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'Best Of' lists

Creating Traffic with ‘Best Of’ Lists

‘Best Of’ lists are useful resources that generate plenty of search engine traffic for digital publishers. They are also considered highly “linkable,” meaning that visitors and other web publishers are likely to link to ‘Best Of’ lists.

‘Best Of’ lists fulfill two roles for digital publishers. First, they satisfy reader demand for information about the best providers—physicians, restaurants, hair stylists, etc.—in their communities. Second, when optimized appropriately with the latest monetization opportunities, ‘Best Of’ lists give businesses a way to reach consumers in their target demographics.

Although ‘Best Of’ lists are usually tied to existing web publications, such as city and regional magazines, a number of websites have popped up with the sole purpose of publishing ‘Best Of’ lists for certain industries. For example, www.BestDoctors.com publishes a list of more than 50,000 medical experts. Castle Connolly is another firm that publishes ‘Best Of’ lists, featuring the best doctors in specific regions of the country.

It is important to know how the publishing business model works, in order to understand how ‘Best Of’ lists fit into that model. The vast majority of digital publishers today rely on display advertising for monetization. But display advertising rates have declined in recent years, and publishers are leaning more heavily on ancillary revenue opportunities to make up for the shortfall.

By publishing ‘Best Of’ lists, online publishers are creating a new stream of revenue where there was not one before. Publishers are monetizing their ‘Best Of’ lists through list sponsorships, native advertising, enhanced listings, and premium content.

The content in ‘Best Of’ lists has significant SEO value. ‘Best Of’ lists are organized by topic, which search engines love. This strategy also helps publishers rank well for long-tail keywords related to those topics.

The more search engine traffic a publisher drives to his ‘Best Of’ lists, the higher the premium the publisher can charge to advertise alongside that list.

Tips for Increasing Traffic with ‘Best Of’ Lists

When people search “best [type of business or professional] in [city],” you want Google to bring up your ‘Best Of’ list first. Doctors and restaurants are two especially popular themes here, but ‘Best Of’ lists can really focus on any industry. Publishers will have greater success, in terms of search engine rankings, when they choose less popular industries. For example, a publisher is more likely to reach No. 1 in the search rankings with a “Top Podiatrists in Fresno” list than a “Top Doctors in Fresno” list, because there is less keyword competition for the word podiatrist than doctor. However, there are going to be fewer people searching for podiatrists than doctors—known as “keyword volume”—so that is also something to consider.

As you can see, the topic and keywords matter when it comes to creating traffic with ‘Best Of’ lists. Some list topics in popular metro areas are too competitive to rank highly in Google. For example, it would be challenging—although not impossible—for a digital publisher to break through to the first page of Google results with a list of the best lawyers in New York.

More unique topics will have less keyword competition, and they will rank higher in Google and Bing search results. But there’s a catch. More unique topics or smaller industries also have lower keyword volume, meaning there will be fewer people searching for those keywords, and the overall number of visitors may be small.

Publishers who have already launched their ‘Best Of’ lists can still make small tweaks to boost the traffic coming from search engines.

As a best practice, we recommend building individual pages for each topic or listing. On a ‘Top Lawyers’ list, for example, each lawyer would have a landing page with basic business information and links to external websites. This is in addition to the main page, which would include a complete list of lawyers in the directory.

Keep the name, address, and phone number (NAP) of each business consistent to avoid creating duplicate entries. In addition to generating traffic, individual landing pages can be a selling feature if you decide to charge businesses a monthly fee for premium or upgraded listings.

One final recommendation for creating traffic with ‘Best Of’ lists is to create a link-building plan.

Linking plays a major role in how Google ranks webpages. For digital publishers with existing online magazines or blogs, the easiest way to start a link-building plan is by linking existing articles and other web content to the ‘Best Of’ list. For example, a regional magazine could include a link to its ‘Best Restaurants’ list at the bottom of every restaurant review. We would also recommend linking restaurant reviews to the landing pages, if you have created them.

Inbound links lead to greater page authority, greater page authority leads to higher rankings in the search results, and higher rankings in the search results lead to greater amounts of website traffic. If you’d like even more information on how to create more traffic with ‘best of’ lists, let’s connect!

By: Stephanie Miles