Why Lists Matter

The Birth of Successful Lists: Do512's "Restaurants Open on Thanksgiving" 

In November 2010, Do512 came up with the idea to create a list for all restaurants open on Thanksgiving. Not only was it a smashing success, but also it opened up the possibility for driving traffic and audience growth through awesomely unique and relevant lists. Read on for the details that prove just how valuable lists can be. 

How Do512 Raised the Baby List - Growth From 2010 - 2012:

Measurement to Determine Success = Landing Page Visits*

Key Terms

* Indicates a key term defined at the bottom of this page.

2010: 1,096 visits - this number was huge for Do512 at this point
            “I’m pretty sure this is our biggest success story ever. [The Thanksgiving page] went through the roof last year.” - Kristin to Lawrence

2011: 3,322 visits -  3x more than 2010 results

2012: 14,323 visits - 6x  more than 2011 results

2013: Visits Prediction Based On Growth Prior Years: 44,228

How People Got to the Do512 List:

1. Organic Search*
In 2012, 9,000 of the visits to the landing page came from organic search traffic. This means that Google liked the page. When people searched with the terms below, Do512 ranked high enough to appear at or near the top of the results list in order to send 9,000 folks their way.

2. Referral links*
The rest of the traffic comes from referral links or from links that live somewhere else on Do512. 

Referral links are important because they drive better organic search results overall. Meaning: you want to focus on getting your link out there so that it can get clicked on from places other than within the site to start telling Google that your link is the best answer to the question “restaurants open on Thanksgiving.”

2010 to Present:

The day after they published the page for the first time in 2010, they showed up #8 in Google Search, the next day #6, the rest...is history.

In 2012, they were the #1 result. 12,000 out of the 14,000 visits to the landing page came from organic search. This means that people were searching for the terms below and Do512's page was showing up at the top of the result listings because they consistently worked on getting it there the prior two years (and Do512 will continue to do in subsequent years).

Top 3 Search Drivers That Landed Their Link At The Top:

1. Restaurants that will be open on Thanksgiving Austin

2. Austin Restaurants open on Thanksgiving 

3. Restaurants open Thanksgiving

Results from Organic Search - Do512 is #1 & Blog Post Made It To #4

How They Went from No List Idea to the Sweet #1 Spot:

Why did they build list in the first place?

A random tweet asked Do512 if they knew any good restaurants that were open on Thanksgiving. Boom. There’s a question that you can answer with a list.
They Googled the question and found no good answers. Good question with no good answers = prime list making material (so far as its a question relevant to your audience).

How did they build a quality list?

Good info was really hard to find. They invested a lot of time digging in and making sure the list was high quality-- no sloppy or incomplete or incorrect info was allowed. Team Do512 picked up an actual phone for this one and called restaurants when they couldn’t get clear information elsewhere.

Some lists will be easy and still make total sense, but the value here is in curating hard to find but highly desired information.

Once the list was built, Do512 never missed an opportunity to add more to it. The list is never "done."

Do512 actually got responses, lots of responses. Within minutes of it first being pushed, Do512 started getting emails back from other restaurants asking to be put on list or their users letting them know of a place they knew of missing from the list.

 If people take the time to respond to your list, it’s valuable and important to your audience. Most lists won’t inspire (or have a need to inspire) email responses. That became an indicator that Do512 hit on something worth investing more time in than usual.

Now they get requests from people before the list is even out each year. Restaurants email asking to be on it. Users email asking for info.

How Do512 Encouraged Links to the List to Snowball Traffic:

  1. They had good content. No explanation needed.
  2. They included links wherever they could, but only where it added to the value of the content.
    • Example 1: At end of blog about a blog about a party taking place night before Thanksgiving - “All that partying made you too lazy to cook? We’ve got you covered with our list of restaurants open on Thanksgiving.”
    • Example 2: General post on all things Austin Thanksgiving - Do512’s 2012 Thanksgiving Blog
    • Example 3: Tweet: What to do for Thanksgiving in Austin: Restaurants Open, Fried Turkey, Volunteer Opportunities and more! http://do512blog.com/2012/11/20/res 9:45 AM - 20 Nov 12
  3. The got others to use their link.
    • Who those people should be will vary. Don’t be spammy or ask people to share the link for no good reason.
    • Example: Do512 had big success getting hotels to use the list as part of their value add to their guests. If a hotel’s restaurant was closed for Thanksgiving, they didn’t want to leave their guests hanging. Do512 made their lives easier and solved the problem with a good list of places for the hotel suggest. We got some links on those sites, they tweeted about it, etc.

Utilizing Your Team:

The key to this particular list was to make everyone on the team, from interns to owner, aware of the list and why we believed it would be so valuable. Why?
  • Lists Require Time Investment 
    • Everyone was on board and therefore aware when they caught something not already on list. This list took actual time to build, to keep it awesome it required human maintenance. It was easy and efficient when everyone passed along what they stumbled upon.
  • Team Building! 
    • It became a fun Google Analytics game to work on this together and watch traffic grow. 
  • Knowing Why You’re Doing What You’re Doing Makes You Better At Doing It  
    • It helped everyone connect an important piece of how content and editorial impacts big picture success.
  • The List Stays Up To Date Better 
    • Most importantly, the list won because there was no good information out there, so it wasn’t easy to find what we needed. You can’t just Google and dig through results.You have to be constantly cognisant of it when it find its way into your presence or else your list will be useless as quickly as it became useful.


Things clicked for the Do512 team once they successfully raised their first baby list.  Lessons they learned that you can apply to building lists:
  • Small Successes Pay Off Big With Time and Care
    • The Thanksgiving list speaks for itself.
  • Identifying Opportunities
    • Be aware of all opportunities for useful lists of content, keep a list in Asana. If it’s something time specific, mark it with a date you want to start working on it..
  • Track & Celebrate Successes
    • Reporting list stats as a ritual. Google Analytics regularly to stay aware of what’s working and what isn’t.
  • Experiment!
    • Don’t throw a bunch of haphazard lists out into the world and hope one will stick immediately. But DO experiment nonetheless.
  • Bottom line: GOOD and USEFUL and CURRENT made this list a winner.

Key Term Definitions

Landing Page Visits - This means that when someone first came to your site, they did so via this link.
Scenario 1: Someone types in Do512.com to go directly to site. They see “Restaurants Open On Thanksgiving” in the “Big Stuff” drop down and click through to that page. This counts as a unique visit if they haven’t been there before within the date range you are searching.
This person clicks through to page 2 of the list. This counts as two pageviews, one unique visit, 0 landing page visits.
Scenario 2: Someone types in “restaurants open thanksgiving austin” into search. The results page pulls up Do512’s list, so they click it. This is 1 landing page visit. It’s also a unique visit and a pageview. Why is it more valuable? If people are landing on your site for the first time on that page, it means you’ve got that link out there in the right places. Measuring performance year to year via landing page visits will show you how good of a job you are doing getting that link out there.

Organic Traffic - “Free” traffic from the Google’s of the world, because they like your content. When someone searches for “restaurants open on Thanksgiving” and Google decides that they should present your listings first because they are the best answer to the what the information seeker is looking for.

Referral Traffic - Visits to your site that come from someone clicking on a link on another website.