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
Download On The Apple Store Android App On Google Play
Also available online at justbeerapp.com
Since the launch back in 2016, JustBeer had become outdated. Originally designed for early-phase content, the JustBeer site had limited navigation which prevented access to the full scope of content. Pages like brewery listings, beer records, events, and articles had significantly grown in number since the original launch. However, they were buried behind the user interface and portions of content were difficult to access. Articles and keystone content, while interesting and relevant to JustBeer users, lacked best practices for SEO and as a result, organic traffic from search engines was under performing. All-in-all, the platform needed a face-lift.
From the beginning, MQ had always planned for JustBeer to offer a hyper-local experience. It is an obvious conclusion that locally focused blogs can connect small craft breweries to local consumers. Local was a valuable part of the original product design too. However, there is a challenge when building large products from nothing. It's the old adage "chicken or egg" scenario—do you start small and grow your site or do you launch with the completed product in mind, building the end-state and growing your content to fill the gaps? The trouble with building the complete product, without the depth of content to back it up, is that you will most likely end up with many insubstantial pages. Short web content has a directly negative impact on a site's SEO score and reduces the site reputation and chance to rank on search. Instead, should you iterate and grow incrementally, exposing more content as the product becomes full form? This seems like a more ideal option, but requires additional incremental development cycles. So, what now? These are the types of integral questions to consider when launching a new product and sometimes it's more effective to follow an evidenced-based approach, rather than make false assumptions about the best approach.
The bottom line: in order to offer value to audiences in a clustered geographic area, the platform must still be relevant enough to populate local pages and attract visitors. The content also needs to be reliable and engaging for visitors. Based off these observations, we had decided to focus first on content, and then we'd build the brand's reputation according to search engines and the associated SERPs (search engine results pages). Now it was time for additional development cycles.
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 we needed to begin with JustBeer's content on a per-page basis in order to address any SEO formatting deficiencies.
First, we dusted off and improved the old designs of the local pages. This included adjusting the content organization based on insights we had gained over the course of the product. By analyzing user feedback and combining it with our more complete understanding of craft beer culture and topic expertise, we were able to make valuable modifications to page layouts and content prioritization. Alongside these design updates, we also made multiple incremental changes to key areas of the platform by 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 a menu redesign, an updated content strategy, and reorganization of existing articles). Beyond site navigation, the on-page (within content) navigation was also improved by interlinking related articles.
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. Ultimately, we conducted a site-wide SEO scrub of JustBeer's article content. This 3.5-month exercise resulted in a roughly 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 the roll-out of the new, “Local Beer Guides.” For every city or town that had three or more breweries listed on JustBeer, a local craft beer guide was programmatically created with data-driven content. On October 2019, we launched in over 130 cities/towns across North America. These guides feature over 2.8K breweries and 18K+ beer records, which are now organized and categorized locally from city to province/state. The local guides also feature beer events and news from each city, and navigation for local tourism was simplified as well.
SEO was at the top of our minds during earlier changes, but we also applied our revised SEO findings to the local pages. We took topic cluster approach to each city and targeted as many applicable local terms as possible, while also clustering beer content by topic for each location.
View Beer Guide Press Release
Ten months after we released JustBeer's local beer guides, traffic nearly doubled again. However, if we look at the total increase in traffic over those past two years, from the start of our SEO adjustments (and of course with additional content creation), we saw a total increase in traffic of 10x! Going from 15.5K monthly visitors in July 2018 to just over 158K monthly visitors in July 2020 is no small feat. It is from experiments like this on our own projects that we gain insights on how to improve our client's efforts as well.
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