7 ways we grew the Sainsbury’s magazine brand online in 2020

7 ways we grew the Sainsbury’s magazine brand online in 2020 had a record-breaking 2020; it generated 18 million Page Views (up 90% on 2019) to 9 million Users (up 148% on 2019), added 30K new subscribers to the email newsletter and launched an Instagram channel. How did the team manage it in spite of home working, tight budgets and endless competition from other food websites – and how can their skills help you? Our digital editor Liz Stansfield explains…

  1. Use your data...
    Google Analytics and search data gives you brilliant insight into what people are actively interested in NOW and shows exactly what you should be reacting to. For us it was all about egg-free and flourless bakes in March, homemade bread and pasta in April, and fake-aways and barbecue ideas in May. In 2020 our organic search traffic was up 196% on 2019, and we refocused newsletters, social media and homepage promotion in line with what our readers wanted.
  2. … but listen to your audience
    Monitoring social media and talking and listening to friends and family can help you add context to your data. Ask yourself (and your team): what are people starting to post on Instagram? What did your mum say she was going to cook this weekend? Have people baked enough banana bread – and if so, what’s next? If you find the answers to those questions, that themed newsletter you send out might just give you the edge in a sea of competition.
  3. Be more than just ‘customer service’
    From finding missing subscriptions to searching for a recipe a reader loosely remembers from 2002 (or was it 2003?), we offer unrivalled customer support to our readers. When the country first went into lockdown in March, we put a call out on social media asking readers to contact our food team if they needed help with ingredient swaps, and we monitored our social feeds to respond to readers within an hour. The first lockdown was full of worry for a lot of our audience, so we tried to be a steady ship throughout the crisis. 
  4. Think outside the box
    We’re a recipe website first and foremost, but that doesn’t mean we can’t offer our audience something extra when they need it. In April we built a new hub for archive foodie crosswords for readers to download and print at home. They were the most popular non-recipe content from our newsletter, with readers emailing to ask for more.
  5. Review older content
    With an evergreen website, it’s not always new content that gets the traffic. So it’s important to review older URLs and ask honest questions about the page quality when fast-moving search terms start to rise. Don’t assume that because something is published it’s perfect; we’ve migrated to a new CMS, completed tag migrations and added new fields into our CMS over the past few years, which means some pages might need a bit of TLC. Case in point: we had older store-cupboard recipes that hadn’t been reviewed for a while. Some needed a higher-quality image uploaded, and some were missing tags and descriptions. When they started to gain traction, we looked at them with fresh eyes and made adjustments.
  6. Offer something new on social media
    We launched a new Instagram channel this year, but instead of saying ‘we want an Instagram account!’, we asked ourselves ‘why do we want it, and what can it offer?’ There’s so much competition from other food brands on social, but not many have a fully trained team of home economists. So, we made our account all about our highly skilled food team, promising triple-tested recipes and trusted test kitchen advice direct from them. Our senior strategist Alex Palmer gave me a great piece of advice: write your bio first. It focuses your approach and means everything you produce will ladder back up to your promise to readers.
  7. Tap into your network
    We work with a lot of brands, chefs and PRs, so when we have news, we tell them first. When the new issue goes on sale, I put together a selection of promotional assets – videos, gifs, branded images and more – and the team sends them on to relevant people to extend our reach on social media. The golden ticket might be a TV chef with 500K followers sharing recipes from the new issue, but don’t underestimate smaller influencers and agencies, collectively their promotion adds up and gets your content in front of new audiences.

    Check out our year in numbers...

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Main image: Martin Poole

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