Pivoting in the face of COVID-19: How Wildgoose reinvented itself

Image representing remote working

Founded in 2003, Wildgoose is an award-winning, global leader in corporate events and team building. When lockdown began, Wildgoose's sales and pipeline took an immediate downturn, with a year-on-year drop in sales of 62% for the month of April.

The company had to act quickly, having just launched a new website in anticipation of a record-breaking 2020. Operational costs were tightened along with evaluations of the marketing and tech spend, and the company was forced to downsize its workforce by over 50%.

Wildgoose made a swift decision to repurpose its offering into a set of remote team building activities to connect people virtually. This pivot would ultimately protect the company's immediate future but also help it thrive. This was backed up by an SEO campaign from Distinctly.

What focus areas were targeted?

  • Using SEO experience, changing search keyphrases were predicted for post-lockdown queries at the top of the conversion funnel. Weekly analysis using specialist SEO tools allowed the team to tweak the optimisation and hone phrases towards key converting audience.
  • Focus link building activity to build the authority and organic visibility of the brand new remote team building pages.
  • Driving product awareness through expert comment from Wildgoose founder Jonny Edser talking around the new products.

What was achieved?

The move led to an overall increase in organic traffic of 62% and a sales increase of 158%, since the company's lowest point in April. In addition:

  • 40 backlinks returned from relevant HR and business publications.
  • Features in Forbes, the Chartered Management Institute and Thisismoney.co.uk.
  • A huge spike in demand for Wildgoose's virtual events (recent web traffic figures up by 54% year-on-year and website conversions up 158% in the three months since launch).
  • Gross profit increase of 180% from April to May and 26% from May to June.
  • The website is now ranking in the top 3 search results for key traffic-driving queries including “virtual team building uk”, “virtual team quiz” and “remote team building solutions.
  • The virtual team building products have an average rating of 5* on TrustPilot - crucial when encouraging people to enquire about a new product.

How it was done - rethinking Wildgoose's business model

Within days of the main revenue drivers effectively disappearing, Wildgoose founder Jonny Edser and the team were working on a way to secure the future of the business. The solution they came up with meant they could not only reshape their existing offering but take advantage of the sudden upswing in demand for virtual communication during lockdown.

Jonny Edser says, “By working proactively to deliver a brand new portfolio of remote team building activities that could be used to motivate employees while they worked from home, we could successfully evolve in this new socially-distanced world. At the same time, we could help thousands of companies to keep their teams engaged and connected during an uncertain and challenging period."

Having invested heavily in industry-leading technology in the years prior, Wildgoose had a real head start on their competitors.

Using SEO for a successful launch

Before coronavirus, Wildgoose weren't ranking in the search results for queries relating to 'remote', 'virtual' or 'online'. With the business model shifting, search visibility needed to reflect this new focus as quickly possible. Wildgoose's new products were one of the first to market, but they needed to be put in front of the right people.Matt Finch, SEO Manager at Distinctly

Matt Finch, SEO Manager at Distinctly, says “The speed at which the market was evolving made traditional SEO more challenging than usual. We were (and still are) tweaking the optimisation of the key Wildgoose pages a couple of times per week, as new data is available in Search Console. Promotion of the new Wildgoose products were identified as key targets.”

Keyphrase and content optimisation

People's searching habits have changed since lockdown began. Keyword research has had to change with it. Distinctly started by 'guesstimating' what people might be looking for and optimising the key product pages for short-tail keywords and 'top of the conversion funnel' queries.

Once these started ranking, Google Search Console was used to see exactly what search terms were bringing users to Wildgoose's product pages. Those pages were then optimised around these terms to ensure they were more targeted. This was checked multiple times per week, representing the extraordinary circumstances (normally it would be once a month to once a quarter for websites in stable verticals).

All this meant that new product and hub pages could rank highly for people's new search queries. Rather than targeting “team building activities”, the site could now target and rank for specific, long-tail keywords. Speed proved to be of the essence as not many sites were targeting these queries at that point.

Digital PR and link building

Wildgoose's unusual experience of pivoting its business offering meant there was unique data and content that could be used in relevant publications to promote the new products. A survey into people's experiences of remote working secured coverage and backlinks in over 40 HR and business publications, allowing links and authority to be built into the new product and category pages, aiding ranking chances.

An effective internal linking structure was also utilised, meaning pre-existing powerful pages were funnelling authority to the new pages to boost them further.

Finally, MD Jonny Edser was promoted as an expert in the field of virtual team building, which lead to features in Forbes, the Chartered Management Institute and Thisismoney.co.uk. All of this demonstrates to Google that Wildgoose were leading the way in the field, and so deserved to rank highly for its new target keywords and queries.

What's next?

Wildgoose is now firmly focussed on the future, with a renewed energy around product development and new gameplay formats. The company is streamlining its sales and operational processes and scaling its business model based on updated forecasts for the months ahead.

Copyright 2020. Article written by Matt Finch, SEO Manager at Distinctly

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