About.com began operating under a new brand identity and site redesign Tuesday, purging the misplaced photos, awkward navigation and ads that interrupt text.
The site offers a new suite of native advertising and content marketing options for marketers segmented by channels to help searchers discover what they need.
The site's redesign -- the first one in nearly a decade -- supports the 85 million monthly unique site visitors looking for answers to solve problems or learn something new from the nearly 3.5 million pieces of content. About 1,000 writers who are experts on specific topics create about 6,000 new pieces of content monthly for categories such as Health, Home, Travel, Tech, Style, Food, Money and Careers.
The renewed focus on categories and data led About.com -- an IAC/InteractiveCorp operating business -- to build an in-house data science team of about eight experts, three of whom hold a Ph.D. in various subjects, like linguistics. Data provides the underpinning of the site's redesign and gives the team a new understanding of how consumers interact with the content.
Along with the data and content comes precise ad targeting. About.com CEO Neil Vogel said that through data and research the system learns the intent of each article. "It means if you're a dog food manufacturer you can have your ads appear contextually where people are reading and talking about dogs and pets without having the articles tagged," he said. "The ad system can identify the intent of people who only want to know about dogs like articles on dog walking and dog food, and not the articles that talk about hot dogs."
The ad system also can now follow someone's path around About.com to identify what they would like to look at next. It has helped the site identify the content to present. The technology identifies what the site visitor reads, and when they stop reading, telling About.com content producers they may need to include more articles on a specific subject.
Kingsford Charcoal recently ran a native campaign that inserts the ads where people talk and read about grilling and outdoor cooking. The plan to build out advertising services that allow brands to tell contextual stories means adding vertical specialization for the Money and Food channels, such as recipe search tools and ways to save them.
Planned changes also mean adding video services. The company opened a studio a few months ago and hired a video team.
The changes are intended to get people to stick around on the site longer. So far it's working, Vogel said. "Session times are up about 10%, and page views rose about 10%," he said.
About.com ranked No. 15 on comScore's list of 50 most trafficked Web sites in July, with about 48 million unique visitors, directly behind sites like Gannett, Wikimedia Foundation, eBay and The Weather Company.
IAC/InteractiveCorp acquired About.com in 2012 for about $300 million from Times Co., and initially would nurture the company under the wing of Ask.com. At the time, Ask.com CEO Doug Leeds told Media Daily News that it would build a powerhouse based on the content and the traffic from both companies to support queries on desktop and mobile devices. At the time, About.com relied on Google's on-site search engine, and more than 80% of the traffic came from search engines.