The weather sector is hugely competitive so it requires an innovative way of thinking to stand out from the crowd.
Swan said that one of his key goals is to drive reach and engagement, particularly with younger demographics who might not traditionally be familiar with the Met Office.
Glastonbury Festival is just one of the events that features on the Met Office’s events calendar, which also doubles as part of its content calendar.
Glastonbury allows us to target younger demographics through SEO and social sharing – it’s meaningful, relevant content but with a weather-related hook.
Other events include the Six Nations rugby tournament, London Marathon, Chelsea Flower Show and various other notable sporting or national occasions.
Having one centralised content calendar brings together expertise from formerly disparate departments such as editorial, scientists, forecasters, communications and social media.
Interactive events calendar
Glastonbury for SEO
Swan said that the type of content produced is based around analysis of a number of factors, including:
- Keyword rankings.
- Gaps in the Met Office’s existing content.
- Type of content produced by competitors.
- Seasonal search topics.
By producing a monthly gaps and opportunities study, the digital team can speak to the developers and give reasons why they need more content focusing around certain areas.
Having built the Glastonbury hub page and created the content – which includes forecasts, festival information and a historical weather infographic – the outreach can begin.
This mainly falls to the communications team, who push out the Glastonbury content using press releases and social media.
The Met Office’s localised Glastonbury weather forecast
The Met Office’s position as a respected authority on weather forecasting means that the content is a valuable tool for link building, as it gets picked up by various other organisations that want to be associated with the festival.
This includes ticketing companies, festival websites, local community organisations and even the festival organisers.
Metrics and bad weather
All companies need to bear in mind the impact of weather conditions on customer behaviour, but none more so than the Met Office.
Swan said that Glastonbury Festival is typically one of the Met Office’s most popular events throughout the year in terms of site traffic and engagement, however interest dies off if the UK is experiencing pleasant weather.
As with all events, if the weather is nice then traffic is very low as nobody is interested. But when the weather is bad or changeable or there’s a risk of severe conditions, then our traffic can go up 400%-500%. Search traffic rockets up, social engagement increases by 200%-300%, email clickthroughs suddenly increase – it all correlates with bad weather.
It is therefore difficult to compare monthly or yearly benchmarks, as analysts have to take into account the impact of weather conditions on site traffic.
The trick is to find a day when there were no weather warnings or extreme conditions, then use that to work out the average for that month.
But it’s not all about site traffic:
We’re trying to look more at engagement as well. For example, if we create a page on the Saharan dust storm, how many other sites are picking it up? How often has it been retweeted? How many social followers are we engaging with?
Swan explained that the key reason for this is that increased competition means that the Met Office needs to balance high traffic five or seven-day forecasts with niche content that is better at engaging with target audiences.
A central part of the Met Office’s content strategy is a move towards more agile working processes.
The digital content team, which includes writers and designers, needs to call on the expertise of scientists and forecasters at short notice.
We want to establish the organisation as the authoritative source for weather information, so we work closely with the science team to ensure that our more spur of the moment content is also scientifically accurate.
An example of this agile approach is content that was produced around the Saharan dust cloud that hit London earlier this year.
The editorial team noticed that it was a popular topic on social so worked with the scientists to quickly produce articles explaining the phenomenon. This was ultimately picked up by other news outlets and was shared widely on social, thereby increasing the Met Office’s reach.
We are trying to create more real-time, agile content. None of our competitors offer that type of newswire reaction to weather events, so it’s a great tool for us to generate site traffic and publicity.