From Print to Digital: Golf.com's Evolution with WordPress on Pantheon

Yulia Popova , Senior Manager, Content Reading estimate: 4 minutes

With a focus on building a multi-platform brand that goes beyond a traditional magazine, Golf.com needed a flexible and scalable solution. Learn why WordPress is the right CMS for enterprise companies like Golf.com or watch a full webinar.

In the fast-paced world of digital media, staying relevant and meeting the evolving needs of users is crucial for survival. Golf.com, one of the top golf publications, embarked on a remarkable transformation journey as they grew from a monthly print magazine to a digital enterprise. WordPress on Pantheon emerged as a vital catalyst in their quest for success.

The magazine’s journey started when Time.Inc sold it to Emigrant Bank. The bank is owned by Howard Milstein who also has a portfolio of golf brands ranging from GPS trackers to golf course design services. While this extended family seemed like a good match for the Golf.com target audience, the new owner had no experience with running a media business. Enter Rob DeChiaro, a media executive with Conde Nast, GQ.com and AOL on his resume and now Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Golf.com. 

From Basic Setup to Enterprise-Grade WordPress

“The company’s goal was to transform Golf into a more engaging commerce-first, consumer-connected platform that used content to create different business models in addition to advertising,” recalled DeChiaro of his early days at the company. “We were no longer part of that big media conglomerate and we were forced to be efficient. We needed to get the most out of everything we did. A blog post was not just a blog post: it needed to come life to life across all platforms.”

To get things started, Golf.com migrated to WordPress but the setup was “basic at best,” said DeChiaro. Time. Inc had only given them 90 days to transition, and while the project was a success in meeting that timeline, it hadn’t been architected to maximize all the benefits WordPress had to offer. By the time DeChiaro arrived shortly after the initial migration, the company had already embarked on building a custom CMS, which was “burning a lot of money.” They needed a flexible and robust system, but building it all from scratch was becoming daunting.

“We created a user acquisition funnel to bring the pro game to the audience, hook them with the utility content to make their game better, and then turn them into full-blown golf nuts. That's when I said, whoa, hold on a minute. If we're going to build our own platform, we are never going to have the resources to make each one of those three pillars as good as they could be. We need something that we can build with, that gets us 60% of the way there so that we can take it to the other 40%,” said DeChiaro. 

He decided to re-invest in WordPress and brought in Wondersauce, Pantheon’s strategic agency partner, to get them onto best practices and start making steady progress on improving the site.

Embracing WordPress as its CMS, Golf.com unleashed its creativity and executed its core strategy with finesse. They developed compelling content plans, implemented innovative video strategies and curated personalized experiences that truly resonated with their target audience. The adaptability of WordPress allowed them to swiftly respond to market changes, launch new ad products and leverage data-driven insights for continuous improvement.

To meet this mindset of optimization and innovation, Marc Cracco, CTO at Wondersauce,  recommended Pantheon, which is uniquely built around an agile WebOps workflow demonstrated to improve the web teams' performance by up to 4x. He also knew Pantheon’s robust platform would improve the core visitor experience by making the site faster and more resilient. 

Working with Pantheon has been crucial. We don’t want a dedicated DevOps team on the Golf.com project from a cost and staffing perspective. So having Pantheon fill that role and being able to support all the goals and initiatives when needed is very crucial.

- Marc Cracco, CTO, Wondersauce

Revenue Increase Paved by High SEO Scores, Improved Ad Viewability 

Golf.com understood that to achieve optimal performance in search engine rankings, they needed to rapidly respond to changes in algorithms from their major traffic sources. By harnessing the power of WordPress and the speed of Pantheon, they ensured their website stayed optimized for SEO performance and social media virality.

Happy to say that the comScore data came out yesterday and we were at 10 million unique visitors this April, which is fantastic. And we increased our ad viewability by 50%, so we're making money.

- Rob DeChiaro, COO, Golf.com

The story of Golf.com's transformation is more than a tale of technology but one of media resilience and determination. Utilizing WordPress on Pantheon and innovating with the Wondersauce agency, Golf.com solidified their position as a leading authority in the golf industry and unlocked their brand’s full potential. 

For enterprise companies seeking a CMS solution, the personal journey of Golf.com may serve as an inspiration. WordPress with WebOps offers a compelling choice, empowering companies to harness the power of customization, scalability and user-centric experiences, paving the way for new revenue streams and establishing a strong online presence.

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