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A Wise SEO Plan: How TransferWise Used A Custom CMS To Build An SEO Moat

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Late last year, the Fintech unicorn Transferwise confirmed a valuation of $5B by private investors after a secondary share round. The CEO explained to Techcrunch that this round of funding offered an opportunity for new investors to come in, alongside rewarding the investors and employees who were already vested.

While it wasn’t stated publicly… This round of funding also gave them the ability to buy what was likely a pretty expensive domain → Wise.com 💰 The brand formerly known as Transferwise has undertaken a rebrand and is now known exclusively as Wise. 

This brand move is a smart one as they begin to move into new markets and roll out features that aren’t limited to payment transfers. In the post announcing the rebrand the CEO wrote:

Today our name catches up with who we’re already building for — a community of people and businesses with multi-currency lives. Wise is for all of us who live, work, travel, or support family around the world. It’s for those of us who want to cut out the middlemen that hold us back from being truly borderless.

For customers, not too much will change right away. We become “Wise” or “Wise Business” — depending how you use us. You can access your exact same account via wise.com, using your current email and password. You won’t need a new account. In a few weeks we will start to redirect transferwise.com to wise.com.

Our logo has changed, and our apps will be renamed. But our icon — the fast flag — remains as a symbol for money without borders. Beyond that, you’ll notice some new colours, words, and designs.

But with this move… 

Comes the importance of a smooth, well executed domain migration. 

A shift in your domain when you have 10 or 30… Heck… Even 100 pages… 

Isn’t exactly the most daunting task in the world of SEO. 

But if you have a site that has over 1 million indexed pages and you need to move all of them to the new domain; the task at hand is far from simple. 

It’s a big one.

And for a fintech site – it can have a lasting impact on your customers’ likelihood to trust you and of course the bottom line of your business. If you botch the domain migration you could very well find yourself generating significantly less traffic and for a product like this — that could mean millions of missed transactions. Which could mean millions of missed dollars. 

But I’m not writing to talk about the migration of their site. That’s all done

But if you want to follow some of the ins and outs of how that experience is going I’d strongly recommend following their head of Organic Growth Fabrizio Ballarini on Twitter. 

He’s been sharing some behind the scenes of the move. 

Here’s what I want to talk about. 

But before I do… You should know something. This post was originally shared to thousands of B2B marketers exclusively. Before it went live. Before it was shared on social. It was in the inbox of marketers just like you (likely your competitors) and they had the info first. Don’t miss out on the next one. Don’t be late to the party. Subscribe here and never be late to the insights. 

Alright… Back to our regularly scheduled programming:

I want to talk about how Wise has been able to leverage SEO to build a content empire. 

I call it an empire because they have successfully created an impressive SEO moat that was built on the back of programmatic and bespoke SEO. The team built their own CMS called Lienzo and have used it to grow Wise into a billion dollar business supported heavily by the power of organic search traffic. Here’s a glimpse into what the custom CMS looks like:

The CMS provides custom inputs that are tailored to the use-cases and intent of their potential customers. It’s also built to ensure that the pages they create can be done at scale by adjusting multiple variables (ie. language) arming them with the ability to create more ‘personalized’ sets of pages across millions of different queries. This is an SEOs dream… 

But it’s only possible by having a strong technical team to support you and a culture that truly understands the importance of SEO and its role in marketing. Creating a completely custom CMS is often an undertaking that brands avoid like the plague. 

But some of the benefits associated with this investment are quite significant. 

Imagine having the ability to…

  • Create thousands of scalable landing pages from the ground up
  • Update thousands of similar landing pages at once
  • Fix broken links at scale for international / language sites 
  • Clone existing pages and modify keywords/strings at scale
  • Delete obsolete landing pages at scale
  • Update meta titles & URLs for thousands of landing pages
    Connect all creative / content briefs to batches of content

The SEO dream…. I know. 

Here’s where it gets even better: 

The most recent traffic estimates prior to the migration had Wise generating around 21M visits per month from all sources.  One of the mantras that Fabrizio has embraced in his time at Transferwise has been the idea that their website’s growth is directly related to the speed at which they ship & optimize content:

The chart above shows the trajectory of their site when it comes to content publishing and how they went from having close to a couple hundred (maybe thousands) of pages indexed to now having more than 3 million pages indexed and generating traffic. The two lines represent the total number of pages indexed and the total number of clicks

The relationship between the two is pretty difficult to debate. 

More content (indexable and good) = more results. 

Fabrizo recently talked about this on Twitter explaining:

Can’t stress enough double triple check your content is getting indexed, especially when you produce a lot. More time to index will increase time to rank, time traffic, time tonrevenue to payback the initial investment. This times many pages it only compounds to a large waste.

Take note of the language here. 

Notice how Fabrizio is talking about SEO from a lens of investment?

This is a powerful perspective and one that is so important in the world of SEO. The content you create as a part of your site will require time and effort to make them worth reading. This investment in content should result in a return but as he also mentions… It takes time. It takes time to index. It takes time to get traffic. It takes time to get revenue. 

But ensuring that the content is indexed is a great way to start.

He also states:

The more content you feed to Google bot the more it (Google bot) gets addicted to crawling, indexing and serving your site. Especially for brand new sites it’s so important to keep up feeding good quality pages. My favourite KPI on early stage projects is indexed pages/month.

Yet many brands will make a simple mistake: 

They go through the process of creating a website (20-30 pages) but the only place new content ever lives in the future is in their blog. A more strategic approach starts with research and mapping search intent with your websites roadmap. 

You can leverage SEO tools like Ahrefs, Moz/Stat, Google Search Console, SEMRush and SimilarWeb to start better understanding what your ideal customers are looking for online. 

For Transferwise, the team found out very early that there was a massive market for people looking to ‘send money’ or check ‘exchange rates’. To build on that, the team also realized that the number of searches for people looking to convert [Currency 1] to [Currency 2] is only limited to the number of currencies that their solution can actually support. 

From US Dollar to ZMW and US Dollar to Swiss Franc → The Transferwise team identified and capitalized on the opportunity to build landing pages that capture the search traffic associated with this search. But how do you do this for millions of pages? 

Two options: 

Create it from scratch very manually. 

Or… 

You create a scalable SEO engine (shout out to their custom CMS) and arm your SEO team with the autonomy to execute.

During a presentation in 2019, Fabrizio talks about the importance of starting with an empowered autonomous full-stack SEO team. He explains these four key ideas as being the most important parts of the puzzle: 

  1. Constantly redefine what SEO features are handled by platform vs users
  2. Build monitoring into your platform 
  3. Invest in features to improve publishing operations
  4. Leverage APIs to scale your efforts

I strongly recommend you check out the entire slideshow here. There’s a lot of value in there. 

If you’re in a market where the demand is significant and crosses over into international markets — the opportunity to create a more scalable SEO engine might be worth considering. I’m not advising that you get up from your desk, send an invite to your CEO and tell them it’s time to go all in on creating a custom CMS filled with API integrations and a new stack… 

But if you feel like one of the biggest challenges holding your organization back from SEO success is the ability to scale humans — it might be time to consider the tech stack that is meant to augment their skillsets and the culture in which they’re supposed to thrive.

Embrace innovation. Hire smart people. Set ambitious goals. Get out of the way.  

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