How Much Organic Traffic Can Content Marketing Generate?
We at D4 Advanced Media produce razor-sharp, results-driven content marketing. Part of our formula is delivering attractive copywriting that advertises products and services while simultaneously invigorating brand awareness. Our content writing stimulates multipage website exploration and brand engagement via educational and entertaining articles. We’re never satisfied with our understanding of content marketing. We constantly research industry trends and new techniques for producing better content. In this article we look at the relationship between great content and organic traffic growth through the lens of content-juggernaut, TransferWise.
Who Is TransferWise, and Why Are They A Content Creation Powerhouse?
As we stated earlier, our hunger for information about content marketing is robust and ongoing. As such, we regularly read, watch and listen to industry other experts to learn what caused them to fail and what caused them to succeed.
We enjoy the Marketing Scoop Podcast on SEMrush.com. The podcast is hosted by internet marketing thought-leaders, David Bain and Judith Lewis. They co-interview industry experts about various digital marketing and SEO topics with the aim of delivering actionable tips to the audience.
We found a ton of benefit in their season 2, episode 19, podcast entitled “How TransferWise Reached Over 1 Million Organic Visits Per Month”. The guest was Fabrizio Ballarini, head of Organic Growth & SEO for TransferWise.com.
During 2018, TransferWise.com reached over 1,000,000 organic visits per month. The company specializes in international money transfers, but they also produce content on currency, travel, finance, business and more. They attribute their 1,000,000+ organic visits per month to longform articles and exhaustive how-to guides. They produce approximately 300 articles / month in 5-6 different languages. They employ 10 to 15 people on their editing and production team. That team uses a highly-detailed formula alongside professional writers to create actionable content that users find irresistible.
How Did TransferWise Shatter the Limitations of Content on Organic Traffic Growth?
In the next section of this blog, we relay questions and answers from the subject podcast. This section includes paraphrases and direct quotes from the podcast. We adapted some of the questions for brevity and clarity. We did our best to capture the intent of the interviewers and the guest.
According to Ballarini, one SEO and a few developers started the Organic Growth and SEO team at TransferWise. They started with 15k visits per month with a few well-performing articles, but no real team driving those articles. Initial traffic was primarily branded, but as word of mouth spread, they started shifting their efforts to organic traffic.
Extensive content marketing didn’t really begin until TransferWise was four years old.
“We already had a very good product. We already had a very viral product as well. A lot of our customers were recommending TransferWise to their friends. Therefore, there was a lot of brand traffic when we first started this. But, pretty much the website was one page, the homepage, and a couple FAQ articles. The website was not ranking for anything that wasn’t branded. I guess our objective as a team was not to necessarily increase the brand search, but to just increase our coverage on non-brand. Because we had a lot of team [members] on the referral programs and other activities,” said Ballarini.
Does TransferWise produce thousands of articles that each draw in a bit of traffic, or does it have a few superstar articles that draw most of the traffic with other articles each drawing just a bit?
“There are certain topics that are high-performing within a breadth of articles. One key element of us growing was that we had a high authority domain, but we had no content. A key element was just nailing the publishing element and the keyword research, publishing and everything related,” said Ballarini.
“On day one beyond traffic, we didn’t know what was converting. We didn’t know what was actually driving customers. We pretty much had to carpet bomb a bunch of topics hoping that this was going to work. Slowly, we were getting content to rank, drive traffic and drive customers. [Then] we were refining topics and writing more about topics that were performing. I guess we kind of iterated this process at scale. Now we have 10+ people that are working on editing and publishing content. We have SEOs that look after these operations,” said Ballarini.
Why does TransferWise devote so much effort to organic search?
“Organic search is not necessarily the channel that can give you very fast and immediate results. But, at that time we understood that it was important, so we decided to invest for the long-run. Even when it comes to content, we are very focused on the long-term. Every investment that we do, we judge performance and payback on a 12 to 24-month basis, and then we iterate against those financial constraints. You need to have conviction around doing this for a good amount of time before you actually see results. The first 12 to 14 months of producing all that content, it wasn’t looking as rosy as it is now,” said Ballarini.
How did you persuade your company leadership to apply so many resources to organic search and content over such a long timeframe with few upfront results to justify the expenditure?
Ballarini advised that all the departments at TransferWise operate independently, so no justification between subordinates and superiors was required. That said, the company has financial constraints and thought was applied to not burning through money for the sake of doing so.
It wasn’t as though there were no upfront results. It was more like the first six months of results were looked at with a casual eye, and then they wrote subsequent articles using the well-performing aspects of the first batch. At this point, analysis of historic content has given them enough insight to expect x-growth based on article-type-x.
What characteristics do your most successful articles have? Are there commonalities in article length and keyword choice? How do you decide which topics to cover?
“At some point after starting and testing various topics, you get to some confidence around various topics and the impact of those keywords. That was one way that we used to prioritize.
You correctly mentioned we published last year, I think 1,300 articles in 5-6 languages. Obviously, the more we scale globally the more we can leverage insights from the English-speaking market. That is relatively easy.
When it comes to keyword research and topic research … most of our content team … [has a] background … [from] our customer support teams. They know the product quite well. Equally, we tend to work with teams to figure out use-cases that our customers [seek] …
To answer your question regarding the length, we don’t have very strict rules in that sense. Obviously, all our content is long-form-ish written content. We write a lot of guides to educate people on various financial decisions that they need to make. We let the editors and writers decide based on the topic and then [they use a] leveraging tool like SEMrush to expand on related keywords and expand on topics in a way that we find the best tool for that given series of articles.
We probably look at length and type of content by topics and series rather than saying everywhere on the blog needs to be 1,000 words or 2,000 words. That doesn’t necessarily make sense. We have series of content that perform really well with not too much content. There are other topics where we need to write exhaustive guides on “how-to-do.” Especially if you’re filing taxes abroad, you eventually want to get it right. [In those cases], we need to get someone who is an expert on the subject matter and get them to write really exhaustive content in that sense,” said Ballarini.
What are some of your general content tips, and what are your tips to target rich snippets?
- Nail the structure
- Nail the editorial guidelines
- Certain mark-up tends to get picked up better
- Certain content requires tables
- Certain content requires lists
- Establish your guidelines based on content-type
- Instead of optimizing preexisting content, focus on writing new content that includes the bells and whistles
- Large-scale businesses with tons of articles needn’t pay as much attention to optimization as small-scale businesses who produce many fewer posts
- Try to automate the updating and removal of dated content with tools and widgets
- Focus on creating evergreen content that doesn’t require updating or later removal aka content killing, but it’s also okay to create seasonal, topical and one-off type pieces. Just prioritize the evergreen content.
How large is the TransferWise content team, and how do they operate?
TransferWise doesn’t use any agencies, and the company has 10-15 part-time / full-time employees who edit, produce, publish, proofread and check content. These employees work with a network of freelancers who specialize in particular topics. “The actual writing is done by professional writers, and the actual production is done by content editors and then together with that, there are a few SEOs …” said Ballarini.
Many elements on their site are dynamically populated, but most of the long-form blogs are not. They need to be careful to monitor content such as exchange rates, because that information is subject to change quickly.
Does TransferWise use an SEO checklist for each article?
“We are very prescriptive in what we want, and that’s why these guys that work on producing content – they almost make the article. The only aspect that they don’t do is the writing. They are a speaker in their given native language, but they’re not professional writers,” said Ballarini.
Does TransferWise have an active link building strategy for its content, or is the domain powerful enough to be ranking by itself just with internal links?
When Ballarini took up his position, the company already was reaping the benefits of four aggressive years of PR and advertising. When he got to Transferwise, their domain was already authoritative. As such, no link building efforts were really required. They focused on producing new and better content instead of trying to get preexisting content to rank better.
What is one actionable tip?
“Pick something specific and try to stick to that thing for a certain amount of time. Let’s go back to content. It’s really important that instead of trying to get everything at the same time, you just cover one area. Think about ten topics; nail it down to just one. Try to do that one to its core, and then before you move on, make sure that you cover this topic really exhaustively. There could be a chance that it’s not performing just because you haven’t gone too deep on writing more about a specific … I think the process is key … Obviously you need to get it right.
You need to do the right thing, but often it’s an execution and operational thing together with knowing. You could know possibly all the SEO tips for your given industry, but if you’re not consistent in a specific operation you may still fail in delivering. And many brands do.
Many agencies, they are very frustrated about their trends not implementing what they want. This implementing stuff and being consistent about pushing things out is possibly what I guess could be the success,” said Ballarini.
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