Sharks and Beachgrit: a love story?

The short answer is yes. Beachgrit uses Shark-related articles to broaden the online reach of their niche surf-website. But, here’s how;

In February of 2020 we took a sample from (Moz) an SEO tool, that examines particular keyword metrics in relation to search engine results – with the aim of seeing how beachgrit.com improves their search engine ranking through their shark articles.

We will attempt to answer:

Do Shark Articles positively affect Beachgrit’s search engine visibility?

Beachgrit homepage screenshot
Desktop view of their homepage.

What is Beachgrit?

If you haven’t seen an article from them or had the chance to browse their site, a few points from their manifesto should give you an idea of what Chas and Derek – the main authors – are about.

“We believe the White Pointer shark is a spectacular animal that looks best preserved in Formaldehyde and exhibited at schools.”

“We believe the hide of a pro surfer should be able to withstand the barbs and arrows of internet comics.”

“We believe if we steal your attention with a click-bait headline we have an obligation to deliver.”

Their articles cover any and all surf related topics, from WSL event roundups and commentary, to rumours surrounding professional surfers outside the water and social media.

They now also regularly hold discussion with individuals in the surf industry on their podcast – Dirty Water (available on a number of platforms), as well as appear on ‘The Grit’ with Dave Lee Scales, among others.

Famously, Chas Smith and Ashton Goggans (of Stab Magazine) came to blows – and nearly all out fisticuffs – on ‘The Grit’, and also months later at a surf expo in front of John Pyzel. Give it a google – its a fun watch.

The engagement in their articles are what truly sets them apart from their competitors, where a regular group of worldwide surfers comment on the articles penned by a number of authors.

Even if you don’t find the article itself to be particularly entertaining, the comments will either make you raise an eyebrow, choke on your drink or have you roll with laughter.

What about the shark articles?

Funnily, many of the commentators frequently post about how much they loathe the consistent shark-articles, sparking my curiosity to do a bit of research for this piece.

It’s evidently no secret that Surfstraat is a fan of Beachgrit, and the unique voice it has in contrast to what they describe as “the wall of positive noise” permeating through nearly all surf related content, social media profiles and marketing.

With that in mind, this article is intended to be less of a promotion of Beachgrit itself but simply an exploration of the now steady stream of shark-related articles that Chas publishes on the site, and the effect they have on their visibility online.

At June 21 2020, Beachgrit has just under 300 articles published that include ‘Shark’ in it’s title, or are shark-related entirely.

Visualising their homepage by frequency of words used, shows:

beachgrit homepage words

Without unfolding the ‘read more articles’ button – today, a whole quarter of their articles on the homepage are shark-related pieces too.

Bear in mind, there’s currently no professional surfing events on the forecast and much of the surfing world is still under travel restriction due to the recent pandemic.

Beachgrit URL/Article title wordings:

Beach grit shark article titles

There is debate within the SEO community as to whether or not shorter or longer URL length negatively affects SEO.

It remains unclear whether or not Chas and Derek intentionally leave them this long, and also if the shark articles are targeted & written in an effort to improve rankings.

Perhaps if this gets read by Chas or Derek they can enlighten us.

Is there demand for Shark Articles online?

In terms of search volume itself (Google):

Shark’ = 201k Average Monthly Searches (US)
‘Great White Shark ‘= 110k Average Monthly Searches (US)
‘Shark Attack’ = 135k Average Monthly Searches (US)

Sharks, after all, are a reality for surfers in many parts of the world. Many surfers are familiar with the question: “aren’t you afraid of sharks?” – by non surfers – however the two keywords aren’t necessarily synonimous.

In February, this article was ranked at position #9 on the first page of google search results for the keywords: “great white shark“.

These keywords saw a difficulty rating of 59, meaning that in order for a page to be listed among the top entries would be medium-to-highly difficult, competing with wikipedia, national geographic etc.

For a page at position #9, it’s estimated to receive roughly 2.6% of the overall organic traffic through the searches which in this case is a potential extra 2,860 views for February.

What has changed for Beachgrit 3 months later?

If you search for “great white shark” right now (June 21 2020), you’ll see another recent beachgrit article within the first page on google:

shark news beachgrit

The ‘top stories’ segment of the google SERP sits below the second page listing on the search engine, and is estimated to drive between 8.1% (8,910 views) and 11.4% (12,540 views) of the overall traffic.

FYI, the top page gets just under 33% on average of ALL search results.

Being listed so highly in the featured section within the search results page represents that the Google deems the trustworthiness of the domain high enough to be served to readers instantly.

This upward movement in rankings over this time for purely shark related articles is an indication in itself of the positive correlation we’re looking for.

Given the competitiveness of these top spots, it is quite a feat for a publication like beachgrit to have built up it’s perceived authority in the eyes of google for keywords that aren’t always associated with Surfing as a sport.

And, the likelihood for searchers to continue on to Beachgrit from their position in the ‘Top Stories’ segment – as opposed to position 9 in the results page – vastly increases their CTR or ‘Click Through Rate’.

Optify Clickthrough rate ranking data
source: smartinsights.com

What is the likely Reader Journey?

Organic searches account for a large chunk of their traffic, with ‘site flow’ from Google being visited 28.4% of the time directly before beachgrit, and 37.3% right after.

Their main competitor: Stabmag, gets a flow of traffic from a wider variety of sources, with google search traffic only account for 19.7% to Stabmag.com and 18.7% after leaving the site. Facebook has the lion’s share for stab driving over 20.3% overall traffic historically.

Minus the regular readership of Beachgrit, the largest share of traffic comes from search results pages, especially so for keywords that are shark related or surf industry news.

Out of curiosity (and fun), we also checked the other keywords that they rank in the top page for too in February 2020:

KeywordAvg VolumeDifficultyHighest Rank
great white shark209000.5599
mavericks surf7900.54611
charlie goldsmith5400.54711
stab magazine3600.5538
ellie jean coffey3600.55610
mick fanning2300.5529
sam george1275.5569
reunion island sharks1275.5429
beachgrit675.5541
lemoore surf ranch675.5334
kelly slater instagram675.5639
hurley brand675.54110

Note: we discovered Beachgrit through a search for ‘mick fanning shark attack’ after the event in J-Bay.

Summing up Beachgrit

Beachgrit is a fast-growing media outlet that is not afraid to sensationalize topics that get the attention of surfers and non-surfers for a laugh or a click.

Having produced nearly 300 shark related articles – as at June 2020 – they’ve managed to regularly infiltrate some of the more competitive keyword combinations that search engines direct traffic through. This is especially evident for ‘sharks’ and similar google queries.

By heavily focusing on organic search traffic rather than social media marketing channels, they set themselves up for the sustained SEO benefits that help them outgrow their competitors over time.

Whether this is a happy accident by Derek and Chas remains to be seen, but we hope this article helps to contextualise the trend, and explain the effects on a website’s search engine optimization strategy.

Keen to see how similar strategies can work for your business?

</Surfstraat>

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