How Upworthy got 53.5 Million Unique Monthly Visitors – Case Study

upworthy featured image

I want to turn you on to some of the marketing strategies that have helped Upworthy become known as the “Fastest Growing Media Site of All Time.”

If you haven’t heard of Upworthy yet, it’s time for you to start paying attention. Take a look at the picture below showing Upworthy’s explosive growth compared to the early years of other media giants like The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and Business Insider.

upworthy comparative growth

Today, Upworthy has over 53.5M unique monthly visitors to their website and they’ve done so by curating and sharing meaningful content (not cat pictures or videos you might see on Tosh.O) from around the web covering topics such as Health, Immigration, Politics, Science, LGBT, and more.

Upworthy has been very successful with their marketing strategies and being they are sharing meaningful content, you can apply their findings to your business’ own website whether that’s a blog, podcast website, YouTube channel website, etc. If you want to generate more traffic and generate more leads, keep reading and I will walk you through a case study of how Upworthy substantially improved their social sharing and content engagement, which exploded the traffic that consumed their content.

Upworthy’s Content Marketing Case Study on Increasing Content Sharing and Content Engagement

Upworthy has exploded onto the scene in large part because of their ability to get users to share their content through Facebook and Twitter.

“In the earliest days of Upworthy, our goal was to find people on social media and grab their attention and then get them to share back out to social media as well. We wanted to optimize that loop,” explains Peter Koechley, co-founder of Upworthy.

Upworthy started out by putting their content on a landing page that was highly optimized to share content. If you clicked on one of their articles on Facebook or their website, you would be taken to that landing page where the main goal was to get visitors to share content with their friends. The secondary goal was to capture an email address. Below is a screenshot of what this landing page looked like back in 2012, close to when they launched. As you can see, there aren’t any links to easily find additional content.

upworthy old page

When engagement increased and traffic soared, their readers wanted to engage with more content. The next logical choice, was to offer visitors a suggested content module to help them discover additional content once they hit the landing page.

“We had already done a lot of testing and found that when we added distractions, user sharing went down. We were actually hesitant about adding the module at all,” said Peter.

There was a conundrum Upworthy faced. Should they risk sacrificing sharability for increased user engagement across the Upworthy site and potentially lose a lot of traffic or could they improve shareability and user engagement at the same time?

Upworthy decided to put it to a test. They choose to split test several different variations of their landing page to see if they could improve both shareability and engagement. They tested design changes like font, images, background color, font color and more. Below are some examples of the variations they tested.

upworth case study 2

They also tested for placement of the content suggestion module. Those variations can be seen below.

upworthy content suggestion module

What they learned from all the testing was that social sharing increased for every variation they tested, contrary to their initial beliefs that adding content suggestions would distract their users from sharing.

“With recommended content, it turns out that users would eventually land on something they wanted to share, if they didn’t feel like sharing that first piece of content they landed on. Sharing did go down on the first page, but up for the entire visit,” said Peter.

Below is the winning design they finally landed on, which increased social sharing by 28%!

upworthy final design

Upworthy’s Content Marketing Takeaways

1. Utilize Social Sharing

Use social sharing as a main call to action. This has been the biggest driver of their 54M unique monthly visitors. Trust me, Upworthy does a great job of capturing social media followers and building their email list, like you should be doing, but their number one goal is making it easy for people to share Upworthy’s content with their friends. When you can build in marketing triggers to make it easy for your content to go viral, you will have a lot more success of reaching new audiences and growing your list.

2. Offer Suggested Content

Don’t forget to offer suggested content to your readers. Just because they found your website through a blog, doesn’t mean that particular piece of content is what they were looking for at the moment. You want them to share your content with their fans or subscribe to your newsletter and it may be easier to get that result if they identify more with a different piece of content.

3. Always Be Testing

Make sure you are always testing to find breakthroughs with your website and content marketing. Often times we spend so much time on creating valuable content and finding ways to promote it to new audiences, that we forget about optimizing our website for the people that are already engaging with us. Don’t assume that you know what will work the best.

Peter Koechley said it this way, “We care about testing because, we think we’re clever and all, but whenever we think we know what’s going to win a test, we’re almost always wrong.”

I hope you learned something from this article that you can take and apply to your content marketing strategy. Leave a comment if you apply this strategy and let us know if you have any questions.

Lastly, it would be wrong if we didn’t take our own advice, so if you found this post helpful, please SHARE it! Thanks!

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