Ranker CEO 'Nerds Out' Over Data, Programmatic And Search

Ranker CEO Clark Benson found a way to roll up the site's ranking data -- mostly related to pop culture -- into a nice little package to support search engine optimization, programmatic media buys, and ad targeting. 

Readers land on the digital media site to read opinion-based ranked and crowdsourced articles. It allows them to "nerd out" on just about any topic, says Ranker CEO Clark Benson. It helps to churn the evergreen articles into fresh content, optimizing the pages as the lists change.

The company took the data -- about 15 million monthly votes -- and created a business unit it calls Ranker Insights, which focuses on data. The 300 million votes Ranker has collected across its platform have helped the company's engineers build a graph that shows a connection between more than 100,000 unique entities. This is similar to Google Knowledge graph, only at a smaller scale.  



The content from these changing lists helps to educate Ranker's data platforms and to optimize the content on the company's publishing site. 

The votes send a signal to Google’s crawlers that the content is new. The page layout enables site visitors to vote for specific items on the site, and everything combined works to support SEO.

But the very benefit that keeps the evergreen content fresh also creates a challenge that has kept Ranker's pages from indexing in Google News. Articles, for now, only index in

The lists in articles don't typically hit their "sweet spot" in search traffic until between nine and 12 months. But once they hit their peak, they stay there for years because of the company's dynamic voting and ranking strategy.

Benson, who believes in the wisdom of crowds, hopes that will soon change. The company redesigned the site's pages and tweaked the content to begin focusing more on topical news, adding a site map to identify the changes.

Data drives the company. Benson expects Ranker to bring in more than $20 million in revenue this year, with about 85% of the media buys going through programmatic channels with help from data. "The best thing about programmatic advertising is you can see in almost real-time how well you're monetizing ad space," he said.

Ranker built technology that routes traffic to higher-yielding pages that optimize well off programmatic revenue.

About 80% of the site's traffic comes through mobile devices. Internal logs suggest that site visitors from mobile and desktop stay about seven minutes per visit. comScore suggests this is up to nine minute per visit.

Keeping visitors on the site remains key. Benson refers to the media site as a "wormhole" that generates lists and keeps site visitors searching and engaging with the content longer.

"Have you ever heard people describe the Wikipedia wormhole, where you go to the site to look up one thing and you end up clicking around on all different types of topics and a half hour later you surface?" he said.

Using dynamic lists in October, the site got more than 30 million U.S. monthly visitors, 65 million U.S. unique visits, 50 million worldwide unique visitors, and 95 million worldwide visits.

The site ranks well for some key terms such as "best movies." On any given day, the site will get search traffic to about 30,000 unique list pages on Ranker.

About 40% of Ranker's traffic comes from search and 50% from social, and the remainder is direct traffic. "These days it's the age of the feed, so if you're reliant on direct traffic you're still operating in a 2010 type of thinking," he said. "I'm the rare one that doesn't use the feed all day long, but my wife doesn't do anything that's not driven off her Facebook page."   

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