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How The New York Times Uses Games (like 'Connections') to Master SEO and User Retention

In the fast-paced world of digital marketing, finding innovative ways to boost website traffic and user engagement is crucial for standing out. The New York Times (NYT) has nailed this with their library of engaging word and logic games, including the recent standout, Connections. This interactive content consistently attracts daily visitors and exemplifies the effective use of traditional strategies, such as crosswords and puzzles by news outlets, in a digital format to improve search rankings and keep users coming back for more.

Continue reading if you want to learn more about how you can apply a digital strategy similar to one of the 'Connections' game by NYT, to level up your organic search engine performance and customer engagement.

The Power of Daily Engagement

New york times games landing page
New york times games landing page

NYT Games, a growing arsenal that includes games like Wordle, Spelling Bee, and now Connections, has proven to be a magnet for consistent traffic. The daily or weekly nature of these puzzles ensures that users return to the site frequently, a dream scenario for any search engine optimizer or marketer. Regular visits signal to search engines that NYT (or any other site) is a valuable and relevant source, thereby improving the site's overall search visibility.

Strategic Keyword Optimization

Recent Google search trends reveal that the search term "Connections NYT" has seen a staggering 2450% increase in queries. Similarly, "connections" and "connections hint" have seen a 900% and 1050% increase respectively. While these are not keywords that NYT has necessarily optimized for, their relevance to trending topics undoubtedly aids in driving organic search traffic.

Snippet of Google Search Trends Explore - Thursday 25th of April 2024
Snippet of Google Search Trends Explore - Thursday 25th of April 2024

Every game hosted by NYT acts as a potential touchpoint for link building (what is link building?). Articles and blog posts discussing strategies, hints, or the sheer joy of the games can generate valuable backlinks (what is a backlink?) to the NYT Games page. Each backlink serves as a vote of confidence, boosting the authority of the NYT site and improving its ranking in search engine results.

Implementing Your Own Engaging Interactive Content:

Inspired by NYT’s success, you can also engage your audience with simple interactive content. Consider developing lightweight games, quizzes, or challenges that resonate with your brand and can be easily integrated into your existing content. For example, a weekly trivia quiz related to your industry could engage users and encourage them to return regularly.

Start small by using tools like Google Forms or interactive content platforms like Outgrow and Typeform, which allow you to create and embed games and quizzes without extensive technical resources. Promote these activities through your newsletters, on your website, and across social media channels to maximize participation.

As engagement grows, analyze the data to understand what resonates most with your audience. Use these insights to refine your approach, adding more complexity or variety to the games. Not only do these activities boost user retention and click-through rates, but they also create natural opportunities for visitors to link back to your content, enhancing your SEO efforts just as NYT has done. The fact that i am writing this post is an ironic validation of the opportunity for visitors to link back to your content.

Remember, the goal is to add value to your user’s experience on your site, turning casual visitors into loyal customers. By keeping the activities fun and relevant, you too can foster a community around your content, which is a powerful asset for any digital strategy.

Subscription Model and Conversion Strategy

NYT cleverly uses its games not only to pull in traffic but to convert visitors into subscribers. By offering unlimited game access through subscriptions, the NYT persuades casual visitors to become devoted subscribers. This approach not only enhances direct revenue but also builds a robust email list, facilitating further engagement through targeted content and offers.

Interestingly, their subscription pricing structure promotes an exceptional value: subscribing to both games and news together is cheaper than opting for just the news. When I checked their subscription page, which cleverly invites visitors with "Two ways to subscribe. Many ways to play," the best value clearly comes with the "All of The Times" package. This package, billed every 4 weeks, starts with a welcome offer of €2 per month for the first six months—a strategy aimed at increasing subscribers and directing more readers to their traditional and digital offerings.


The New York Times has effectively turned simple puzzles into a powerful tool for user engagement and SEO. Their approach demonstrates the potential of creative content strategies in driving website traffic and maintaining a high user retention rate. For digital marketers and SEO professionals, the lesson is clear: think outside the traditional content box and consider how different forms of content can serve your SEO goals.

At Traxr, we understand the importance of innovative digital strategies. Our backlink management tool can help you monitor, automate, and enhance your link building efforts, ensuring that your content delivers full value and stays live, reaching its full potential. Like NYT, you can create a dynamic online presence that attracts, engages, and retains users. It all starts with getting your links under management.

At Traxr, we understand the importance of innovative digital strategies. Our backlink management tool can help you monitor, automate, and enhance your link building efforts, ensuring that your content delivers its full value and remains highly visible. Like the New York Times, you can create a dynamic online presence that attracts, engages, and retains users. It all starts with managing your links effectively, setting the stage for exciting and innovative strategizing.

Insights from our community - Questions (Q) and Answers (A)

Below are some questions we received after sharing this article with our users, along with a few basics to help you get the most out of our discussion. We want to make sure you have all the info you need to understand how powerful these strategies can be!

Q: What is link building?

A: Link building is the strategic process of acquiring hyperlinks (usually just called a link) from other websites to your own, facilitating navigation for users across the internet. Think of each link as a bridge that helps people find your site. The more bridges you have, the more ways people can discover you, which helps your site appear more prominent in search results. But it’s not just about quantity; it’s about quality. The most effective link building strategies often involve press releases and public relations efforts, focusing on generating meaningful connections rather than merely collecting links for their SEO value. At Traxr, we advocate for a method that emphasises the creation of original, useful, and relevant content. This method boosts your site’s visibility and credibility, aligning with Google’s standards.

Q: What is a backlink?

A: A backlink is any incoming hyperlink from one web page to another website. Backlinks are vital to SEO because they signal to search engines that others vouch for your content. This can affect a site's ranking within search engines, making backlinks a critical factor for any SEO strategy.

Q: How does daily engagement with games affect SEO for news websites like The New York Times?

A: Daily engagement through games like Connections, Wordle, and others increases user return rate, which signals to search engines that the website is an engaging and valuable source of information. This consistent traffic can improve search visibility and rankings.

Q: What are some examples of strategic keyword optimization seen with NYT games?

A: While NYT may not directly optimize for game-related keywords, the popularity of their games leads to increased searches for terms like "Connections NYT," "connections," and "connections hint." These related searches drive organic traffic and aid in overall site SEO.

Q: Can online games be used for link building and improving site authority?

A: Yes, online games like those offered by NYT serve as a catalyst for content creation around game strategies and tips. Such content often links back to the original game source, helping build backlinks and enhance site authority. In this case, imagine NYT just adding links in their news articles to their games site. How many readers do you think will start playing, or at least, take a look? Probably a lot!

Q: How do subscription models help in converting traffic into steady subscribers?

A: Subscription models, like those used by NYT Games, provide unlimited access to games in exchange for signing up. This not only secures direct revenue from subscriptions but also converts casual visitors into regular users, enhancing long-term user engagement and retention.

Q: What SEO benefits do news websites gain from offering interactive content like games?

A: Interactive content such as games increases user time spent on the site, boosts daily visits, and improves engagement metrics—all favorable signals to search engines. These factors contribute to higher rankings and increased visibility in search results.

Note from the author:

Hey there! I hope you found the insights on NYT’s innovative SEO strategy through games as fascinating as I did. It’s something we’re thinking of exploring too. What do you think? Would you venture into something similar? Let me know via. LinkedIn or email!

If you're keen to delve deeper into the world of SEO, check out our Ebook 'The Art of Search'. It’s written in collaboration with top SEO experts from Denmark and the UK, and we've spiced it up with fun analogies to keep it light and engaging.

For more insights on SEO and tech trends, keep an eye on our blog at


Alexander Hellowell - CEO @ Traxr


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