Wow! Simon’s SEO and business acumen does not only prove that he is the man when it comes to digital strategy, but also shows how capable he is of handling an entire team of digital marketers. Getting issues resolved by devising his own strategy and solution is by far one of the biggest pluses in the SEO industry. As he puts it, place your knowledge into practice, and exercise – that’s what makes you a truly capable SEO expert.
Simon Mathonnet is the Head of Digital Strategy at Splashbox, a Melbourne digital marketing, design and web development agency that specialises in enterprise eCommerce clients. Simon personally oversees more than 100 digital marketing campaigns, devising bespoke digital strategies across SEO, SEM, CRO and social media, as well as managing the rollout and technical implementation of each campaign. His role also sees him serve as an advisor to Splashbox’s vast roster of clients, which includes prominent fashion labels, large-scale property developers, and high-volume eCommerce businesses.
Simon uses his technical knowledge, business acumen, and ability to translate complex technical concepts and intricate data trends into practical, scalable strategies to improve and grow each business. You can also see that talent at work when he’s hosting regular workshops at General Assembly or speaking at conferences like Search Marketing Summit or Big Digital.
My team and I were contacted to investigate an 80% organic traffic drop across 6 different geo targeted domains for a global eCommerce company selling phone accessories.
WHAT YOU DID
We had to identify the cause of the drop, which happened at a specific date, reverse engineer why it would happen, provide overall recommendations and actioning fixes to revert the drop and get back to standard traffic level across all domains. Through SERP Analytics, Data Analytics and confirming our hypothesis through technical audits, we found the cause to be a combination of geofencing/automatic redirects to different domains (Basically sending users automatically to the domain targeting their country) causing crawling/indexation issue for the GoogleBot along with the absence of correct hreflang implementation, meaning Google was confused about which version of the website to rank in each location – the standard .com started taking over all other domains in the search results, however, as it’s not that relevant to each location we saw traffic and conversion drops across all other locations.
Hreflang are codes in the header of each page of the website indicating what location and language it is covering, and also pointing to the other versions of the page targeting other locations and languages. It’s used as a tool to indicate Search Engine crawlers on what page to index and rank in search results for each location you are servicing. It’s one of the SEO elements where a lot of mistakes happen as the syntax and configuration is very complex (Especially with multiple domains) and need to be extremely precise. We recommended that the auto redirect be removed (In any case, if all channels are implemented properly, no visitor would end on the wrong domain in the first place – and in these rare cases, simply give them the option in the header). We also implemented accurate hreflang tags across all pages of all domains.
We had to analyse raw server logs (Logs that record all website activity) to understand how crawling and indexing had change at the key point of the traffic drop. We use the Log Analysis tool by Screaming Frog along with a good old spreadsheet and some pivot tables. As for hreflang implementation, there was no tool online that allows you to build a large number of tags very quickly in a templated way, so we built our own tool internally with a VBA macro to generate all tags we required for implementation, instead of manually coding it in. We then used Google Tag Manager to create variables based on URL handle so we could implement our tags in a scalable way.
We had to implement proper hreflang implementation across the board. The challenge we faced here is that a .eu top-level domain (TLD) was targeting all European countries, and Google doesn’t support hreflang for EU. However, after intensive research, we identified strong signs that contrary to popular belief, you can point multiple hreflang to the same page – it had been vaguely confirmed by John Mueller on Twitter (Anything related to hreflang is always vague just because of the complexity and specificity of each case and issue) but there wasn’t any case study on degrees of success. It made sense for me that this very well could be our perfect solution, so we decided to write hreflang tagging for 78 european countries to point to the EU website.
In less than 48 hours the organic traffic shot up 500%, bringing it back to 10% above previous levels, across all TLDs but the .eu. In the case of the .eu, it took a week to recover as we found that since it was geo targeting a lot of countries, it took some time in a few of them for Google to properly re-index the .eu domain instead of the .com. Overall, our implementation was extremely successful, especially given there was previously no previous case confirming our solution would work.
INSIGHTSDon't take case studies for sacred knowledge, go ahead and implement by yourself. Click To Tweet
One of my regrets is that the tool we built for large scale hreflang implementation is not user friendly, quite specific to a certain type of issue, and doesn’t have a great interface, which means we can’t actually publish it anywhere, and I would have loved us to do that. This is because we weren’t entirely sure of the way it was going to go, as for a lot of things SEO, and we didn’t thing of the bigger picture or how we could get some extra value out of this build. As an advice: Keep experimenting, trial and error is how you get your SEO game better.
Don’t take case studies/best practice articles for sacred knowledge, go ahead and implement by yourself so you can assess personally the value of each action (You could for instance build a very simple WordPress website, try to make it rank, then try to penalise it, then try to remove the penalty – great exercise). Also think of the bigger picture, how can you get more benefits from your strategies and the work you do.