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SEO at Homegate: The Rise of Organic Traffic and an SEO Guild

SEO is one of the key elements to create a competitive advantage for a company. A website that could still benefit a lot from this, with low to medium efforts was Homegate. Before the SEO project really took off, Homegate depended more on paid traffic. As anyone can imagine, this can get very expensive very quickly. So it was all about reorganizing resources to tackle this big project. What nobody expected was...the pandemic. After two months of intense work and hoping for first visible results there was a global drop of organic traffic across the market. Vinicius Geraldes and Aleksandar Arnautovic from Homegate and Snežana Spasojević and Gabor Andrasi from the central marketing team at TX Markets tell us a bit about the challenges, learnings and the subsequent success of this project.

Two SEO Goals 

Since Google announced some algorithm changes for this year (inclusion of 'Core Web Vitals' as a ranking factor), it is not only important how fast a website loads but also how it looks to the users. This means that both technical aspects and user-friendliness come into play. This is why the SEO project was approached with two goals in mind. 

  • The first one was to understand how users navigate through homegate.ch and how their experience could be improved.
  • Secondly it was important to understand how a search engine (e.g. Googlebot) sees the website to be able to make it more readable and accessible to them.

To accomplish both of these goals, page speed, the user experience, Core Web Vitals and crawlability had to be analysed. The results of these analysis were crucial to determine the areas that had to be focused on in this project.

Improving Core Web Vitals

These so-called Web Vitals are an initiative launched by Google that provides a guideline to understand the quality of the user experience of a website. Core Web Vitals are the subset of Web Vitals. The metrics that make up Core Web Vitals evolve depending on the technologies and tools available to developers. Currently, Core Web Vitals focus on three aspects. One of them are Cumulative Layout Shifts (CLS), which was the most important part to improve for Homegate. 

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is an important, user-centric metric for measuring visual stability because it helps quantify how often users experience unexpected layout shifts-a low CLS helps ensure that the page is delightful.

- Walton + Mihajlija via web.dev/cls/

Having determined the area to focus on, it was possible to pinpoint specific issues on the website and improve them in a targeted manner, therefore knowing how to allocate resources. The second area of improvement was indexation and crawlability of the website.

Improving Indexation and Crawlability 

Indexation and crawlability are essential for site and page discovery by the search engine bot. If a site/page doesn't have a clear structure, the bot can't read and understand it well enough and it would most likely not appear on that search engine and wouldn't get any organic traffic. This - of course - is very damaging to the website. 

One of the goals was to grow the organic traffic of homegate.ch, but also to increase the quality of this traffic. The path had to be as clear and organised as possible for the bot. Achieving these goals is easier said than done and requires a lot of (wo)manpower. Since Homegate did not have a specific team allocated to SEO improvements, organising and allocating capacities across teams would quickly become a challenge. The most sensible approach was to create a dedicated "SEO Guild". 

Fantastic Guilds and How to Make the Most of Them

Initially, the SEO Guild was founded to align the initiatives that had to be executed by the product teams. The Guild quickly became an essential platform for discussing additional opportunities for organic traffic, brainstorming implementation ideas, and monitoring the progress of the main KPIs.

The SEO Guild is currently composed of SEO experts from both Homegate (Aleksandar Arnautovic as a PO and then SEO Manager) and from TX Markets' central teams (Gabor Andrasi and Snežana Spasojević), Product Managers working on products that directly impact SEO (Vini Geraldes and Clemens Bucher) and a Software Engineer (Aleksandar Glavas). The Guild meetings take place every two weeks and are usually joined by other colleagues who contribute their expertise to specific discussions. 

In addition to the cross-functional collaboration, which opens new perspectives and helps everyone consider all angles when making decisions, the most significant thing that has come out of the SEO Guild is the efficient resource allocation and prioritization. The Guild is able to identify opportunities and can prioritise them according to the potential business impact. The product teams can then consider these opportunities and implement them accordingly. The SEO Guild can also make sure that the management is aware of opportunities and risks and can advise on best practices for future initiatives for several products. 

The SEO Guild has been working on this project for quite some time and whilst any SEO efforts are never fully completed and are always a work in progress, it is nice to see what has changed and happened in 12 months: 

  • High double digit growth in traffic
  • Improved the core web vitals metrics to avoid being penalized by Google after the upcoming update
  • Strengthen and improve Homegate's position with important keywords

Based on these facts, it is good to see what can be done when resources can be allocated well and priorities are being set with intention. 

Thank you to Vinicius Geraldes and Aleksandar Arnautovic from Homegate and Snežana Spasojević and Gabor Andrasi from TX Markets' central team for providing insight into this topic. 

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