How we took Gumtree’s falling SEO rankings and turned them around during a period of global uncertainty
ABOUT THE CLIENT
Gumtree connects buyers and sellers in the local community. They see more than 80,000 listings created every day: from cars to couches, and bikes to barbie dolls. With more than 3 million listings available at any given time, you really can buy, sell, or find just about anything.
With a massive 350 million+ pages, their site is enormous and needs a lot of love and attention to keep things running smoothly, which is why their SEO manager leaving at the beginning of Covid in 2020 could have really impacted them in a negative way. Luckily we already had a longstanding relationship with them and were able to step in and look after the SEO function for 6 months until Gumtree’s global hiring freeze was lifted and a new SEO manager had been found.
Traffic was dropping and SEO wasn’t a key consideration for Gumtree
Losing an SEO manager during an intense time in history could have had a devastating impact
Just as Covid hit Australia, Gumtree’s SEO manager resigned. They gave just 7 days notice of their intention to finish up with the business, which was problematic as a global hiring freeze had just been announced.
Gumtree needed to fill a gap quickly, with existing resources, and not only plateau but address some outstanding issues with traffic to site dropping at a steady rate.
Bleeding visitors with no plan to stem the flow
Over the 18 months to May 2020, Gumtree had been experiencing a significant drop in traffic to its Australian site. In December 2018 traffic was sitting at 12.7 million visits per month, but by May 2020 it was down to 5.2 million.
SEO wasn’t truly appreciated by the business
Despite representing the 3rd biggest traffic source for Gumtree, SEO wasn’t fully understood by most people within Gumtree which meant it wasn’t given the time, consideration, or resourcing that it deserved. Such traffic was taken for granted.
We’d been supporting the previous SEO manager by providing reporting for the senior management team for some time, but more needed to be done to get everyone excited about the importance of SEO.
Analytics, strategy, and training combine to create an engaged, passionate team
Setting a strategy for success
Our first task was to take a look at the existing strategy and to jump straight in to keep its implementation moving. The last thing we wanted was to take a pause and have more negative impacts to the site occur. When we took over the role of SEO manager, 40 percent of traffic was coming from SEO, but a 30 per cent drop in non-branded SEO had occurred year-on-year prior, so there wasn’t room for error.
We then created a technical SEO plan that incorporated findings from our in-depth analysis, combined with our expertise in SEO for businesses with large scale websites such as Expedia, domain.com.au, Alibaba, and various publisher sites.
Technical SEO isn’t an area all SEO specialists have expertise in as it involves a niche mindset and a deep understanding of the specific mechanics required such as how to ensure sites are crawled optimally, content is properly indexed, and that a site’s architecture is optimised. We devised a plan to make this happen, and quickly!
Using analytics to guide decision making and show off the big wins
Prior to their SEO manager leaving the company, we had (as part of our 5+ year engagement with the business) streamlined analytics to tell a story about how the Gumtree site was performing and how changes could be made, based on data, that would strengthen Gumtree’s visibility in the Australian market.
In 2020, we used the data contained within the processes we’d previously built out to create informative reporting that could be shared with the business to help gain buy-in for the work we were proposing and to show how quickly our solution was having an impact.
Something we were able to see via analytics was that three out of four pages had what is known as ‘thin’ content – meaning it didn’t contain enough words for Google to find it relevant or for users (both human and bots) to gain from it. We then worked to improve content across these pages.
Train, train, and train some more
We knew from previous training sessions that there was a lack of understanding around SEO as a topic and area of expertise. Given its importance across the business, we needed to provide a foundation for all parts of the business – from the UX and development teams, through to product owners, PR team, and senior management.
We trained 75 developers to help them understand the true potential of SEO and how it would impact their jobs and the business as a whole. By the time this group had completed training they were highly engaged and had also added valuable professional proficiencies to their skillsets.
Better SEO means more visibility, which set a foundation for future growth
Gumtree’s purpose is to connect buyers and sellers within communities and we assisted in that by increasing visits to the site by 47 percent between May and November 2020. We were also able to increase non-branded visits by 1.6 million per month and added 5 million quality pages for indexing by Google.
Full visibility on the most important interactions including eCommerce.
Better content helps too
To counter some of the ‘thin’ pages that were negatively impacting SEO, we created more than 350 pages of content that were then uploaded onto the Gumtree site. The size and structure of our business allowed us to do so in a way that in-house SEOs couldn’t.
Preparing for a smooth transition to a new SEO manager
While achieving day-to-day results that kept Gumtree moving in the right direction, we were also preparing for a new SEO manager to come in and take over from our existing strategy and implementation and hit the ground running.
Our goal with our clients is to become embedded and to speak the same language. And while we never like to lose a client, it’s a happy moment when it comes to be, due to internal resources being able to take something we’ve set up and trained them on and keep it moving in the right direction, and this was certainly the case with Gumtree.
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