Our latest webinar saw the AZoNetwork team discussing the strategies behind how we took AZoLifeSciences from 0 to 1 Million website views in just under three years.
Joining our host, Danny, is Ben Stibbs-Eaton, our Content Marketing Manager, to look at the SEO strategies used on the website. Alongside Emily Henderson, Senior Editor of AZoLifeSciences, to discuss the content strategy for the platform, and Sara Lopez-Segura, Graphic Design & Social Media Co-ordinator, with the inside knowledge on creating engaging life science content.
The webinar, podcast, and write-up aim to share the ideas and strategies behind the AZoLifeSciences platform to get you thinking about your process and how to build on our success.
You can watch, listen to or read the discussion by clicking one of the links below.
Watch 0 to 1 Million Views
Listen to 0 to 1 Million Views
Read 0 to 1 Million Views
To start, what is AZoLifeSciences?
Emily: AZoLifeSciences is part of the AZoNetwork brand, the eleventh website built. The site targets life sciences professionals, academics, researchers, and people in the industry. We aim to keep people up to date with the latest news, information, interviews, and articles and to share equipment and technology that’s breaking through the sector.
The site consists of ten hubs covering the most critical topics in the life sciences sector ranging from proteomics in the omics industry to drug discovery to agriculture and bio-automatics.
Then our clients use the platform to showcase their latest research, work, and equipment to our audience. When the site was set up, was this to fill a gap?
Emily: 100% to fill a gap; the life sciences sector as a whole has seen so much transformation before and then during the COVID pandemic. It’s one of the fastest-growing sectors across the world. There’s so much new technology emerging.
There needed to be more in the market to share information and broadcast these breakthroughs, especially on the commercial side, to a big audience that works in the industry and can utilize these technologies for the greater good. We also wanted to continue AZoNetwork’s mission of sharing science stories with people that can make a difference.
At what point was the SEO team involved with the setup and planning of the website?
Ben: SEO was involved from the outset of the project, with the primary goal being to build a site from the ground up using the best SEO principles while targeting the growing niches of the life sciences sector.
We built the site to replicate the success of our sister site, News Medical, a behemoth in the medical news sector.
Our approach was to create relevant, informative, engaging quality content focusing on user experience. The sector-specific hubs gave us a solid basis to generate fully-optimized content in particular niches. We ensured we were using expert writers and credible sources to tackle the topics while also platforming those writers to build audience trust and establish real authority in the space.
How would the SEO approach differ if you worked with an existing site instead of a brand-new one?
Ben: The clean slate approach is always appealing. It often falls on marketing professionals to decide if a website will be set up from scratch or reworked from an existing site. There are pros and cons to each approach.
A lot depends on the strength of your existing domain, a unique quirk in the creation of AZoLifeSciences was that we were competing with News Medical to some degree. While we were targeting a different niche, there were some overlaps.
In SEO, there’s a gag that the answer is always “it depends,” but some key takeaways from our experience are that high-quality content matters most and user experience underlies some essential search metrics. Always consult the experts and your relevant stakeholders before hitting refresh.
So if I had a site that isn’t getting outstanding traffic, I’d be better off seeing what I’m ranking for currently and strategizing rather than getting rid and starting again?
Ben: Finding hidden value before gutting a site makes sense, and it will depend on what metrics have been used to define success. When I enter a new client relationship, I look at rankings first; as a content creator, I aim to increase a site's visibility for specific search terms.
For other people, it could be traffic and engagement, there are various metrics to look at, and if you focus too much on one, you might miss success in another.
Is there a way you recommend keeping updated with things like algorithm changes?
Ben: For all its faults, Google is relatively transparent about significant updates and gives forewarnings. Still, micro-adjustments are made to the algorithm daily, so you’ll see fluctuation routinely; it is just how it is nowadays.
Returning to the SEO strategy for AZoLifeSciences, how did this differ from pre-launch to six months to a year, etc.?
Ben: We had a plan in place, we launched the website, and then, very shortly afterward, the world went into lockdown. Everyone only wanted to discuss one topic, and our life science hub was an excellent destination for high-quality news and content.
The way our strategy changed was in how we reacted to traffic through the course of the pandemic. There was a medical news algorithm update in Google, which meant we figured out we didn’t necessarily implement our redirects perfectly at the start; very quickly after we resolved that problem, we saw improvements.
The overall strategy always stayed the same, we always wanted to create a content hub, and that is what we have done, but you have to be proactive and reactive.
How much does the visual appearance of SEO content contribute to its success or lack thereof?
Sara: Recently, the algorithm ranking of Yandex has leaked. It’s the fourth most prominent search engine, so while it isn’t Google, the consensus is that it’s mirroring Google or very similar. One of the ranking factors is articles using short videos or multimedia. More short videos and links to platforms like TikTok or YouTube that make an article more interactive will improve the ranking in search results.
Within the video that we include within articles, one of the other benefits is that it can rank on Google wherever we're hosting it.
Sara: Even researchers and scientists are on social media. So take your stories, take the points you want to make, and get them on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. Put the content in front of the people you want to see it and redirect them to your main site.
Ben: People aren’t uniformly using Google for search anymore. I use AI to give me relevant information. Some people go to YouTube, TikTok, and Pinterest to search for different things. Finding ways to effectively utilize various search engines that yield other media concerning different groups can be beneficial.
Let’s move on to AI, and there’s been a lot on the news about ChatGPT, do you find it beneficial?
Sara: I do use ChatGPT and find it helpful. As I’m not a native English speaker, it can be beneficial to check if an expression is correct or ask for a sentence or statement to be written differently. As a tool to get ideas flowing, it’s great.
There are issues with it, though, Microsoft did a presentation on Bing AI - asking it to summarize a profit statement, and it made up numbers that weren’t in the document at all, so be careful when using it as the data isn’t always factual, regardless of the confidence ChatGPT has!
Ben: I have moved on to a different AI called Perplexity for research. I found that it was less than 50% of the time that I asked ChatGPT for a cited reference that it returned a correct reference.
What was your approach to developing a content strategy, particularly content that drives traffic to the site?
Emily: The strategy, first of all, should be designed to be long-term. Having a clear mindset and goals of milestones you want to achieve is essential to refer back to and use the data you are collecting to track your progress.
Don’t allow yourself to be disheartened if tactics need to change or don’t work. Like the field of science itself, everything evolves rapidly.
As Ben has touched on, picking out good content is so important. The author must be reputable, and the content needs to be engaging and unique. Then, having a good distribution strategy on different channels allows the content to be engaged with by different audiences.
How do you organize AZoLifeSciences so that users can find the most relevant content?
Emily: This was on our minds for the website launch. We implemented a mega menu with a large dropdown showing all our hub pages. Each hub page is for a specific sector within life sciences and offers the latest news, articles, research, products, and so on in one space.
Author credibility has been mentioned a lot. How can that be proven on a website?
Emily: We have a team of over 100 freelancers from student level up to Ph.D. and industry staff at large companies. We took everyone with a Ph.D. from a qualified life science background to the hub pages of the website. We made a scientific review board where all content has been proofread, checked, and given an extra stamp of approval before the final check from the AZoNetwork editors and being published.
Finally, for AZoLifeSciences, we have tracked performance based on traffic. Has this always been the primary goal?
Emily: Overall, general site traffic is significant as it affects our reputation in the space. It does also show that the content we are putting out is working.
Looking at the individual content to see if people are commenting, sharing, and engaging with it is a massive achievement for me. It means they believe this information is trusted and are happy to share it with their peers.
When a piece of content is doing particularly well, I look at what is different about that piece, if there were more keywords, if more time was spent optimizing it, or if there were more visual aids and replicate that.
Don’t just rinse and repeat the same method but take onboard the wins and continue to better the content.