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Scaling SEO by Building Products - Search London Meetup Nov 17


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My talk at November 2017 Search London Meetup.

Covering how we scaled organic search growth by building products together with full stack engineers & how we operate an autonomous & independent SEO team.

Published in: Marketing

Scaling SEO by Building Products - Search London Meetup Nov 17

  1. 1. Scaling SEO by building products.
  2. 2. Intro
  3. 3. TransferWise mission
  4. 4. Launched in 2011.
  5. 5. “Money without borders: instant, convenient, & eventually free” “We’re powering money for people and businesses: to pay, to get paid, to spend, in any currency, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing”
  6. 6. Over 2M customers.
  7. 7. £1.5 Billion per month. → Saving our customers £2 million every day!
  8. 8. 750+ routes 45 currencies.
  9. 9. 800+ wisers in 9 offices 50+ Nationalities.
  10. 10. What drives the growth?
  11. 11. Word of mouth is the biggest driver of growth.
  12. 12. SEO Growth
  13. 13. 2011-2015 (no SEO team)
  14. 14. Strong focus on building a 10x product
  15. 15. Tell the world about it: PR + Advertising! Google Trends Referring Domains
  16. 16. We also created content casualties! Content that worked well for PR, Buzz and Advertising but was not able to capture organic search demand. Example of a piece of content that doesn’t perform in Search
  17. 17. Ads + PR built strong brand search traffic/link profile but we were not growing the number of pages targeting non-brand keywords.
  18. 18. What did work well and what didn’t till year 4 0 pages targeting non-brand search queries All PR + Ads targeting 1 page (homepage) 1 domain serving a global business but targeting only UK Strong domain (link profile) on the back of great PR & stunts Growing brand Search demand generated by Advertising & WoM 10x product with strong engagement metrics
  19. 19. First full time SEO hired in 2015 (Year 4)
  20. 20. We decided to not waste time building links as we had tons and we keep acquiring them without SEO team working on it! People talk about our product Our PR team promotes our company Our content team creates content that helps our customers who end up linking to it.
  21. 21. We focused instead on what matters to our customers & built the following products to cover their search intents: ● 1 custom content management platform to scale landing pages (“Lienzo”) ● 1 custom content management platform for long form content (aka blog) ● 1 web directory ● 2 tools powered by APIs ● 1 single page application ● A set of custom SEO tools: “SEOWise” project And have more in the pipeline….
  22. 22. Scaled from 7K to 1.7M index pages, across 20 markets & 10 languages less than 24 months
  23. 23. Covered more non-brand search queries :)
  24. 24. More Traffic :)
  25. 25. Indexed Pages>Traffic>Customers
  26. 26. No tricks, no hacks, no magic! Autonomous & Independent Team + Scalable products
  27. 27. Autonomous & Independent SEO Team
  28. 28. We work in autonomous & independent teams that focus on KPIs that make a difference to our customers and drive our growth.
  29. 29. What does “Autonomous” means when it comes to SEO?
  30. 30. The person closest to the problem is best placed to solve it No-one tells the SEO team what to do (what products to build, what to rank for ect.) We come up with a plan to achieve our KPIs and get feedback from the entire company once a quarter. Ultimately we are trusted to make the right decisions to drive growth”
  31. 31. What does “Independent” mean when it comes to SEO?
  32. 32. No tickets to a web-dev team who has got different KPIs & priorities from your team It’s hard, but you should educate your company & clients on why it matters
  33. 33. We removed dependencies & increase velocity by embedding all the resources to achieve growth KPIs within the team
  34. 34. SEO TEAM SEO Specialists Full Stack Devs Frontend Devs Designers Copywriters Editors Translators Publishers Product/Analysts
  35. 35. What SEO specialists do at TransferWise? - Research search intents and validate impact on user acquisition - Build tools that help SEO team scale their work - Define technical specifications for microservices and CMS - Working with content folks to build content and landing pages - Work with engineers to develop products: - Launch MVPs & run experiments - Define SEO specs for new products: tech stack, link structure, hreflang, canonicalisation directives, structured/meta data, content, page templates... - Regularly audit crawling, indexation and optimise existing products When hiring we look for skills that help us scale and facilitate work with product engineers: - Strong understanding of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, Python - Strong understanding of crawling, indexing & web performance - Experience with structured data, SERP features, advanced keyword research (queries clustering & topic modeling). Check out: Modern SEO player guide by Michael King @iPullRank - If you cover 90% of it you can successfully claim a job in TransferWise SEO team with immediate start.
  36. 36. Scaling SEO by building products
  37. 37. How many times companies approach SEO the other way around? - Building products that users don’t search - Sticking keywords on existing products and landing pages that are not made to serve the right search intent - Choosing technology before involving SEOs - Designing systems that don’t scale and locking ability to cover more search queries in future
  38. 38. How has the SEO team operated to date to build search products? 1. Keyword research to identify what customers search for. Volume & conversion rate opportunity estimation. 2. Build first MVP to validate search intent that answer what people are searching for in basic way. Launch as soon as possible is essential to build authority to acquire traffic in the future. 3. Build SEO into MVP: Make sure from early stage that the product is built to for SEO but also optimise it later stage. 4. Wait for traffic ( Ranking takes time) & Analyse search data before working on making the product better we take time to understand search data. Search analytics API is our best friend. 5. Improve product and optimise for conversion when traffic is solid so you can iterate faster and run significant a/b tests in shorter time. 6. Repeat step 3 & 5 based on which lever offers more opportunity for growth.
  39. 39. Start from search data & speaking to customers to understand search intents.
  40. 40. Don’t rush into building stuff until you have clear in mind how to cluster search queries and match them with product features. Build tools to help you scale keyword research and remove manual work.
  41. 41. SEOWise project Check out: Using Natural Language APIs in SEO by Stephan Solomonidis @ssolomonidis Under SEOWise we built a number tools that help us scaling & automating our SEO operations: ● Keyword research & expansion tools (APIs from AdWords & ● Ranking reports (APIs from STAT & Authority Lab) ● Search Analytics API integration with Looker to visualise data ● Monitoring solutions for content management platforms + Slack bots to flag issues (coming soon) ● Log file monitoring solutions (coming soon)
  42. 42. Build custom platforms to remove dependencies so you can iterate faster and launch MVPs in minutes
  43. 43. Meet “Lienzo”
  44. 44. What is Lienzo? Platform for creating/publishing landing pages. Spanish for “canvas”. ● Non-technical user can publish in minutes ● Choose the widgets then content and imagery ● Markdown, not markup. Another constraint. ● Not just consistency. Flexibility. ● Evolution of style guide, or widget designs, all pages benefit. ● Constraints aren’t always popular, but they are valuable. ● One of our teams worked out how they could hack this to use custom markup, wrong approach. ● How do we handle the chaos? We are building a monitoring system able to spot issues and police non SEO savvy users.
  45. 45. Develop systems for future scale
  46. 46. Price comparison the origins: First MVP to validate a search intent You don’t need an actual product to validate a concept >> A landing page with a static image can help you understanding what your customers want! Ranking can take time, add PPC to validate faster your ideas!
  47. 47. Price comparison today: Modularised services to scale faster across site components + API powered tools to scale landing pages creation! Frontend JS Widgets Homepage Landing Pages Price Comparison tool Comparison Service Data Collection Service Site components
  48. 48. We created this open source library Define which languages and mappings (folders) you want to have for your application Adding new languages & countries: scaled hreflang in 20 countries & 10 languages! The library comes with a module for Spring Boot, but you can use it for plain Java. You develop your site as always without thinking about localisation so basically having a url structure of `/url` `/login` `/css/styles.css`… Then add library and Crowdin translation strings into the product. Add open source library Configure your mapping Translate & go live! Based on mapping translation strings get sent to translation team. When translation is done through Crowdin you can push new product folders live with no extra work!
  49. 49. Pick the right tech stack for your products from day 1
  50. 50. Check out for reference our past work (old stuff): AngularJS & SEO - 2015 by Jack Cornwall State of JS & SEO has evolved since 2015. Stay up to date & follow: @bart_goralewicz @badams Don’t over complicate and blindly pick fancy technology Day 1 (2015) out of the box solution Angular 1.x SPA failed, 30k URLs but only 1 indexed. We added a proxy for Google Bot to a machine that had an _embedded browser_ (Phantom JS) to render the page server-side before sending it to Google. Thanks to prerendering we got 27k URLs indexed. ● Pre-render was extraordinarily slow, added 500ms to 1s. ● Was slowing down indexation the more we added countries and languages. ● We removed AngularJS as it was adding 0 value to the experience of that product, customers were looking for a plain 2x6 HTML table. ● Moved from “PHP & SPA” to raw Java backend >>Improved from 1200-2200ms to just 20ms ● Googlebot loved it, crawled and indexed 1M URLs in less than 3 weeks. Today we have almost 1M URLs indexed across 20 countries and 10 languages.
  51. 51. Review and evolve your tech stack when it adds value to your customers PWA Check out Google documentation - Follow Jake Archibald @jaffathecake & other Chrome devs Search Get Push notifications“Install”
  52. 52. Build internal links, evaluate crawling & canonicalisation directives on a case by case! Forget about best practices & SEO checklists
  53. 53. Do what is best for your users > Googlebot will learn what to do *** What did we do within 2 weeks? We took a component of the site: ● Redirected 300K URLs from subdomain to subdirectory (on a 10k URLs site) ● Added other 500k URLs on a tool that was accounting for 4-5% of our monthly acquired users. While core landing pages were driving majority of conversions. ● Changed drastically internal link structure to match search queries and build a better product with a better site architecture that users could navigate. ● No xml sitemap >> to save dev time we worked harder on building a strong internal link structure that bots could crawl more efficiently. We did it because that was the best choice for that particular situation & for customers that are using that tool. What happened? ● 3x more traffic the month we moved from subdomain to subdirectory and added 500K URLs ● 10x more traffic after 1 year and keeps growing *** other engines might not be as smart or have the same crawling resources as Googlebot ( At least in our case Bing didn’t and it’s still indexing this site component after 1 year while Googlebot crawled & indexed it entirely in 2-3 weeks) Check out: Matching Keywords to Pages - Information Architecture by@dom_woodman
  54. 54. Optimise internal link structure & canonicalisation directives Googlebot was wasting lots of crawl budget on very similar pages: each one had a ?city param but the pages were very near-duplicates 63K pages X 17 countries = 1,071,000 URLs >>>> 26% of the pagerank flows through a param that gets close 0 traffic. 1 - Crawled with Screaming Frog, exported all outlinks 2 - Run PageRank algorithm with Python or R 3- Fixed internal link structure & set correct canonicalisation directives to handle parameters 4- Google de-indexed 300k URLs that weren’t adding value to users but traffic went up :) Check out: Duplicate Content Myths Types and Ways To Make It Work For You by @dawnieando As many of these pages were brand new, we didn’t need to adjust anything, but see Will
  55. 55. Our 3 main learnings over the past 2 years
  56. 56. Don’t waste time building links* Build products, content & landing pages focusing on your customers search intents * This does apply only if your domain has got a strong link profile >> You need to have a 10x product that attracts links + great PR & marketing teams which promote your company. If the core product of your company is poor don’t waste time with SEO, content & links, it won’t help your business!
  57. 57. Forget about rigid SEO best practices Hire technical specialists & build SEO into your products from the first MVP
  58. 58. Hire super-smart developers to scale your products & embed them into your SEO team
  59. 59. We are hiring. Join us >> Follow us >> @TransferWise @workwise Contact me >> @Pechnet -