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Why Bother with a Site Migration? – Doug Bell // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: Site migrations are an integral tool for improving outdated website processes, increasing site speed and providing a fresh, new look to grab user attention. The amount of work that goes into site migrations might deter brands from considering it a viable option. Join host Ben as he kicks off Site Migration Week with Searchmetrics’ CMO Doug Bell, who shares his experience with Searchmetrics’ recent site migration and how to determine if your brand website would benefit from one.

Summary

  • Great brands evolve over time and to be successful they need updated websites to keep up with the times.
  • A brand’s website is as important as the products they offer, as it defines a brand’s positioning and goals to visitors.
  • Site migrations are useful for improving outdated website processes, increasing site speed and boosting user interest and conversion rates overall.
  • Not all websites need a site migration, and brand’s should review technical criteria to determine whether their site would truly benefit from a migration.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                  Welcome to Site Migration Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro and this week we’re going to publish an episode every day, covering a case study that walks you through the steps of an enterprise grid site migration. Joining us for Site Migration Week is Doug Bell, who is the Chief Marketing Officer at Searchmetrics, which is an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses, monitor their online presence and make data-driven decisions. And today Doug and I are going to walk through Searchmetrics’ site migration design and planning. Okay. Here’s the first installment of Site Migration Week with Doug Bell from Searchmetrics. Doug, welcome to Site Migration Week on the Voices of Search podcast.

Doug:                Happy shelter in place. Ben Shapiro. It’s good to talk to you.

Ben:                   Yes. We can’t escape the inevitable Coronavirus commentary. Everybody go wash your hands. If I haven’t said it enough, I’m saying it on every podcast, and other than just your hands that need scrubbing, sometimes your underlying infrastructure does as well. Doug, had he liked that transition.

Doug:                That was the best segue I’ve ever heard Ben, congratulations.

Ben:                   So I think the context here is, Doug, you and I have worked together for, I don’t know, four years. I started off as a consultant doing brand development and personas for Searchmetrics and somehow evolved into working with you to create the Voices of Search podcast, and all along every step of the way I have said, “Hey, Doug, the Searchmetrics website sucks.”

Doug:                That’s a technical term, right Ben?

Ben:                   And this was behind closed doors and I would never admit it publicly, but every time we ran a performance marketing test or whatever we did, we were always driving traffic to a sick puppy. You finally bit the bullet. There is a new Searchmetrics website. Doug, let me say, it’s beautiful. I love it.

Doug:                Thank you Ben.

Ben:                   It’s glistening. How the hell do you pull it off?

Doug:                Well, let’s talk about it Ben, but thank you. I have to say there’s more to be done. And we’re going to talk about this when we talk about “Eating our own dog food,” at Searchmetrics, meaning using our own incredible potential strategies group team to help us plan and execute this. But I am really pleased with the end result Ben, and I hope everybody else out there is.

Ben:                   They always say that doctors make the worst patients. And I think in a lot of cases, up until this point, Searchmetrics has essentially been the worst patient of its own medicine, not really prioritizing SEO. And you have ushered in a new era, starting with the website, how the marketing team at Searchmetrics needs to practice what they preach, this website starting that trend. So talk to me a little bit about how you managed to pull in the digital strategies group at Searchmetrics, who are a team of consultants that use Searchmetrics’ data to help enterprise companies modify their website and content. And also how you went through the underlying ideation design. How did you sell the site migration internally? Walk me through the planning and design phase of your migration.

Doug:                So Ben, it’s not something to be taken lightly. This idea of site migration and I think every marketer when they hear that term, clenches.

Ben:                   Good.

Doug:                All right. So a kind of a scary thing and especially from an SEO standpoint because it’s fairly atypical that you’re going to benefit from an SEO standpoint with the new site launch. So that was the kind of anxiety gap, if you will, in other words, making that leap from Ben Shapiro in private telling me that we have a sick puppy that needs to be overhauled, to making that decision. I think the thing that really drove it for us, and you’ve nailed it, Ben, was we weren’t really sure, we were the cobbler’s children, right? We weren’t showing off our ability to help clients with SEO and content because our own website, frankly, it wasn’t doing as well as it could. I think you’ve nailed that early on. The other piece was that our brand identity wasn’t really keeping pace with how the company evolved.

Doug:                 Since it was launched five years ago, the company had gone from a regional, it’s called a German STO Powerhouse to being a global player on the digital marketing stage and our brand identity didn’t reflect that. So I think we can all agree great brands evolve over time and that was really the impetus for me and the team, which is to say, Hey, if we’re going to take this journey, it’s going to be about three things. One, better representing of the company’s brand, brand identity. Two, being able to show that we actually are a world-class SEO and content marketing platform. Then finally at the end of the day, websites products, and it was underperforming. And so getting us to the point where we felt like we had the highest performing products were the three reasons that we dove into the deep end. Of course, we have lifeguards, and that was the digital strategies group.

Ben:                    So fundamentally, there were a couple of different problems. First and foremost, the website wasn’t performing, the marketing channel of SEO wasn’t really growing or driving a lot of value, and there was some clear and obvious things that you needed to fix. And on the second side there was also a visibility and a brand component to this as well. You mentioned that you updated the Searchmetrics logo, the brand kit, right? The color palette is a little different. The fonts are a little different, the imagery that you’re using on the site looks more updated. When you think about the overarching goal of what you are trying to accomplish by going through the site migration, were you looking for a change in sort of perception and brand, or were you thinking about driving more traffic and fixing some of the underlying platform issues?

Doug:                  All of the above. I think Ben, there’s a future episode to talk about where we see search going, and I would say that where we were as a company from a brand identity standpoint wasn’t keeping pace for where we saw the industry going, but it really boiled down to being able to reflect what ultimately is our move up market. But also our move to being able to take SEO and make it just so dead simple that any marketer can do it well, and so really we have to, with our brand identity and messaging positioning, we have to be able to split that proverbial baby if you will, which is the ability to move up market, and just show that we are and enterprise from worthy of a CMO’s attention, but at the same time having a brand identity that is approachable from a consumer standpoint. But the bottom line, Ben, as I mentioned before was this site was not performing in the ways it needs to for me to be able to scale this business to a 100 or $200 million company.

Ben:                     So I understand the idea of the brand and the imagery challenging, you needed to look modern and from a business perspective, right, changing some of the imagery, some of the copy around the website, just giving essentially a face lift to searchmetrics.com, probably helps improve conversion rates more than anything else, right? You seem more credible and it doesn’t seem like you’re operating a website that was built in 1996, nothing personal.

Doug:                  Wow.

Ben:                     On the flip side, there’s also a performance and marketing benefit in terms of user generation. Talk to me about some of the problems that you noticed going into the migration with the old Searchmetrics site, the one built in 1996. What were some of the problems that you saw that you were trying to tackle?

Doug:                  So Ben, I’m going to bottom line it for us, because I would say that many of the other kind of early indicators I would talk about would be familiar to any marketer that has a website or any marketer that depends on their website to drive business, right? So we were able to grow SEO to its ability and site traffic. But as we were able to grow those things, we were seeing that people that were visiting the site were less and less and less likely to engage with the content, and less and less likely to engage with offers that would lead to leads for us or pipeline for us. So that really, after we got over the hump of saying, look, we’re no longer showing who we are from a brand identity standpoint. That was the other really big thing for us and we know having worked together for four years, that was a problem that you and I attempted to tackle without overhauling the website on multiple occasions. And guys, I’m not saying go solve your conversion rate optimizations or pipeline challenges by doing a site migration. I would suggest tentative things first.

Doug:                 But, exactly as you’re pointing out, Ben, quite often, sometimes just simply looking better, having greater user experience and better user sympathy, meaning the ability to easily navigate a site and understand what it is the company is positioning and what it’s goals are and how it can help, can be a big difference for the company. But I’d also state that there are some elements I would speak to and I would speak to any CMO who’s not necessarily an SEO expert, but beyond the grand identity, beyond treating the website like a product, the other thing was that the site was not at its fundamental essence performing well. And so Searchmetrics, we spent a lot of time talking about what world-class websites perform like and we weren’t there. And so if you looked at a site speed standpoint, we were in the seven second range at times at the beginning of 2019, so the site’s performance was a big part of it as well.

Doug:                  So what we had was really three or four things coming together. Ben, first off, how are we positioning ourselves? What’s the messaging that allows us to do that? What’s that story, one. Two, brand identity, three site performance and then finally, and by site performance I mean, does the site load quickly? And then finally, four, the site’s ability to translate customer interest and prospect interest in the pipeline. Those are the four things we tackled.

Ben:                     I’m going to say that there’s a fifth thing. You have your pesky consultant friends who are sitting here telling you that your site sucks and you just need to shut them up. And so at some fundamental level that has to play a part in your decision to just bite the bullet and redo the website.

Doug:                  But I think that you drug me on here, not because you wanted to make fun of the website, although I think that might be the entirety of your purpose. But I also think that a big part of what we’re hoping to do is to say that there is a series of best practices that can be adapted. So anybody who has any experience with Searchmetrics knows we are experts in SEO, we are experts in content, we’re experts in site migration. And so what a big part of the reason that we wanted to embrace this was, because we have this amazing team of experts wondering about, and how did you engage and how did you convince the digital strategies group to get on board. And the one thing that really made a difference for us then, and I would say this is true to anybody out there, irrespective of whether you have an in house team of experts, is that we were able to engage the experts internally, as if we were clients.

Doug:                  And that was really the thing that kind of tilted things for us. We literally set up a job, we literally set up project tracking and we actually internally created a project that, that team could benefit from a, let’s not say revenue standpoint, but from an hours utilized standpoint. Once we had those folks on board, it was a little bit like driving a Ferrari to get milk at the corner store. It was a really great ride, but I have to say, all along the way I felt almost over resourced in terms of expertise.

Ben:                    We should all have so many problems and I appreciate the way that you turned around me asking a question about busting your chops, into a nice comment about how excellent the Searchmetrics digital strategies team is. So we’re going to dig into the details and talk more about Searchmetrics’ site migration this week. We’re going to talk about getting ready for the site migration, development testing, figuring out how to drive results, understanding how to evaluate your site migration, and then also thinking about once your site migrations done, what do you do next? So lots to cover this week.

Ben:                     And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Doug Bell, CMO of Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue the conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Doug, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter, where his handle is @MarketAdvocate, M-A-R-K-E-T-A-D-V-O-C-A-T-E, or you can visit his company’s website, which is searchmetrics.com.

Ben:                    Just one more link in our show notes that I’d like to tell you about, if you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast. Head over to voicesofsearch.com where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can send us your topic suggestions, your SEO questions, or you can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you could always reach out on social media. Our show’s handle is #voicesofsearch, or you can reach out to me personally. My handle is #BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-A-J-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, in addition to part two of my conversation with Doug Bell, CMO of Searchmetrics, where we talk about the planning phase of a site migration, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the work week. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed soon. All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.