BuzzFeed’s Latest Traffic trick: The ‘Social URL’

BuzzFeed’s Latest Traffic trick: The ‘Social URL’

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Too many people think, ‘If I write a good piece of content on the right subject, it’ll get shared.’ Sharing’s not just for the lucky.

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BuzzFeed may already be king when it comes to getting people to share its posts, but that’s not stopping it from continually trying new things. Now, BuzzFeed has even tapped the humble URL to work harder.

The social publisher has discovered that writing original, made-for-sharing URLs can act like a rocket booster for a post.

BuzzFeed stumbled on what it calls the “social URL” by accident. The URL was once created automatically using the first few words of the headline. Several months ago, the publisher created a field in the CMS to allow editorial staffers to tweak the URL in case a word in the URL was cut off, or if they wanted to alter the URL in case the headline changed drastically. It wasn’t long before edit staff started to notice they could play around with the URL, to good traffic effect.

“It has a bit of an Easter egg quality,” said Jack Shepherd, BuzzFeed’s editorial director. “It’s not something people immediately notice. It’s more fun for the reader, it’s more fun for the writer, and it can often make the post more shareable.”

There are no guidelines at BuzzFeed for writing social URLs, but there are a few common uses:

The clever-wordplay social URL
Actual headline: 28 Snapchats From Harry Potter
Social URL: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jarrylee/snapechat

The emotional-reaction social URL
Actual headline: These Positive Doodles Are Utterly Delightful
Social URL: http://www.buzzfeed.com/maggyvaneijk/your-emotions-are-valid

Shepherd said BuzzFeed isn’t making social URLs mandatory for its edit staff or measuring their impact, at least not yet. It’s a game publishers are wise to employ today, given people are increasingly coming to the news through their social feeds. (At BuzzFeed, social sharing drives 75 percent of its traffic.) And at a time when publishers need to use every trick at their disposal, the social URL is another element that can help sell a story.

One side benefit of the socially driven URL is that publishers can tell fairly quickly if it’s taking off on Facebook or Twitter, whereas it can take days to see the impact of a story in search, said David Spitz, president and COO of RebelMouse.

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