Pivoting with SEO: How Wildgoose Reinvented Itself in the Face of the COVID-19 Crisis

In partnership with search marketing agency Distinctly, the online business repositioning transformed a 62 per cent YoY sales drop into 158 per cent growth in just three months.

Matt Finch, SEO Manager at Distinctly, provides insight on how the team worked with events company Wildgoose to pivot quickly in the face of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Founded in 2003, Wildgoose is a global leader in corporate events and team building, winning numerous awards for the thousands of experiences it delivers across the world annually. When lockdown began, Wildgoose’s sales and pipeline took an immediate downturn, with a year on year drop in sales of 62 per cent for the month of April.

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

A swift decision was made to repurpose Wildgoose’s offering into a set of remote team building activities to connect people virtually. This pivot would ultimately prove not only to protect the company’s immediate future but to help it thrive, and was backed up by an SEO campaign from Distinctly with three-month areas of focus in place.

What focus areas were targeted?

  • Using SEO experience to predict changing search keyphrases after lockdown for queries at the top of the conversion funnel – weekly analysis using specialist SEO tools 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 has led to an overall increase in organic traffic of 62 per cent and a sales increase of 158 per cent, since the company’s lowest point in April. In addition:

  • 40 backlinks returned from relevant HR and business publications via linkable asset press release promotion.
  • Features in Forbes, the Chartered Management Institute, and Thisismoney.co.uk.
  • Wildgoose has seen a huge spike in demand for its virtual events, with recent web traffic figures up by 54 per cent YoY and website conversions up 158 per cent YoY in the three months since launch.
  • The same is happening with total revenue figures, with an increase of 180 per cent in gross profit from April to May, and 26 per cent from May to June.
  • The website is now ranking in the top three search results for key traffic-driving queries including “virtual team building uk”, “virtual away day”, “virtual treasure hunts”, “virtual team quiz”, “remote team building solutions”, “team quizzes for work” and “virtual team escape room”.
  • The virtual team building products received excellent reviews and an average rating of 5* on TrustPilot. This is particularly 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 – and incorporated a new tech division in 2019 – we found that Wildgoose had a real headstart on competitors in the market who were all trying to switch their team building offering to something more technology-based.”

Using SEO for a successful launch

Before coronavirus, Wildgoose weren’t ranking in the search results for any queries relating to “remote”, “virtual” or “online”. With the business model shifting, search visibility needed to follow suit, so this needed to change as soon as 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, 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 keeps showing up in Search Console. Digital PR promotion of the new Wildgoose products were identified as key targets.”

Keyphrase and content optimisation

People’s searching habits have changed since lockdown set in, so traditional keyword research has had to change with it. Instead:

  • Distinctly set about “guesstimating” what people might be looking for, optimising the key product pages for short-tail keywords and “top of the conversion funnel” queries.
  • Once these started ranking, Google Search Console could then be used to see exactly what search terms were bringing users to Wildgoose’s product pages.
  • The pages could then be better optimised around these terms, becoming 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).
  • 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 like “remote team building solutions”, “virtual team building for employees working remotely”, “virtual away days”, and more.
  • Speed was of the essence in the race to get ranking, as not many sites were originally targeting these queries.

Digital PR and link building

Wildgoose’s unusual experience of redesigning its business offering meant there were 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.

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

Turning Wildgoose’s fortunes around

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. Expect to see more traditional team building activities made virtual over the coming months.