2020 NFL Draft
HERO Sports is a mid-sized sports publisher best known for its comprehensive coverage of FCS football but with ambitions of competing with the big boys and girls. With a modest marketing budget, and without a high-authority domain or media rights, how does a company like HERO Sports dominate searches related to a major media event like the 2020 NFL Draft over massive publishers like CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated, NFL.com, and others?
By leveraging content automation technology.
In just three days, HERO Sports needed thousands of pieces of original content optimized for search, including custom graphics, for the most competitive topic in sports.
HERO Sports Goals
The Data Skrive Solution
To beat larger media publishers on search results pages, HERO Sports needed to create search-optimized high-quality content at superhuman scale.
Here’s how HERO Sports worked with Data Skrive to solve this challenge:
- Analyzed Trending Topics (automated)
- Identified Competitive Opportunities (automated)
- Generated Written Content (automated)
- Designed Custom Graphics (automated)
- Published To Website (automated)
Data Skrive successfully answered the HERO Sports challenge with a completely automated process.
1. Analyze Trending Topics
The Data Skrive platform mined search trends and historical data from a variety of sources to anticipate which topics and keywords were most relevant to fans.
2. Identify Opportunities
Data Skrive analyzed which keywords were being saturated by competitors and identified overlooked high-volume terms for which HERO Sports could rank.
3. Create Automated Content
By ingesting data (stats, names, teams, etc.), Data Skrive interpreted information, assigned it a relative value, and composed high-quality original content at scale for the 2020 NFL Draft.
4. Design Custom Graphics
The platform created hundreds of unique draft articles and developed a graphics component capable of producing a unique header for each. These graphics were then leveraged as social media assets.
5. Publish to Website
It didn’t make sense for HERO Sports to automate hundreds of articles just to have a team member manually post them to its site. Instead, Data Skrive created an integration directly into the HERO Sports CMS that enabled articles to be published automatically in real-time.
HERO Sports can only compete with large sports media publishers by being faster and more effective. Faster through the use of automation. While other sites were frantically writing content, HERO Sports was enjoying a threefold increase in web traffic. And more effective in automatically optimizing each article for search, including featured snippets, as seen below.
Below is a screenshot from day one of the 2020 NFL Draft showing HERO Sports as the top story ahead of NFL.com, CBS Sports, and Sports Illustrated for “LSU NFL draft tracker.”
Day 1 Analytics
Day One Results
In a single day, HERO Sports tripled its average organic traffic. The implications are triple the ad revenue and triple the impressions without requiring additional resources to cover the largest sporting event in the world on April 23, 2020.
Over 90% of all traffic to HERO Sports on day one of the 2020 NFL Draft was organic.
Speed to Publish
HERO Sports may be a smaller player in the sports media landscape, but you would never know it by the breadth of content produced for the 2020 NFL Draft. When approaching the HERO Sports challenge, Data Skrive understood the need to be faster and more comprehensive.
The chart below validates the comprehensive approach. By automating a wide breadth of content, HERO Sports benefited from underserved fan bases sharing the automated content to their social networks.
Two details are worth noting:
- No single page accounted for more than 5.27% of traffic.
- Searches generated significant traffic for players outside of Power 5 schools.
Day 2 Analytics
Day Two Results
After two days of publishing automated content, HERO Sports continued to see a dramatic increase in organic traffic. April 24 saw a threefold increase over the first day of the draft and a sixfold increase over the average day that month.
Breadth and Efficiency
After two full days of NFL Draft coverage, HERO Sports lost any speed advantage automation offered because big-time competing publishers had finally played catch-up by writing articles individually, which saturated draft topics. Automation enabled HERO Sports to produce hundreds of search-optimized articles for the second day in a row. They doubled the previous day’s sessions, and nearly 95% of traffic was organic.
Examples of Automated Content
Here’s a small sample of the hundreds of 2020 NFL Draft articles created and posted automatically to HERO Sports on Day One:
[Conference] SEC 2020 NFL Draft Results Tracker
Day 3 Analytics
Advantages of Hybrid Content Model
Who wants to only read automated content, void of interviews, and drama? No one.
Who can write an article for every question I want to be answered about the 2020 NFL Draft? No one.
The questions above hint to the future of content creation and perfectly illustrate why HERO Sports took a hybrid approach to producing content for the draft.
The highlighted article in the chart below is the only human-written article on that list. A significant amount of traffic visiting that article originated from automated content. Therefore, by automating data-driven content, HERO Sports drove traffic to human-created articles, essentially making writers more valuable.
Content automation is not meant to replace human writers, but rather to free them up to create compelling human interest pieces instead of data-driven high-volume articles.
Calculators will never replace humans, but they make it easier and faster for us to reach conclusions involving numbers. Content automation works in much the same way.
The steady increase in traffic illustrated by the chart below shows the effect of HERO Sports adding to their daily output of search-optimized content.
Breaking popular news is the fastest method for driving traffic, but only one source can break a story, so the rest of us need another way to generate users. Building a robust inventory of evergreen content creates a predictable baseline of organic traffic.
Automation will never develop experiences, perspectives, or memories — the elements that elicit connections between a story and its readers. The purpose of automating content is to unburden creators from being calculators, data scientist, or anything other than insightful writers.