenario'—Do you start small and grow your site or do you build with the end in mind, build the end-state, and grow your content to fill the site? The trouble with building with the end in mind is that you'll likely end up with many shallow pages, and we know that this has a direct and negative impact a site's SEO score. So, do you instead iterate and expand incrementally, exposing more content as the product becomes relevant (a more ideal option, but one that requires additional development cycles)? Important questions to consider when launching a new product.
The bottom line: in order to offer value to audiences in a clustered geographic location, the platform must still be relevant enough to populate local pages and attract visitors. The content needs to actually be an authority on the topic (in our case, beer) and engaging for site visitors. So we had been focusing on content first and on building the brand's reputation according to search engines and the associated SERPs (search engine results page).
To improve JustBeer, we needed to look at the user experience and address how accessible the content was. Our audience needed a better way to navigate the site, and we needed to organize local content more effectively, while also improving organic search results. These types of improvements are systemic and needed to begin with JustBeer's content on a per-page basis in order to address any SEO formatting deficiencies.
First, we dusted off the old designs for local pages and improved them. This included adjusting the content organization based on new insights we gained over the lifetime of the product. We were able to make valuable changes to page layouts and content prioritization because of user feedback and a more-complete understanding of craft beer culture and topic expertise. Along side these design updates, we also made multiple incremental changes to key areas of the platform, fixing navigation and optimizing content for search engines and a more local experience.
Navigation: The site navigation was significantly improved, adding more content categories (which required an updated content strategy and reorganization of old articles). Beyond site nav, the in-content navigation was also improved. Adjustments were made to the core architecture, in-body content linking, and by serving better formatted content to search engines.
SEO: In late 2018, we tested different options for how we might improve JustBeer’s rank position on Google. Those experiments included different approaches to content strategy, testing content-cluster edits, and applying a redefined keyword strategy across much of the site—an SEO scrub of JustBeer's article content. This 3.5 month exercise resulted in roughly a 2x increase in traffic by the following spring. It is from these findings that we extracted insight and applied additional site-wide SEO changes to core pages and structured data, which were deployed on September 3, 2019 (see graphic below).
Local Guides: The biggest change to JustBeer was not the SEO updates, but rather the roll-out of the new, “Local Beer Guides.” Every city or town on JustBeer that had three or more breweries was given a local guide and on October 2019, we launched in over 130 cities/towns across North America. These guides feature over 2.8K breweries and 18K+ beer records, now organized and categorized by city and province or state. Guides also feature events and news from each city, and navigation to nearby cities (for local tourism value) was simplified as well.
SEO top of mind from our earlier changes, we extended our revised SEO findings to the newly-launched local pages and took a "shotgun approach" to each city, clustering beer content by topic for each location.
View Beer Guide Press Release
Ten months after the local guides release, JustBeer's traffic nearly doubled again. However, if we look at the total increase in traffic over the two years, from the start of our SEO adjustments, and of course with additional content creation, we saw a total increase in traffic by 10x! Going from 15.5K monthly visitors in July 2018 to just over 158K monthly visitors in July 2020. It's no small feat, and it is from experiments like this on our own projects that we can help improve our client efforts as well.
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