WSJ Digital Network gets aggressive with search: SES NY Keynote

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Gordon McLeod
Gordon McLeod

Gordon McLeod, president of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network, spoke at Wednesday morning's keynote session at the Search Engine Strategies conference in New York, sharing insights about the network's efforts to grow its site traffic and search presence.

Before last year, content from the Wall Street Journal and its sister publications like Barron's just weren't getting found online, according to McLeod.

“We suffer mostly in search because of the earlier start,” McLeod said. The Wall Street Journal's online edition first launched in 1996, which was before Google came on the scene; now, the “old content companies” like the Journal are doing better in search, but are still catching up, he continued.

However, starting in 2007, the Wall Street Journal Digital Network (formerly known as Dow Jones online) stepped up its organic search efforts, McLeod said. The company started by implementing the “basics” of search engine optimization, such as modifying its URL structure, using proper redirects, and adding dynamic site maps, he said. The company uses paid search primarily to attract new subscribers.

Another key to being found online was to offer more content for free. For a number of years the online edition of the Wall Street Journal was only accessible to paid subscribers. But now, the paper's personal finance and business of life sections — among others — are free, McLeod said. And, users coming from Digg.com or Google now get “one-click free access” to all of the Journal's content, he said.

Similarly, beginning in August of 2007, content published on Barron's Web site every Saturday morning became free after 3pm the following Monday, whereas it had previously been available only to paid subscribers. That change has significantly increased traffic on the site, McLeod added.

The company is also allowing its content to appear on other sites such as Yahoo Finance and MSN Money, as well as social networking sites like Facebook (with the goal of attracting younger readers), he said. “It's a great way to distribute our brand,” McLeod said. 

Referrals from search engines have more than doubled since October 2006, he said. The media company plans to continue its aggressive search tactics in 2008.

Looking ahead, the network plans to expand its free content offerings, but is not ready to abandon the hybrid model, McLeod said. The Wall Street Journal currently has 1.1 million paid subscribers and 14.7 million people who access free content on the site every month, he said.

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