Using Spike Alerts to get to the (content strategy) punch faster

Content teams want to stay on top of notable changes in audience interactions as they happen. That’s why we created Spike Alerts — it gives teams a real-time opportunity to make adjustments to trending content that can yield stronger reader engagement across your site.

Let’s delve further into Spike Alerts, what they signal, and how they can be used to support your broader content strategy.

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What is a Spike Alert?

Spike Alerts are a signal that it’s time to make a series of checks across your content. 

A Spike Alert is triggered whenever a story is gaining traffic from social or link sources at a faster rate than what is typical for your site. No two alerts are alike —they’re fine-tuned to each site’s unique external traffic levels. Spike Alerts mean something good—and possibly unusual—is happening on your site.

Below, how to stay plugged into those signals and how to take advantage.

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Signal 1: Maintain your newfound traffic momentum

Some content creators may want to know the best time to post on social media. For others, it’s when to take advantage of the brief window of promotion opportunity that comes with your suddenly trending content.

Let’s assume that social traffic is bringing more eyes to your content. This data helps you determine which platforms drove the spike and might be ripe for future promotion of the story.

Here’s how you can get to that conclusion faster: 

  • First, pay attention to the body of the Spike Alert. This will tell you the source of the spike: Social or Links.
  • Then, follow the See Dashboard link to take a look at the Real-time Dashboard view for the spiking article. Here, you’ll see down-to-the second data about the performance of this story, including:

1. How many people are reading it

2. How long they’re engaging with it

3. How they’re finding the story

4. Audience trends after publishing

  • Check the Concurrents by Traffic Source graph. This helps you see the ebb and flow of traffic to this story and Referrer Pickups that identify exactly where the story spiked. That will help you determine what channels need more or less attention for optimization.

Signal 2: Is your spiking story optimized for Recirculation?

Understanding what is bringing in new visitors to your site is step one. If you don’t make a conscious effort to recirculate them, there’s a very low likelihood that you’ll convert them to loyal readers.

(For more on Recirculation, see: How Recirculation builds engagement, supports reader acquisition efforts)

Recirculation is prominently displayed in our Real-time Dashboard and Heads Up Display because our data has shown that readers who engage deeper into your content are far more likely to return, creating a stronger connection with your readers. 

Upon receiving a Spike Alert, one of the first things you and/or your team should do is evaluate the following: 

  1. Are there in-line links (either within the text or in between paragraphs), thereby reducing the reliance on menu bars or sidebars?
  2. Is there a concerted effort to showcase the breadth of your content, encouraging readers to click on related stories? 
  3. Are you optimizing by device? Take note of the device breakdown of the real-time readership. If it’s mostly mobile, in-line linking is even more crucial because mobile readers do not see the right hand rail sidebars that desktop users do.

Taking these extra steps to recirculate will help you build on the momentum of your spiking content.

Signal 3: Use Spike Alerts to optimize homepages

With any content promotion strategy, it’s important to keep your audience development goals in mind. So when you’re thinking about homepage optimization, first ask:

  1. Do you want to use the homepage to attract new readers?
  2. Are you trying to optimize for frequent visitors and/or loyal readers?

For example, a spike in engagement via Facebook does not equate with your regular homepage audience. The social platform may drive new visitors to your site, whereas visitors to the homepage tend to skew more toward loyal, engaged audiences.

(Related: Informed audience analysis in real time: How editors and reporters can impact engagement)

Nonetheless, when we say “consider your homepage” we just mean that while it’s not an immediate threat to your Engaged Time, it should still be a natural extension of your Spike Alert checklist. This is especially important if your CMS pushes to social platforms like Twitter automatically. It helps to give further consideration to homepage/landing page placement before that spiking article hits social media.

Key takeaways on Spike Alerts

Here’s how you can use Spike Alerts to get to the bottom of content trends faster:

Optimize by channel

If you see a referral traffic spike from social, for instance, it’s a signal to continue promoting, re-promoting, or using that content to drive readers deeper into your site.

Recirculate for success

Spiking content is an opportunity for deeper engagement across your site. Make sure to set up inline links to related content and ensure that you’re optimizing for the devices where readers are finding you most.

Inform homepage strategy

Think about your homepage goals. If your goal is to attract new readers, Spike Alerts can signal much-needed changes in article placement.


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