30. November, 2021

Content Intel—episode 5: development and SEO for website relaunch

Optimizely’s Global Growth and SEO Strategist, Michiel Dorjee joins Content Intel to talk about all things SEO and why it’s important for the development phase in building a new website.

 

 

Transcript:

 

Laura Dolan (00:01):

Hello listeners and welcome to the Content Intel Podcast brought to you by Optimizely. I am your host, Laura Dolan. And today I am joined by another fellow optimizer, our global growth and SEO strategist, Michiel Dorjee. Welcome to the show Michiel how's it going, my friend?

Michiel Dorjee (00:17):

Doing well. Yeah, thanks for having me.

Laura Dolan (00:21):

Absolutely. Excellent. Well, today I want to piggyback off what we talked about in our first episode with Andrew Davies about the relaunch of our new website. But I want to focus a little bit more on the development side of things, including the systems we implemented, metadata, just getting a little bit more granular. So let's start out by you telling us a little bit about your role in the relaunch and how you were involved.

Michiel Dorjee (00:45):

Yeah, so long job title, but I'm mostly responsible for the front-end of the website. So anything related to SEO, sometimes that's how we use our own products. So if we use experimentation on our own website, those sorts of things. And generally I think for the relaunch, I kind of helped out a bit with the whole website structure and how do we take these two beasts of websites that are great in their own right, but make something that kind of is more than the sum of its parts. So that was kind of my role in the whole process. Yeah.

Laura Dolan (01:21):

This was a big undertaking as Andrew talked about in the first episode. What did we do to determine where to start? Obviously we had to merge two huge domains into one, what inputs were considered?

Michiel Dorjee (01:33):

Yeah. So we started I think about, well, a couple months before we knew that we had to merge these two sites together. Right. So actually more than two sites, right. Most people might know the old Episerver branding and former Optimizely, right. The experimentation product, but we also did an acquisition of a company called Zaius in between. Right. You might also be familiar with that.

Laura Dolan (01:58):

I've heard of it. Yes.

Michiel Dorjee (01:59):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And we of course had a separate Optimizely blog property as well. That was not integrated with the rest of the website. So we really kind of had to figure out, okay, what are all these platforms? How are they built? Which kind of pages do they have and what structure makes sense for the new website if you bring all these things together? For a majority I think of the content that we had on all these different websites, they kind of mapped nicely to each other, right. Well, all three of the sites had a blog. So we could just merge some of the content together there. Both of our sites had a resource section which is... For Episerver that used to be called Expertise, and for Optimizely it was called Resources. And we did some work there kind of to make that more prominent on the website, because we think all the content marketing that we're doing including this podcast is very important to communicate to people who are both customers, but also prospects on the website. Right.

Michiel Dorjee (03:01):

So if people want to understand what has changed about the Optimizely brand, because some people might know it as A/B Testing, other peoples might know Zaius or Episerver, and we kind of want to explain to everyone, "Hey, this is the new top-down structure of the website. And we've kind of combined all of these resources and great things together to also promote exploration." Right. So for customers who already have experimentation or might already be running our Content Cloud CMS product to also look at other areas, say, "Hey, what are you also doing in commerce? What is DXP? How can I take my experiences on my website and kind of elevate it to DXP?" So we wanted to give that a formal place on the website. So, we ran a multitude of different systems, right. Clearly Episerver was already on its own product on Content Cloud.

Laura Dolan (03:54):

Right.

Michiel Dorjee (03:54):

So that was good. We used that as a basis to kind of merge into with the websites, but the new branding was actually Optimizely, which was running on a headless solution Contentful.

Laura Dolan (04:06):

Oh, wow.

Michiel Dorjee (04:06):

That was kind of a weird mix, we would keep the brand name of one, but we would merge into the other website, and then we even use stuff like WordPress to host a blog and the old Zaius website.

Laura Dolan (04:19):

Right.

Michiel Dorjee (04:20):

So yeah, we kind of had to dig into all of these older websites and figure out, okay, how are these structured? What makes sense to keep from all of these? And the first part we took with that was just, okay, let's create a huge list of all the content that we have. I think in the end the total count, and I love repeating this number to people here internally is 7,000 pages across all the sites.

Laura Dolan (04:47):

Wow.

Michiel Dorjee (04:49):

And as you can imagine, each of those links is important to someone in the organization or to someone on the website.

Laura Dolan (04:57):

Yeah.

Michiel Dorjee (04:57):

So it's not like we wanted to completely wipe out the website and start over. There were lots of great things between both of the websites, the major ones, including that of Optimizely, we have a massive glossary, right. So, for people who don't know our optimization glossary also known as the Optipedia, is kind of an area on the website that features terms with explanations around them. How else would you describe a glossary? Right. It's kind of like Wikipedia in that sense.

Laura Dolan (05:30):

Exactly [crosstalk 00:05:31] Helps break down what we do.

Michiel Dorjee (05:33):

Yeah, exactly. Helps break down what we do. And it's also useful for people who are not familiar with terms like A/B testing or DXP and you can kind of read up on, okay, what does that mean? What does the market look like and what things should I be thinking about with these terms? And that was by far the largest part of the Optimizely website in terms of traffic. The organic traffic we got there was, and still is a major part of the business that we do online and how we get people exposed to our brands.

Michiel Dorjee (06:03):

It's very far removed I'd say from the products, right. Because most people who type in a phrase like A/B testing are maybe not aware of the Optimizely product or are looking for a definition of the term and not necessarily to buy a product immediately. So we really had to think about, okay, how do we take better care of this traffic and try to flow it better into the rest of the website? And that's still something that we're actively working on. How do we introduce people to the concept of our products? And how do we get them further into the funnel of our website? Which is in the end the goal, right. We want to capture leads and gauge interest for our products within certain organizations.

Michiel Dorjee (06:44):

So yeah, that's kind of how we took an inventory of everything and decided, okay, these are the major areas that we want to focus on and what we would want to keep. And yeah, we got some happy surprises along the way. Right. We know that there are about 100 key phrases that we perform on page one on Google, which is great. I think globally we ranked number three or four for content management system. Even with the former Optimizely website, which was interesting because it didn't have a CMS, but yeah. To then have something like Episerver that actually answers that question for people. So where you're not just looking for, "Hey, what is a list of content management systems out there?" But we actually have something to offer those people who want to further explore our website I think was a great optimization of our website. And we definitely saw a huge boost in performance and at the end that as well.

Laura Dolan (07:40):

That's awesome. It also helps to have that existing foundation in Episerver and basically just doing the rebrand. I'm sure that helped as well.

Michiel Dorjee (07:48):

Yeah. And there was a lot of knowledge I think, within the Episerver organization, but also with Zaius for data and Episerver acquired Idio, which is content recommendations. There's all this knowledge, I think, within the organization and all the content that we create that just got a whole lot more exposure by linking it to a brand like Optimizely, which was hugely successful.

Laura Dolan (08:13):

And have you found integrating all these different platforms easy? Does it make sense for it to all come together? Because the CMS seems quite different from a CDP, which is a customer data platform, which was Zaius' proprietary product. So it's just interesting to see how all these came together and how they all kind of interlock with each other so to speak.

Michiel Dorjee (08:35):

Yeah. That's definitely a goal also for the product team I'd say this year. Right. And going into next year, how to better integrate all of our products together. We acquired all these pieces of software, but how do we make it actually a DXP, right. Which is the industry term for kind of how you take these things to the next level. It's not just experimentation content or commerce, but it's interlocking all of those together.

Laura Dolan (09:00):

Right.

Michiel Dorjee (09:02):

And because we now own all of that software, we wanted to run all of our own stuff indeed. And that was going to be interesting. How do we go from WordPress, which I'd argue is very low level, quick installed to something like an enterprise level system, which is content cloud where you have much more advanced workflows and there's all these features in there that we could kind of roll out to the rest of the organization.

Michiel Dorjee (09:32):

Yeah, it's been interesting, especially for the former Optimizely website, which was completely headless, and for people who don't know, a headless solution is kind of a website without the front-end. Right. So you can build your own kind of template and application at the front of the website that CMS part only manages the content, but doesn't expose the front-end of the website, which is what Contentful was for us.

Laura Dolan (09:58):

Right.

Michiel Dorjee (09:59):

And then with the new solution that we picked, the content cloud... We're working on the headless solution as well, but the one we picked is kind of the more established product that we already have. We got lots of benefits by linking those two systems together. Right. So like I said, there was approval workflows, but also signing instructors on the front-end for partners or all these additional features which were kind of already baked into the system that, if you would've picked a headless solution, you would have to completely rebuild to try and get running on the front-end.

Michiel Dorjee (10:31):

So yeah, we definitely felt like with the short timeframe that we had... And I did also listen to your episode with Andrew. Yeah. It was definitely a crunch to get all of this working, but I think we did a pretty good job and we made a pretty well-flowing website and integrated the most of the features.

Laura Dolan (10:52):

You really did. And I love that you worked smarter and not harder. You took what was already existing and you built onto that, like you said, rather than having to rebuild an entire CMS or an entire DXP. So I'm sure that helped cut the time down a little bit. So you weren't working on it the entire rest of the year.

Michiel Dorjee (11:14):

No. And that would also be my advice to other people who would be in a similar our situation to this is, it's fun to kind of redesign and rebrand and do things like that on a website. And it definitely makes sense for like menu structures and kind of how the website flows in the homepages and those sorts of sections, but there were just a lot of areas on our sites, I think our legal section or the partner section that were kind of already established, we had some pretty good designs for those already and we could kind of expand and update those versus completely rework them. And that just gave us more space to do other things that we thought would be more impactful.

Laura Dolan (11:51):

What other consolidation work did we do? What kind of processes were involved as far as just making sure everything came together?

Michiel Dorjee (11:59):

Yeah. So besides taking an inventory of all the stuff that we had, we really needed to figure out, okay, how do we classify all of this content? Right. So how do we understand which things people are looking for on our website? And that might not always align with our products. I have a good example of that is that, Optimizely as a former product had both experimentation, but also personalization in its software. But in the market, I'd say how people search and are looking for these things, those are two separate topics for people.

Michiel Dorjee (12:32):

So, for us it was really trying to figure out how do we kind of group all these things together? What are we seeing in the market? How are people searching for us and getting to us? And how we can kind of map the existing contents that we have to those topics. And we might identify some gaps there, right. Where, oh, we might have done something in a certain way with former Optimizely or we might have done something in certain way with former Episerver and we can kind of expand on those ideas and create more content around those. And yeah, that's actually pretty good strategy I'd say, to not throw out the baby with the bath water.

Laura Dolan (13:13):

Exactly.

Michiel Dorjee (13:14):

Take what's already there and just improve upon it and iterate, which is part of our product. So we should be doing that anyways.

Laura Dolan (13:21):

Absolutely. And I do want to switch gears and bring up a subject that's very near and dear to my heart, which is search engine optimization or SEO. I thought I had a robust background on SEO until I met you, Michiel. I've learned so much about metadata and everything that I thought I had a good handle on, but of course doing a website relaunch really opens your eyes to a lot of new avenues that you can explore on your website. What can companies do to ensure their SEO strategy stays intact after a relaunch?

Michiel Dorjee (13:53):

Yeah. I think the approach for SEO is different for every organization, right. Especially for us as a B2B organization, we get a lot of our business from these glossary terms and from our authority kind of within this business. We don't have an ecommerce platform or we don't have all these components that you might have as a B2C organization. But for us it was really looking at all the content that we have, and also looking at how Google presents those pieces of content. Right.

Michiel Dorjee (14:25):

So Google presents a couple of different types of content. Some might know that as schema markup. It doesn't necessarily boost your performance, right, if you stick to those schemas, but it did help us think about, okay, certain types of content that we have on the website. Our video, for instance, or our events or our... And by just structuring our website in that way, and also building those out in the templates, it just makes it easier for Google to crawl the website, but more importantly and that's also what Google says, SEO should really be a game of great user experience, right. If your experience on the website is great and people are able to navigate to the websites, they don't click on a result in Google and immediately go back and then forward to another one again. Those are all great quality signals I'd say for Google to index the website.

Michiel Dorjee (15:19):

So, after taking an inventory of the website, we actually used one of our great partners to try and identify some of the issues on the website. If you have 7,000 links, you definitely need an automated way to kind of go through it all, right. So we define some rules with the Siteimprove and it will kind of go through your website and crawl based on some best practice rules it has around SEO, but also I think just in general broken images, or maybe you use British English versus American English in some places. And that really helped us try to pinpoint where some areas on the website that we would want to correct before we actually import all of that old content into the website. Because Optimizely existed for 10 years, Episerver for what I said 30 years.

Laura Dolan (16:14):

Right.

Michiel Dorjee (16:14):

There have been a multitude of different brand guidelines and the changes in that and some of the top performing content, which was interesting to us on the website for Optimizely was still content from 2015, 2019 a while ago. Right. And we were those people who find that content to still get the latest and greatest experience on our website. So a tool like Siteimprove really helped us to try and get a grasp of all the content that we had and figure out where we might need to change some stuff before we actually go live.

Laura Dolan (16:49):

Yeah. I would imagine an auditor would be absolutely necessary especially if you want to find broken links or like you said, missing images. You want the site to look the most optimized it can be when it goes live. And yeah, I can't imagine doing this process without that.

Michiel Dorjee (17:06):

No, exactly. And there are some local tools we used too on top of that. Right. So I think something like Screaming Frog SEO, which is pretty common for people who work in SEO. But yeah, just having a tool that kind of continuously runs in the background and figures out what we need to do was definitely helpful. I promise I'm not being sponsored by them to say this. I just really like the tool. They're great.

Laura Dolan (17:31):

Sure you're not Michiel. Wink. No, I'm kidding.

Michiel Dorjee (17:36):

Wink, wink, wink.

Laura Dolan (17:37):

So without getting a little too much in the weeds, as far as the schema markup goes, and I know this is getting a little bit granular, but do we do anything as far as like JSON LD type of metadata in the background, because I work in our CMS as well on the backend and I'm not seeing any fields for that. So I was just wondering if that's something we are planning on utilizing or if it's something that's just not necessary at this time.

Michiel Dorjee (18:03):

More and more we're doing that because we kind of built on the existing Episerver templates and websites that wasn't traditionally there. I think Google was pretty good at figuring out how the website was structured and it would... If you type in Optimizely Events it would know where to find those. But absolutely that's something that we're going to do going forward is better structuring our templates for search engines as well. And you bring up a good point about the editor experience.

Laura Dolan (18:34):

Right.

Michiel Dorjee (18:34):

How do you bring the editor workflows of both of these very different websites into one and what do you expose and what do you not expose to people? And it's kind of helped us rethink how we structure some of these fields in the background. So yes, we could expose some of these fields to the editors, but in my experience is you wanted to give editors just a lot of flexibility and not necessarily have to think about how some of the more technical aspects of a page get built in the background. It should just be something that's inherent to a good template. So yeah, I think we're just going to keep trying to automate as much as possible there. And if we want to give editors more control, I think change titles and search engines, those sorts of things will expose those in the background.

Laura Dolan (19:25):

Right. Whatever makes the user experience as easy as possible I'm in favor of for sure as an editor.

Michiel Dorjee (19:30):

Yeah.

Laura Dolan (19:32):

Now did you notice any kind of lag or slowdown after we relaunched? Obviously it was an existing domain, but it was still different type of layout and content. What was it like after we relaunched? Did you notice any lag in the metrics or anything like that?

Michiel Dorjee (19:51):

For part of the content, because there was also such a history of content in there. Not everything was as optimized as we might have wanted it to be. So a good example is just practically uploading images that are way too large to the sites.

Laura Dolan (20:05):

Right.

Michiel Dorjee (20:07):

That was kind of more causing issues in the sites than any template or website slowdowns would have. But absolutely there were some areas and some pieces of the website and technology that we had built into it that were not needed anymore, that we kind of in the process of testing the website and launch, needed to slowly unravel and take out. So a good example for instance, is we have a commerce component to our website. You can actually purchase trainings and those sorts of things on the website, but those components were loaded in everywhere on the website. So we really had to think about, okay, what do we need? Where, and can we turn things off when we don't need them? And do you really need to see your shopping cart everywhere? Those sorts of things.

Laura Dolan (20:52):

Right.

Michiel Dorjee (20:54):

And yeah, that was really important. I think also for the developers to kind of think about how we want to not just continue what we were already doing and just update the look and feel, but also how do we structure the website in a modern way that's scalable for the future, right. Because we're bringing more of this stuff in house within the organization, as well as we kind of try to unify these platforms, we basically doubled our organization in a day, right [crosstalk 00:21:20] So yeah, we absolutely needed to rethink kind of how we build this platform and structure it technically as well.

Laura Dolan (21:30):

Yeah, it's going to be a constant work in progress. I always tell people, never be satisfied with what you're doing.

Michiel Dorjee (21:35):

Never.

Laura Dolan (21:35):

Always look to constantly improve with what you're doing. And I think we have a very good foundation. The website looks great, but yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing how we are going to be improving it down the line. Just being conscious of time, I just wanted to wrap up with one last question. Can I ask what kind of advice do you have for other companies that are relaunching? I know I asked Andrew the same question, but coming from a metadata and SEO perspective, I was wondering if you had any wisdom to impart on that front?

Michiel Dorjee (22:06):

Take a look at what you already have and what's good about both. Well, in our case, it's a pretty unique situation, right. Where you merge two websites that are of similar size in different ways, in different markets, but try to figure out kind of what's working and try to keep that and rework the things that are not. I think a lesson for us internally, I'm part of the digital team, which kind of builds the website, and we have design and content and all kinds of different functions within that, is that the website launch was kind of our big push to get new stuff live as well. So don't feel like you can't make significant changes to something that's already working. I used to be in an organization where it was pretty funny where if something was working, they would say you can't change it because it's already working, and if something was going poorly, they would say, don't change it it might go even worse.

Laura Dolan (23:04):

That doesn't sound productive at all.

Michiel Dorjee (23:05):

No, that doesn't sound productive at all. And I wouldn't say that's the case here, but I always keep that in the back of my mind. Also my advice to other people is, don't be afraid to change things that already work or change things significantly that don't work. Just be bold.

Laura Dolan (23:22):

Yeah.

Michiel Dorjee (23:23):

And experiment.

Laura Dolan (23:25):

I love that, experiment.

Michiel Dorjee (23:26):

Yeah.

Laura Dolan (23:26):

You know, if it isn't broke don't fix it does not apply here.

Michiel Dorjee (23:30):

Nope. Nope.

Laura Dolan (23:32):

Awesome. Well, Michiel thank you so much for coming on the show. Thanks so much for your time. It's always a pleasure to talk to you. I have a feeling I will be having you on again, maybe in a few months just to check in, see how the website's performing and see what else you've been doing to it. It's always interesting to see how we are experimenting on and drinking our own champagne as it were.

Michiel Dorjee (23:54):

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Thanks for having me. Happy to do that.

Laura Dolan (23:58):

Of course. Well, thank you all so much for tuning in for this episode of Content Intel. I am Laura Dolan and I will see you next time.