How to Build an Award Winning, Revenue Driving Media Publishing Platform

Growth Skills has just won two awards for SEO Innovation. One from Search Engine Land and the other from the U.S Search Awards.

Why? Because we used SEO & Content Marketing to build a publishing media brand and platform for people who love cannabis, CBD and alcohol. 

  • The Problem: We did this because CBD and cannabis brands kept telling us that they could not reach these audiences using paid media on Google and Facebook.
  • Our Solution: We figured out how to get through the blockers in paid media. We also knew SEO & Content was a huge opportunity.  We knew that we could build a publishing platform, optimize it to get organic traffic and then use that to help the CBD and cannabis brands reach this audience.

Flavor Fix Website

Table of Contents

How You Too Can Build a Revenue Driving Publishing Platform

In this article we have decided to show you the exact process we used to ideate and develop Flavor Fix. Flavor Fix is a publishing site that won all of the awards and has helped generate over a half a million dollars in  revenue for Growth Skills. It is also now becoming a beloved brand in the cannabis, CBD and alcohol spaces. You can use this process to create a new property / asset from scratch or add a publishing type hub to your own website for any industry.

What’s the Value of a Publishing Site to Your Brand?

Before we get into how we built Flavor Fix, let’s look into the business strategy of building or buying publishing sites to grow awareness, leads and revenue for your brand.

What is a Media Publishing Site?

When we refer to a “publishing site,” we mean a website that is used to publish articles, videos, audio and other media formats with the intention of reaching, growing and monetizing a target audience. This is not to be confused with a book publisher; publishing sites are media companies.

Jegi Clarity did a report called Content and Commerce that shows the opportunities for brands to leverage publishing sites and the heavy investment and mergers & acquisitions flow in the space.

Jegi clarity
Source: Jegi Clarity Content & Commerce Report
  • Brands: Are buying publishers or launching their own to expand their reach and to get into niche markets
  • Publishers: Publishers are launching new verticals and monetizing their platforms or new platforms using e-commerce and affiliate marketing
  • Performance Marketing: Publishers are using performance based marketing on their platforms to also monetize these assets
Jegi clarity study
Source: Jegi Clarity Content & Commerce Report

Let’s examine two different methods of launching a publishing site.

  1. Using your brands website
  2. Building on a new domain

Using Your Website – Buy Side from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ)

Where it Resides:

The Wall Street Journal launched Buy Side; it lives as a folder on their main website


The Buy Side states:

Buy Side from WSJ is a reviews and recommendations team, independent of The Wall Street Journal newsroom. We might earn a commission from links in this content.


The Buy Side creates review based articles for different products. This gives WSJ the ability to add affiliate links and make money off of the products they recommend. Now WSJ can upsell products to their current audience and readers as well as attract new customers who are search on Google for products to the Buy Side brand.

Pros: Adding the Buy Side in a folder on the site allows the WSJ to use the domain authority (DA) of 89 for the main website to rank faster. This is a great strategy for publishers. You don’t need to build out and deal with a new tech stack etc. You can leverage what you have to get results faster. 

You can see that the Buy Side has already started ranking organically on Google for a lot of keywords (over 105k), some which will earn them a lot of money. Keywords like:

  • “USB C Charger” gets 60,000 searches a month and they are in position 7 for the term.
  • “Fitness tracker” gets 22,000 searches and they are in position five. Both of those terms have commercial intent according to SEMRUSH.
Buyside keywords
Buy Side Keyword Rankings
Buyside keywords two
Buy Side Individual Keywords

Cons: Not everyone will want to take WSJ recommendations on certain items. They will want to buy from trusted sources in that niche vs a product review team at a newspaper. 

Building on a New Domain – Away Travel Launches Away Magazine

Where it Resides:

Here Mag

Away Travel built and runs Here Magazine as a unique travel guide. The site looks brilliant and they take a hyper-local approach to their content strategy.  The website ranks for over 31k keywords on Google in the U.S.

Here Travel total keywords

Pros: Starting a new brand gives Away Travel the opportunity to do something drastically different than they can do on their one site. They also can use this opportunity to build a tech stack that allows for the best SEO. Some brands have a Content Management System (CMS) and other tech limitations that makes it hard for them to rank on search engines.

Cons: If you build on a new domain then you are starting from scratch when it comes to domain authority and the ability to rank. Away Travel ‘s main website has a DA of 67. Here Magazine has a DA of 44. This makes it harder and will take longer for the new site to rank.

How We Built a Publisher with 20 Million Organic Search Impressions on Google

The stats below show the tremendous performance of Flavor Fix in less than a year. This is with a tiny budget and team. The performance has grown since then but we wanted to make this as simple as possible and show what can be achieved in less than a year.  

Google Search Console Growth
Google Search Console Performance
SEM Rush Keyword Growth
SEMRUSH Performance

The results from Flavor Fix surpassed our projections. Keyword and traffic numbers have grown since this.

See results below:

  • New Business & Revenue
  • $523,450 in new revenue
  • $2+ million in new biz sales leads 
  • Google Search Impressions (First year):
  • 20+ million
  • Google Search Impressions (Monthly):
  • 4.5+ million
  • New Unique Visitors (Monthly):
  • 72,843+
  • Pageviews (Monthly):
  • 119,452+
  • Keyword Growth: 
  • 18,386+ keywords (US) 
  • 26,117+ keywords (global)
  • Email Subscribers: 
  • 3,000+ (200 new signs ups a week)
  • Email Click Thru Rate:
  • 20%+

We focused on using SEO & Content to grow the brand based on the limits Google, Facebook and other platforms put on CBD and cannabis paid advertising.

Those limits really allowed us to get creative and forced us to innovate.

We can use this model to build brand platforms like these to connect with a target audience in any category.

We are also currently building Urban Income. The goal is to:

  • Help minorities and underserved communities improve their finances
  • To connect financial and career focused brands with this important audience

The Process

1.Goal Setting:

The first step in this process is setting up tangible goals so you can build a plan to hit them. Our initial goals were to rank for our target keywords, get traffic, collect emails and use the traffic to get cannabis and CBD brands to work with Growth Skills and Flavor Fix.

Initial Goals for the new website

  • Keywords: Rank on first page for “weed strains” and other keywords
  • Keywords: Rank for 9,000 keywords a month
  • Traffic: Get over 40,000 monthly new users
  • Traffic: Get over 55,000 monthly pageviews
  • Google Impressions: 550,000 monthly impressions 
  • New Business: Get at least one CBD, cannabis or Alcohol brand for Growth Skills worth $120,000 in annual revenue

Annual Investment and ROI

Below was what we invested and the return on investment. The pipeline sales leads value is the value of leads that came in from an outbound sales campaign using Flavor Fix. When we started we knew what it would cost to build and run for a year. We knew that if we closed one deal at $120,000 we would come close to breaking even and still have an asset that would grow in value in time. The $120,000 target would pay back for most of the initial investment.

Below shows that we not only hit that goal but we made profit off the build. We made more revenue than this since brands paid us to add placements on Flavor Fix and we got more and more CBD and cannabis clients because of our growing expertise in the space.

*This is the rough estimate across, design, article production, promotions, development and tech stack. This was what we could afford. If our budget was bigger we would have performed even better.

**This does not include revenue from brands spending directly on Flavor Fix which is an additional revenue stream.


Total Investment*




Client One


Client Two


Total Income**






Pipeline Sales Lead Value


2. Pick a Target Audience and Industry

Step two is to identify the target audience for the build. In our case we are targeting searchers (people) interested in information about cannabis, CBD and alcohol. Our goal was to rank well for highly searched terms like cannabis strain information, edible recipes, cocktails, legalization news, distillery and dispensary searches, calculators and more. We knew that when people found our content that they will come back and start to love the brand. 

3. Research & Execute with Precision

A. Research: We analyzed the top publishing media properties in cannabis, CBD and alcohol to find out what is missing in the space and what value we can add.

B. Findings: We learned that no site targeted cannabis, CBD and alcohol and knew this was an opportunity.

C. Competitive Research: We used SEMRUSH to do competitive analysis, keyword rankings, difficulty, topics etc. We found that High Times got deindexed and lost all of their rankings for a time. We targeted those terms that they lost.

HighTimes SEMUSH Dip

D. The Brand: Our approach to content and building a brand is to be useful to whoever visits the site. This not only aligns with Google’s new Helpful Content algorithm update, but is how you add value and build trust with an audience. Utility was built into our logo. The A.V.O in FLAVOR act as indications of level of flavor, THC, CBD or alcohol in something. A is an up arrow, V is a down arrow, O is neutral. AVO the symbol in the logo is the connection of A.V.O which equals balance. At the end of the day good food, cannabis, CBD and alcohol is about balance.


E. Execution: We then built the website using best in class SEO at its core. We ensured that all pages and articles were optimized from URLs, to on-page, to schema markup and more. For example our Edible Recipes are all marked up with Schema Mark up so we own recipe pages as well as ranking in top positions on Google. We also focused on optimizing for ADA Compliance so that the site was accessible to people with disabilities.


F. Building Authority: We knew that we had to get backlinks to compete since we were building the site from scratch. Our content naturally attracted links, we launched outreach campaigns to get more and built calculators that others can embed on their site and give us links in return. As a result our domain authority grew as we got more links.

Domain Autority Growth
SERMRUSH Backlink and Domain Autority Growth

G. Content Process: Our team researches, writes, optimizes and publishes articles on the site.

H. SEO Mapping Innovation: Flavor Fix is innovating by building out mapping technology with near me in the URL to dominate local searches for dispensaries, distilleries and supporting businesses like hydroponic stores.

Example URL structure:

Interactive Map

I. Interactive Content Innovation: We then built various calculators to help people find the right CBD, THC dosage and more. To drive sales we are recommending products at the end of the calculations and allow other websites to embed the calculators on their site. This will help increase affiliate CBD product sales.

CBD Dosage Calculator
AgeGate Capture

We also updated the Age Gate to collect peoples name, email and state. This helps brand partners like PBR target by state using our email blasts. This means there is 3x more email collection, increasing collection rates by more than 150 emails a week.

AgeGate Email Subscriptions

J. Creating Unique Content: We knew we had the opportunity to do some unique things with the content and not just have the same old boring strain pages. We turned cannabis strains into Superheroes with our superhero Strain Series. We also made sure that our strain pages had not just info about cannabis strains (everyone has that). We added information on what music, food and alcohol each strain pairs with, making the content more useful than what was already out there.

mimosa strain

We also redefined what it means to be Cross Faded, which is drinking cannabis and alcohol at the same time. We added a motto built on balance, quality and respect. We now rank on the first page when people search for the meaning of “Cross Faded.”

K. Social Justice: Social Justice is core to the brand. We interviewed and partnered with music mogul Master P to promote 520 Cannabis Freedom Day. This movement is to push for criminal justice reform for people with minor marijuana arrests. We interviewed with Master P and now rank for “520 Cannabis Freedom Day” to help people spread the word about the movement. 10,000 marijuana cases have been dropped in Louisiana and over 60,000 in California since this movement began.



4. Partner to Gain Credibility

One of the things we did well was work with partners to help gain credibility in the space. This is key to the success of a new brand. We partnered with Kaya Herb House and created content and made handcrafted gifts for their important customers. We also worked with Ganjaprenuer, the Cannabis Marketing Association and others to tap into their audience and grow.

In Summary: 

Building a publishing platform and brand can be a great strategy for brand and business. You have to make sure you set goals and build a plan that will lead to success. This worked very well for us and we know it can for you.

If you need help doing this let us know.

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