Maximizing SEO at heart of Cygnus Business Media's buyer's guides

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Soon after Cygnus Business Media overhauled its content management system in 2008, the company began leveraging the new platform for its more than 40 b-to-b titles. One approach Cygnus took was to launch a series of buyer's guides, an offline staple modified to take advantage of search engine optimization and the Internet's power to generate leads.

Cygnus started its buyer's guide series with a directory of products affiliated with This initial buyer's guide debuted in March 2009 at

Today Cygnus has 30 online buyer's guides in a number of vertical markets, which include aviation and transportation, construction equipment, law enforcement and security. There are buyer's guides affiliated with such Cygnus titles as Food Logistics, Mass Transit and Professional Tool and Equipment News., the latest guide, debuts in early 2011.

The products listed in the buyer's guides are arranged by category, and Cygnus sells ads against each product line. Currently, the buyer's guides operate as standalone sites. Starting next month and throughout 2011, Cygnus will be relocating the buyer's guides to the branded sites they are affiliated with in an effort to integrate them more fully.

Cygnus built the guides using several open source technologies, including PHP, MySQL, Microsoft SQL, jQuery, Ajax and caching technologies. However, Cygnus customizes these technologies for each guide to meet the specific needs of the industry served, said Jacob Bare, Cygnus Business Media's director of digital intelligence.

In creating the guides, Cygnus also paid close attention to enhancing SEO capabilities. “We learned early on that you can't compete head to head with Google,” Bare said. “We want to leverage Google so people can find products through Google, rather than compete.”

Bare said Cygnus has been vigilant in structuring, categorizing and tagging the buyer's guides' content and keeping up to date on search engine mechanics. “Individuals are accustomed to using search engines, such as Google—it's become ingrained in our psyche—so getting our content to the top of the tools people are already using is paramount in gaining additional eyeballs on our content and traffic to our sites,” Bare said.

The strategy on focusing on SEO has paid off, Bare said. Since introducing the buyer's guide component of, the site has seen page views increase to 260,000 a month from 100,000—with more than 50% of the overall traffic being generated by the guide, Bare said.

He said that, by having all of the content in one depository, the guides allow marketers to target their ads to specific product categories. For example, Caterpillar can buy the heavy equipment category but also have its ads appear anywhere that “heavy equipment content” is tagged and embedded in the guide.

“What makes [the guides] powerful is that all of the content is in one place, where the individual editors can view the data. It's not siloed,” Bare said. “We can focus content around a single company or advertiser, which allows a gateway for the end-user to request more information from the company, thereby generating leads for our advertisers.”

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