The Steve Jobs Effect, the Justin Bieber Spike

The Steve Jobs Effect, the Justin Bieber Spike

Is this a headline written to game Google search? I guess it was inevitable given that my post is about SEO, SMO and the traffic on generated by interest in both these individuals (I’ll no doubt even get page views from people searching for Walter Isaacson’s iBio on Steve Jobs).

Everyone (including me) talks about the importance of Search and Social in the modern world of content. What I haven’t seen much of is real data tied to specific news examples — and how Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Optimization often go hand-in-hand.

So, here we go… two charts (plus a nod to solid journalism) detailing traffic results that quite frankly took us by surprise.

The Bieber Spike

Justin Bieber proved the incredible social power of an individual with 13.5 million Twitter followers and 33 million Facebook “Likes.” Two Sundays ago, he tweeted (to the right) our FORBES 400 cover story on Sean Parker, who played starring roles in Napster, Plaxo and both the real and movie versions of Facebook. That story first went live on on Sept. 21, generating 131,000 page views in its first two days and 215,000 page views through the end of September (Parker appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s show about a week after the issue hit the newsstands, giving it another little traffic kick).

But look at what happened when Bieber tweeted it on Saturday, Oct. 15, almost one month after the story was first published. It produced another 96,000 page views in a two-day period and a total of 216,000 page views in a full seven days as Bieber’s followers re-tweeted it and shared it extensively on Facebook and across the Web. With my obsessive use of Newsbeat, our real-time traffic tool, I was able to watch and discover that at any given moment during the seven-day period Facebook was responsible for between 25% and up to 60% of the traffic. Interest like that frequently pushed the story back into our Most Popular module (now nearly 30 days after it was originally publishing, resulting in additional views from users and even more sharing).

The Steve Jobs Effect

Now we come to Steve Jobs (see the table on the right). After Apple announced his death, news headlines and social media took it from there. Here’s how it played out on

— Our SEO-powered Steve Jobs profile page appeared on the first page of Google search results for “Steve Jobs,” driving strong traffic (see the blue Google bar on Oct. 10).

— That and other FORBES headlines hitting Google News that same day (see the brown bar) helped drive the news to our Most Popular module and across our site (see the FORBES red bar).

— All that combined to increase social sharing (see the Facebook black bars).

— The Google News algorithms tracked it all, including the social signals and one FORBES post in particular that for nearly 45 minutes was the No.1 Google search result for “Steve Jobs.” That usage resulted in Google News putting one of our Steve Jobs stories in its Spotlight Module days after his death, triggering additional traffic (see the Google News brown bars on Oct. 13 and 14.

Old Fashioned Journalism

Yes, great reporting drives traffic, too, especially when you’ve done all the tedious, hard work to optimize for Search and Social. Our cover story on Dropbox in the new issue of FORBES magazine is seemingly everywhere, powered by 26,000 Facebook shares, 24,000 Tweets and strong sharing on Reddit and StumbleUpon. But at the core, it’s a fascinating story with a perfectly timed and never-been-revealed anecdote that details how company founder Drew Houston met face-to-face with Steve Jobs and rebuffed his offer to buy Dropbox. The story took off and hasn’t stopped, generating more than 800,000 page view since last Tuesday and more than 125,000 video views.

There’s another foundation for all this, and it’s called The New Newsroom. We’ve been been building it for the last nine months. It includes an Audience Development team that works with our nearly 1,000 content creators, the producers in The New Newsroom and our product development people to make sure everyone does what’s needed to expose our journalism to as many news consumers as possible. The results for Sean Parker, Steve Jobs and Dropbox (not to mention our recent record traffic) tell us we’re doing something right.

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