The thought of combining two very successful websites into one would make most marketers quake in their boots. How did David Meerman Scott do it without interruption to his business AND see improvements in traffic and search engine rankings?
David Meerman Scott
This week onThe Inbound Success Podcast I’m joined by famed marketing expert, best-selling author, entrepreneur and internationally-renowned keynote speaker David Meerman Scott, along with IMPACT’s own principal strategist Stacy Willis.
The two recently worked together on a project to merge two of David’s websites into one. Both sites attracted a significant volume of traffic and were important drivers of business for David – something that made the notion of combining them very scary.
In our conversation, David and Stacy talk about why they combined the sites, how they did it, and the results they saw.
This week’s episode of The Inbound Success Podcast is brought to you by our sponsor, IMPACT Live, the most immersive and high energy learning experience for marketers and business leaders. IMPACT Live takes place August 6-7, 2019 in Hartford Connecticut and is headlined by Marcus Sheridan along with keynote speakers including world-renowned Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith and Drift CEO and Co-Founder David Cancel.
Inbound Success Podcast listeners can save 10% off the price of tickets with the code “SUCCESS”.
Click here to learn more or purchase tickets for IMPACT Live
Some highlights from my conversation with David and Stacy include:
David’s primary website is DavidMeermanScott.com. He had several other sites including webinknow, which had over 1,500 blog posts and a considerable number of valuable backlinks.
When David and Stacy worked together to design his main website, they made the decision to merge all of the content from webinknow into the main site.
One of the main reasons they decided to combine the two sites was they were cannibalizing each other when it came to keyword rankings and traffic.
Stacy used tools like Screaming Frog and SEMRush to analyze how David’s sites ranked and for which keywords, and that is how she was able to determine that these two particular sites should be merged (while some of David’s other sites should not be folded into the main site).
Having a plan for putting 301 redirects in place for all of the pages that were going to be merged was essential to the success of the project.
Stacy also evaluated David’s website traffic to determine which blogs were getting the most traffic and used this as an opportunity to improve the way they were optimized.
Central to this process was the development of a topic cluster strategy for David’s news site.
Within weeks of launching the new site, Stacy was able to determine that all of David’s traffic and keyword rankings from the two separate sites were preserved with the move to the new site.
In the weeks that followed, they also saw that many of his keyword rankings actually improved further, and he has begun to see an increase in lead flow to the site.
David’s advice to anyone considering combining multiple websites is to take the project in stages.
Resources from this episode:
Save 10% off the price of tickets to IMPACT Live with promo code “SUCCESS”
David Meerman Scott’s website
Stacy’s article on The SEO Implications of Changing Domains During a Website Redesign (& a Successful Example)
“Is SEO Dead in 2019?” (pillar content collaboration between Liz Murphy and Franco Valentino)
Listen to the podcast to get details of the exact process David and Stacy went through to merge David’s two websites and increase his search engine rankings.
Kathleen Booth (Host):Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. I’m Kathleen Booth, and I’m your host. Today we have a special episode of the Inbound Success podcast.
I have two guests. The first is my colleague, Stacy Willis, who is a strategist here at IMPACT. The second is David Meerman Scott, who is the famed author, keynote speaker, entrepreneur, 10 books…
I’m sure I’m missing so much in how I’m describing you, David. For those people who’ve been living a rock for the last decade, can you tell my audience a little bit about you, who you are, and the kind of work you do?
David Meerman Scott (Guest): Sure, and thanks for having me on. This is so much fun. I really appreciate it.
David, Kathleen and Stacy recording this episode
About David Meerman Scott
David: I was a corporate marketing guy for many years. I worked in Asia for 10 years. I was the vice president of marketing of two different publicly traded technology companies.
I got fired in 2002, had to figure out what the heck I was going to do, so started to work with a few clients. Then I started to write, and had a book called The New Rules of Marketing and PR. It hit the international bestseller list. It went crazy, and just has sold to date over 400,000 copies. It’s in 29 different languages.
I’ve written nine other books besides that, and I also serve on advisory boards of companies, including HubSpot. I was the first Advisor to HubSpot when they had less than 10 people and no revenue.
David: I’ve been with them ever since. I wrote a book with HubSpot CEO, Brian Halligan, called Marketing Lessons From the Grateful Dead.
I invented the concept of newsjacking that I know IMPACTers talked about a lot. It was my invention and it is now in the Oxford English Dictionary, which is an awesome thing.
I’ve been working with IMPACT now for a couple of years. As you well know, you’ve done my marketing work. You’ve built out four different websites for me, so I really appreciate the effort and work that you’ve done on my behalf. I can work with anyone on the planet – bestselling marketing author – but I choose to work with you, so I really appreciate that, and I’m really happy that we can have this discussion.
Kathleen: That is really very kind of you to say. We are very fortunate that we get to work with you.
I think this is such a fascinating conversation to me because you are clearly a man who has a lot going on. I don’t think the moss grows under you very often.
David: Yeah, when I start to get a little bored I book a speaking gig in a crazy country. I’ve actually spoken in 46 different countries, most recently last month in Romania.
Yeah, the moss doesn’t grow because I jump on an airplane so it doesn’t.
Kathleen: I love it. One of the things that’s so fascinating to me about your situation as you describe is you’ve published many books. You have all these very diverse initiatives you undertake as an entrepreneur, and that could become, as some marketers I know like to say, a “Frankenmonster” of a marketing undertaking. If you have a ton of websites, a lot of different marketing channels, that can quickly become very unmanageable.
I know one of the things that we’ve been working on recently with you – and I shouldn’t say “we” because I’ve had nothing to do with it, it’s really Stacy and her team – is looking at how do we maybe combine some of those disparate marketing efforts into a more unified web presence.
You obviously have a unique situation, but there are a lot of companies out there that have different brands or different divisions that might have multiple web presences. One thing I do have a lot of experience with is talking to those companies and hearing the anxiety in their voice when they think about, “Oh my god, I’m afraid to touch it because I might break the internet,” right?
David: Hey, I have that fear too, right, Stacy? That was freaking me out. It was breaking my website. I think I probably said to Stacy and the team 30 or 40 times, “This is not going to break this, right? I’m going to be okay. I don’t have to sweat it.”
We’ll get into the details shortly, but I had a blog I started in 2004. There were over 1,500 blog posts. It’s so important to my business, and I’m like, “We’re not going to break it. We can’t break it.”
But you’re right, I do have a bit of that Frankenmonster that you described for a couple of reasons. I’ve tried to build out a basic website for some of the books that I’ve written because I try to choose a unique title for books. For example, World Wide Rave, there’s a website around World Wide Rave. There’s a website for a book I wrote called Marketing the Moon.
I’ve got some other websites out there. I have DMScott.tv. I got some junk out there too, but there’s some that are important.
Part of that is like I’m like a venture capitalist where I say, “Gee, I’ve got a new project coming up, and I think that it’s got some potential to perhaps be something that’s worth a standalone presence, so let’s create one.” That might be a new book for me or it might be a new concept.
In the case of a couple of my books, it wasn’t really that beneficial, and in fact now those sites are basically orphans. In some cases, I take the site down and redirect it somewhere else, typically to the book page on my main website, which is David Meerman Scott, but in other cases, it’s been incredibly powerful, for example, in the case of newsjacking.
Newsjacking is a concept that I pioneered. It must be about six or eight years ago now. When I first started to talk about newsjacking, nobody else was talking about it. It’s basically the idea that if you understand the news cycle, you can inject your ideas into that news cycle and generate tons of media attention and grow your business, get sales leads.
It’s a fabulous concept, and I bought the URL newsjacking as soon as I knew that I was going to be talking about this concept. Man, was that a smart move because every single day there are people who are writing about newsjacking. Every single day there are people who are using social networks with the hashtag newsjacking. All of that points back to me now because I have Newsjacking.com. I have that URL.
I am the pioneer of newsjacking, but it’s made official because I have that URL. Then when the Oxford English Dictionary listed newsjacking in the dictionary, they wrote about me as the person who founded it, and that drove even more traffic to the site.
On one hand, I’ve got sites that are orphans and maybe they end up just being redirects. In other cases, they become standalone properties in their own right.
The Frankenmonster thing is like a VC. Sometimes it’s going to take off and do great; sometimes it’s not, and I never know which one is going to be which.
Combining Multiple Websites
Stacy Willis (Guest): It really made for an interesting challenge for your website.
David: Especially with one of the sites that we combined, I’ve had, gosh, 12 years, something like that, the other one since 2004. What’s that? 15 years. It’s a combined almost 30 years of those two websites with thousands and thousands of keywords, so you’re right. It was a challenge.
Kathleen: I think that’s what’s really interesting about this, because you have this very disparate set of sites – things like newsjacking, that have taken on a life of their own. Yeah, you wouldn’t want to touch that because, gosh, there’s no bigger holy grail for a search engine marketer than a back link from the Oxford English Dictionary. Talk about authority, right?
But then you have these little sites that were trial balloons you sent out that maybe didn’t go anywhere. It’s an easy thing to say, “Well, let’s take the trial balloon and merge it into the mothership,” but you were talking in this case about taking a site that had a substantial amount of content that was delivering results for you and merging it into another big one. There’s the potential to break both essentially.
So coming into this, David, can you talk a little bit about what your goals were for this whole undertaking?
David: Yeah, sure, of course. So I had two sites that your team – actually, Stacy and the team – recommended that we merge. It wasn’t my initial plan because frankly it scared the hell out of me to do it.
But the two sites are DavidMeermanScott.com, which is my basic front page to the world. That’s the site where I typically will have people who are interested in having me speak will go to that website and learn about my speaking. There’s a bunch of videos on that site. That’s also where people will go to learn about my coaching services and my advisory work. When people want to quote me in a news article or story, that’s the place they’ll go. It’s basically the home base of David Meerman Scott.
Oh, and by the way, I just might add, my middle name is Meerman. I chose to use that 20 years ago when I built my first website because I’m the only David Meerman Scott on the entire planet. There’s a whole boatload of David Scotts, but there’s only one David Meerman Scott.
There’s a David Scott that walked on the moon as the commander of Apollo 15. There’s a David Scott who’s a multiple time Iron Man world triathlon champion. There’s a David Scott who’s a member of Congress from Georgia. That’s just a few of us.
Kathleen: Very good company.
David: It’s good company, but when I first started my first website 20 years ago, I wasn’t going to be able to get any traction against those more famous David Scotts, but putting my middle name in, I was the only one. That was actually a very clever search engine marketing tactic I did a long time ago that I figured out myself.
But anyway, getting back to DavidMeermanScott.com, that’s my home base on the web. That’s where people go to learn about me, maybe to book me to speak, to ask for a quote in an article, to pitch me something, to learn about my coaching services and to learn about my online learning programs and whatnot.
My other main web property is the horrifically named webinknow. Don’t ask me about that, but when I started it back in 2004, I was trying to come up with a name for my blog.
Why I didn’t just call it David Meerman Scott’s blog I have no idea, but I didn’t. I called it webinknow, W-E-B I-N-K N-O-W, which a lot of people didn’t know what it meant, so they said, “web in know,” which is actually spelled the same way, which makes no sense either.
I was trying to imply with webinknow, it’s web ink. It’s like you’re writing. It was a long time ago granted in the beginning of the internet, so it made sense at the time I suppose, but it was a very important property for me because that’s where I blogged at least once a week for 15 years. It was a lot of content there.
David: There are some blog posts that had millions of views, so there are some blog posts that had hundreds of inbound links. It is a very important property to me.
I’d love to have Stacy jump in, but as we were looking at these two properties that were so important to me, we realized that there might be benefit in combining them, which totally freaked me out, but I was talked down from the cliff, and we decided that, yes, this does make sense.
I don’t know, Stacy, do you want to jump in or do you have another question, Kathleen?
Kathleen: I’m going to frame the question for you, Stacy, because this is really interesting to me. As somebody who is a strategist who works with clients, I know you’ve had multiple situations where there have been companies that have said, “Should we or should we not combine these two web properties?”
From your standpoint as the outside strategist looking at this, when would you say, “Yes, you should combine these two,” versus when would you say, “These should stay separate”?
Stacy: This is actually a really interesting case because we said both to David, right? We said, “Don’t combine your newsjacking but do combine webinknow,” right?
Essentially what we looked at first and foremost was how much cannibalization was happening. Were we ranking for some of the same keywords? Was one site taking traffic away from the other site when it might make more sense to combine forces essentially and get even better rankings and drive all of the traffic to the same place?
Most importantly, David, for your site is, were we cannibalizing traffic that might ultimately want to hire us to speak? To look to us for coaching and sending it to the wrong website that doesn’t convert people down the right path for that?
Stacy: When we looked at the data, we found that it made sense for webinknow to come on to the David Meerman Scott domain, and it didn’t necessarily make sense for a newsjacking.
Newsjacking had its own really specific topic area. That even made for another layer of interesting keyword strategy because we wanted to be really careful about talking about the newsjacking book.
We definitely want that on your website, right? It’s really great credibility. It’s important to show the world what you’ve done, but if we talk about it too much, do we start cannibalizing traffic from the newsjacking site and bringing it over to yours? That put a lot of interesting thought process into this strategy that we put together for the book pages.
But really the big reason for combining webinknow was that big cannibalization factor, and the fact that we really wanted to drive up the domain credibility for the David Meerman Scott domain.
Kathleen: I want to make sure I understand. Let’s just focus for a second on webinknow and the David Meerman Scott main site. You were looking specifically at the various keyword sets that each was ranking for. Were you looking at where there was overlap or were you looking simply at like with webinknow, here are the keywords that rank really well, but we would very much like these to be what the David Meerman Scott site ranks for?
Stacy: It was a bit of both. The biggest thing that we really looked at was where there was overlap. If we have two websites that are ranking well for the same term, that means one of them is getting the traffic at the expense of the other, right? We wanted to find ways to stop that if we saw too many overlaps, and that was the case with this.
We saw enough overlap, and there wasn’t a strong enough reason from our perspective when we talked through it with David to keep webinknow separate, aside from that, because there’s always things that you can’t necessarily just look at data and have an answer to.
From a branding perspective, it may have still made sense to keep a website separate even if data tells you to do it. We looked up both sides, and it, just from both ends of the spectrum, made sense to move them together.
Kathleen: Stacy made this recommendation. You immediately, David, thought what?
David: The biggest thing was I was really worried about doing it because it’s such a big part of not just my business but my life because I actually go to my own blog and search on stories to remember things. I’ll say to myself, “When was I in Russia?” I’ll go to my blog and search “Russia” to see if I wrote a blog post about being in Russia because I can’t remember when I was there, that kind of thing, or I’ll remember that I did a post about a particular topic. As I’m doing work on, say, another book or whatever it is, I want to get information, so it’s not just even the business aspect. It’s the personal aspect of how important that blog was for me.
I was really, really worried that number one, something disastrous would happen, and it would disappear.
I guess that’s human nature. I was assured many times that there’s multiple backups of this and we can download it locally and we could do all this other stuff, so, okay, fine. Then I was worried because I’m not an expert in this stuff. I’m a marketing strategist, yes, but I’m not an under-the-covers SEO person.
I was worried that all of those fantastic inbound links – and I don’t know, Stacy, if you know how many we have, but it’s certainly thousands of inbounds link – would somehow break.
I was worried about that and my credibility would go down, so those things I needed to be reassured or under control, but I was really happy about losing the horrible name, webinknow, because even from the first year, it just didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
It would have been a very different discussion however if my blog name was really interesting. For example, if I had called it “The Marketing Blog,” or something like that, that had SEO in its own right, I’m not sure that combining them would have made as much sense. But when you have a URL for a blog and a name for a blog that’s so confusing, people don’t even know what it is, then that’s a good reason to combine.
The Process of Combining Two Websites
Kathleen: That’s a good point. You all took the decision to do this. Can you walk me through what the next steps were? Did you have to start by cataloging the content? How did you prepare for this undertaking?
Stacy: Yeah, so the biggest thing that we went through is the webinknow domain, since that was going to be the one that was going away and moving over the David Meerman Scott domain.
Internally, we used a tool called Screaming Frog for this. We went and did an audit of literally every single URL that existed over there to make sure that we weren’t going to miss anything when we moved everything over.
We migrated all of the blogs in draft form first, so nothing actually changed on the live site. Everything still looked the same to the outside world. We got everything set up and ready, and then we had to create this massive 301 redirect file essentially where we start pulling what were all of the old URLs that we need to make sure, redirect and move to new URLs on the new website.
David: There were over 1500 of them.
Kathleen: I imagine that most of our listeners know what a 301 redirect is, but just for anyone who doesn’t, fair to say it’s like a change of address form for Google basically?
Stacy: Yes. It’s when you go to the post office and you give them your new address and do mail forwarding essentially.
Stacy: It moves everything over from your old URL to your new URL.
301 redirects tend to be less scary when they’re within a domain. They tend to get a lot scarier, and this is when you get people who get very nervous about moving from a completely different domain to another one. That’s when there’s a little bit more at stake and it’s a little bit easier for Google to get confused, and for traffic to get lost in that forwarding process.
We wanted to make sure that we were being really very careful about it. We made sure all those redirects were set up. In addition to that, we took the opportunity to say, “Do we have ways that we could adjust some of the URLs that used to exist and keyword optimize them as we move them to the new website?”
We’re going to be changing the URL anyway. Can we find ways to actually improve the keyword optimization of any of our existing content?
We looked at that, and then we also keyword optimized all of the new pages that we were creating as part of the redesign, so that they fit with the content and the structure and all of the topics that were coming across from webinknow. We took the opportunity to say, “We have all this old stuff that, oh my god, if we lose it, the world will end, but how can we take that and make it fresh and new and still combine it with an updated strategy for today?”
Kathleen: Now, for somebody outside of this, that sounds like a massive undertaking. How do you do this in a way that isn’t going to take months? This is 15 years’ worth of content.
David: Let me add a little bit of clarification that might help first, and then I’ll let Stacy talk about some of the details. When I first started working with IMPACT, I’m going to guess it was about two years ago or maybe even three years ago. I can’t remember. We did two projects together that were essentially setting this up to make this process easier.
The first thing that we did was we moved my DavidMeermanScott.come website from a WordPress site to a HubSpot site. That happened, again, I don’t remember the exact date, call it three years ago.
The second thing that we did was we created webinknow, which was in Typepad, and moved that over also to HubSpot. Again, I don’t know, let’s call it two or threes years ago that was done.
Those two projects were pretty significant undertakings in their own right that happened several years ago, so that now we’re sitting with both DavidMeermanScott.com and webinknow.com under the same HubSpot account, which in my mind makes things easier.
I’m putting words in Stacy’s mouth, but in my mind makes things easier. I personally wasn’t as worried as if we had been moving from WordPress to HubSpot with DavidMeermanScott.com and moving from Typepad to HubSpot with my blog, and then combining them all at the same time, which would have given me more sleepless nights.
Kathleen: Yeah, I can imagine.
Stacy: Yeah, and I’m definitely okay with people putting words in my mouth if they’re the right words, so I totally agree with that.
I would say the best way to help make this process more manageable, there’s going to be parts of the process that you can say, “Let’s focus on the best performing content,” and there’s going to be parts of this process that you would say, “Well, this is going to be tedious. I’m just going to have to put my big girl pants on and do it.”
The 301 redirects, there’s no shortcuts; there’s no turnarounds; there’s nothing. You have to make sure that you are moving things over appropriately. When you’re doing a blog migration this tends to be pretty easy because you can really move things over if you’re keeping the same URLs. Everything that’s after the slash, so it’s moving from domain.com to domain.com/blog/whatever.
Everything after the slash tends to stay the same if you’re a straight blog migration, so you can do those more simplified where you create a rule for your redirect where everything of this type of the structure, so everything that’s got the “/blog” in front of it all redirects to the same thing on the other website. They can be made easier in that way, but anything where you’re changing the URL completely-
Kathleen: Which you did.
Stacy: We did on a few cases, so we didn’t do it on all of them. This is where we focus on our highest performing content or the content that needs it the most.
What you would do is if you’re looking to improve your optimization, you might select the top 5% of converting blog posts, for example. Hey, these top 10% of our posts convert the most visitors. I want to make sure that we’re super extra keyword optimizing them to get the most out of them.
You might really say if you’re going to put in extra effort in any place, just focus on the ones that are going to drive you the most results, right? For the most part, we moved everything over with that same URL structure to keep it simple and safe and less scary.
But – we also at the same time that we did this – we put together a topic cluster keyword strategy, and made sure that anything that we could pull into that cluster that was fitting in terms of topic area or already talking about a similar keyword, and we pulled those pieces in and did things like update URLs or update the keywords on the page that we’re moving over in order to fit that new strategy.
We took the opportunity to do a hybrid, keep what was old and find a way to utilize and make new what we could improve.
Kathleen: I like that strategy of prioritization.
I want to make sure I understand what you said. You cherry picked, as you call them, the top performing posts. Was it based on conversion rate or based on traffic or was it a mix of the two?
Stacy: In this case, we really focused on the pieces that would fit within our topic cluster strategy. If you were doing this and you weren’t doing it at the same time as the topic cluster strategy, you may pick the top converting posts as an example, but we really focused on those that fit with the topic cluster.
Kathleen: Okay, great. I’d love to jump forward and talk about what happened. You undertook this process. You merged the two sites, and then what? Did everything break? Did David’s worst fears come true?
Stacy: It was very, very smooth. There’s always an expectation when you do something like this, when you move from one domain to another, that Google’s going to take a few weeks to catch up. What we do when we launch is we always make sure as soon as everything’s up running and looks good, we resubmit our site map to Google to make sure that they are starting to index it immediately, so shorten that process and have them understand those new redirects as fast as we can.
Kathleen: You’re doing that through Google Search Console?
Stacy: Correct, yes, my favorite tool. It’s basically like, “Let me talk to you, Google, directly about what you know about me instead of guessing.”
After that, we kept a really close eye on what was happening. Was traffic moving over?
Within the first two weeks after the site was launched, we were at the place where, if you looked at the traffic numbers for each individual domain before and you added them together, they now equaled on your traffic. We were getting almost all of the traffic across. The only difference would be that the traffic that we were cannibalizing now is all coming to one site, which is great. We weren’t splitting between the two.
Then the keywords that we were ranking for immediately rebounded as well. Each site, if you look individually at the number of keywords, that it had ranking in the top 20, the top 30, the top 50, whatever number or range you’re looking at and added those two numbers together. Within two weeks, we were summing up to that total on the new domain. We had everything move over and continue to keep the same ranking level through that move.
The exciting part was we actually even saw our rankings improve or new rankings appear for some of the pieces that we deemed appropriate and put as part of our cluster strategy.
Kathleen: Wow, that’s great. Any particular lessons learned or things that you would do differently or things that you would advise somebody listening who’s considering doing this to really watch out for if they want to undertake this for themselves?
Stacy: The most important thing I can say is make sure you understand if you are considering either changing a domain or combining multiple domains together.
Make sure you understand everything about how each of those domains is working today before you start making the decision about whether you should even undertake something like this because if you don’t actually know how things are working or if you don’t know if you’re cannibalizing traffic, you may make the wrong decision and go through this process needlessly or make it a little bit harder on yourself.
Just making sure that you know what your domain is doing, what keywords you’re ranking for, what kind of traffic you’re driving from search, and then use that to inform your decision, as opposed to waiting until you’ve already made the decision.
Kathleen: You mentioned Screaming Frog, but you used that to catalog the URLs on the one site. Any other particular tools that you think are must-haves for this kind of a process?
Stacy: Absolutely, so in order to find out if we’re cannibalizing traffic, the tool that we use internally to do that is called SEMrush or S-E-Mrush. I think I’ve heard it pronounced both ways. But that one, it’s great.
It actually gives you a really easy visual of how big your overlap is, so it actually visualizes it as a Venn diagram. If you put like, “Here’s the keyword universe of site A and here’s the keyword universe of site B, and here’s how much they overlap,” you can really start to understand how that cannibalization is happening or if it’s even happening. If there’s no overlap, then you’re fine. The sites are probably not really causing problems for each other, but if you’re within the same topic area, there’s usually going to be a decent amount of overlap.
That’s what we used to decide if it made sense to combine the URLs or not.
The Owner’s Perspective
Kathleen: Great, and David, from your standpoint, obviously there was a lot of trepidation going into this process. Stacy has explained what happened from the technical side, the ranking side, but as the business owner, can you speak to your experience through the launch and post-launch? Was there an interruption to the business? How did that all play out?
David: For me, I think what was absolutely critical and made it happen really smoothly was that it was done in stages.
As I mentioned a couple of moments ago, the first stage, which happened several years ago, was to move the website from WordPress over to HubSpot and then we moved the blog from Typepad over to HubSpot. Those happened several years ago at two different times.
Then we did a redesign of the website, followed by a redesign of the blog, and finally the last step was combining them. For me, it wasn’t a massive “tear down the house and rebuild it.” It was more like what we did was we were still living in the old house, but we built a new foundation and then we built the new house, and then we painted the new house. Then we built a wall between homes and we tried out the new house for size and it seemed to fit. Then we moved in and we knocked down the old house.
It was a really, really staged process. For me, I found that to be a really thoughtful way to go through it that I was able to manage given all the other things that I’m doing. There’s many times that we’d be communicating and I’d be in some other country about to jump onto a stage to give a speech, for example. I really appreciated that it was done in those stages. For that reason, it wasn’t like, “Oh my god, we just did a redesign and combined everything, and I’ve got to learn a new tool and how to use it,” all at the same time, which would have been a problem.
From my perspective, it went really smoothly. I was really excited to see that for certain search terms, instead of being position five and position eight, we’d jump up to position two for the same keyword, things like that.
That was a real major part of the strategy, so it ended up working, although, I don’t have enough data yet to be able to say.
Ultimately the main goal is that I want to generate more leads particularly for my speaking business. I think it was just within the time that this project was finished I had quite a few more leads than I had been getting. It looks like tomorrow I’m going to close a nice speaking gig for an organization in Canada, which I’m excited about, who found me through search.
That was the ultimate goal, and it looks like that’s playing out.
This is not easy. Stacy and the team did the work, but even as the business owner who is involved in the process start to finish, it’s not an easy process. But once it’s done, it’s like moving into that new house. It’s all worth it because you live better and happier and healthier and with more prosperity, so it’s all worth it.
Kathleen: I think that’s really fascinating what you said about the stages. A lot of times I talk to companies who are sitting in that situation of, “Oh my god, I have these three websites, or these two websites that I need to combine or I’m thinking I might want to combine.” It can seem overwhelming.
What I’m hearing is that maybe the first thing isn’t to try to, as they say, eat the elephant all in one bite. It’s to say, “How can I get myself on a surer footing and maybe put these two websites on the same platform?”
It was funny. You used the analogy of the house renovation. In my head, what I was thinking is there’s some types of surgery, I feel like ACL replacement, where they tell you you have to get in shape in order to have the surgery. I feel like this is like that. We’re going to get in shape before we go into surgery.
David: No, and I think that’s right. I use the house metaphor because we actually did a massive renovation project on our house that finished up about two years ago. That’s exactly how we did it.
We not only renovated the original house, but we also created an addition to the house. It was a long three year process to do that, and we decided we wanted to live in the house during the process.
That’s the same as this project. The website cannot go away. The blog cannot go away, yet we’re trying to renovate it and combine it all while it’s still running.
I think that’s the best metaphor is that renovation and addition project that we did it while still living in the house. That’s what we did with this project, and I think it worked great.
It is hard, but I think so far it’s only been a couple of months since we’ve been completed, but so far it’s been totally worth it.
We haven’t talked about the design at all, but the design of the new combined website / blog is fabulous. It does a way better job at showcasing who I am than what we had originally, which was old and dusty. It was built quite a few years ago. A different company, not IMPACT, worked on it. It was adequate at the time. I wasn’t embarrassed by it, but what I’ve got now, I’m really proud of, so it’s really big, great change.
Kathleen: Stacy, do we have any before and after pictures of the site?
Stacy: We could definitely get some.
Kathleen: Yeah, I would love to put those in the show notes, so we could see the transformation. That’s always so much fun.
DavidMeermanScott.com Before and After
This is David’s current website homepage (designed by Stacy and the team at IMPACT):
This was David’s homepage prior to the redesign (courtesy of the Wayback Machine):
Kathleen: Really interesting to hear about this process.
I know, Stacy, you’re writing an article on this that, by the time this interview goes live. It’s going to be up on our site, so I will link to that.
Click here to read Stacy’s article
Kathleen: David, I think you’re going to be posting some things on this from your perspective, so I’ll link to that as well.
If you’re listening and you want to learn more or dig in, get more details, head to the show notes on the IMPACT website, and you’ll find a link to David’s article, Stacy’s article, and some cool before and after pictures as well as some screen shots of the results that David got (check out his organic keyword rankings below!).
Kathleen’s Two Questions
Kathleen: Changing subjects for a minute, there are two questions I always like to ask my guests. I’m going to ask both of you. I’m going to start with David.
David, I’m really interested in this one because you were an advisor to HubSpot from way back in the beginning. I always like to ask every guest I have, company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?
David: That’s a very, very interesting question.
One of my favorite companies to talk about is a little tiny company in York, Maine, called Grain Surfboards. They make sustainable wooden surfboards. They’re a little company. I think there’s four or five people there. They run out of a barn in York, Maine.
They just do a fabulous job at their inbound marketing. They’re not marketers. They’re people who make surfboards for a living. I ran across them because I did a search on Google for wooden surfboards. I found them. Wow, they have a really cool website. This is really interesting. Then I found that not only can you buy a wooden surfboard, but you can actually go through a wooden surfboard course where you can make your own wooden surfboard, so I signed up. I did that, then I went back and I did it a second time.
Kathleen: That’s so cool.
David: Through one Google search, I think I’ve spent $4,000 to go through two wooden surfboard building courses at Grain Surfboards. I’m a really big fan of organizations like that that have either zero marketing dollars in their marketing budget or maybe there’s $150 and somebody’s brother-in-law, but they can still do a fabulous job.
Kathleen: I love that example, and I know a lot of my listeners are companies just like that. It’s great to hear an example of somebody successful doing this with a shortage of resources.
Stacy, how about you? Who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?
Stacy: This answer’s going to sound totally self-serving, but especially for the topic area as we’ve talked about, there’s two resources that I’ve relied on super heavily to learn about all of the pieces that built the way that we do keyword strategies, and then all of the technical SEO knowledge to make sure that we could pull something off like this without breaking David’s site.
That’s Liz Murphy internally at IMPACT is an incredible resource for understanding how to build topic clusters and pillar strategies.
Then Franco Valentino from Narrative SEO, which is a partner of IMPACT’s – those are my two go-to sources of information.
They have put out such great content. We just released a pillar page that was a collaboration between the two of them. If you really want the best of the best information on SEO. Exactly, but those the places that I’ve been going for, especially in this topic area.
Kathleen: Great. Yeah, I have to say I couldn’t do my job without the two of them, so I would agree with that.
Alright, for the second question, I’m going to start with Stacy and end with David. We’ll change up the order.
Second question I always ask is with the world of digital marketing changing at, it would sometimes can seem like, a lightning fast pace, how do you stay educated and up to date? Stacy, let’s start with you.
Stacy: I try and find a balance because you could really easily get just swept up in the tons and tons and tons of information that is out there and being produced day in and day out. It’s almost impossible to keep up and say you know everything about everything.
I’ve picked some topic areas that I try to make sure that I am constantly up to date on. I’ll tend to return back to really specific sources for those areas. For example, the SEMrush blog for SEO stuff specifically is topnotch. It’s where I learn a lot of what I do.
Then I try to, on occasion, google terms that fit with the topic area as well and find new sources that are maybe outside of what I know already because it’s really easy to get stuck in that little bubble of people who think and talk and act just like you, instead of looking out at people who are looking at things a different way.
Kathleen: Great. David, how do you stay current?
David: I do have some blog and other sources that I read on a regular basis.
I get the IMPACT content, which I love, of course.
I read Seth Godin.
I read a guy called Bob Lefsetz, who’s absolutely not a marketer. He writes about music, but he has a fascinating take on the music business, which I think, because I’m such a huge music fan, that I apply those ideas to marketing in general.
But the vast majority of the way I keep current is when I speak at conferences all over the world on a regular basis. I don’t just go do my speech and leave. I go, I listen to the other sessions. I meet people at lunch. I go out to the dinners or the cocktail receptions and find out what people are up to.
I serve on about a dozen advisory boards. I don’t do traditional consulting. I’m not a consultant. I’m not a marketing agency or anything like that, but I do serve as an advisor to about a dozen different companies, including HubSpot, who I’ve been with since 2007.
I try in every case, when I’m working with those advisory clients, to learn how they do their marketing. What’s working? What’s not working? How can we make this better? That’s really great because it’s almost like I’m not an employee of those companies, but I am essentially an insider, so I’m able to see what’s going on in their real world situation.
That combination keeps me to the point where I’m feeling like I’m current for what works for me, although there’s plenty of people who are way more on the cutting edge than I am.
Kathleen: I think it sounds like the common theme between both of you is knowing what you want your area of focus to be, and not trying to be an expert in all things. That’s a good take away.
David: Yeah, and in my case, working with IMPACT and working with Stacy and the team, it’s been great because I consider myself a marketing strategist. I love the strategy aspect. I am decidedly not an SEO expert, not a designer. I don’t know what’s going on. I know what a 301 redirect is, but that was about the extent of my knowledge of most of what Stacy just said over the last 45 minutes.
I’m fortunate to be able to be partnered with you guys on the project because I had a vision for what I wanted to accomplish, but I had no clue whatsoever how to get there.
Kathleen: It’s been really interesting for me to hear you guys talk about this experience because in my many years of first being an agency owner and then I was on the sales team at IMPACT, I’ve talked to so many different companies, and this kind of thing comes up a lot. The stress and worry and tension that always bubbles under the surface is really palpable. It’s interesting to hear a real example of this process having been carried through to its end and having gone well. Thank you for sharing that.
David: Oh yeah, and thank you for having me on, and thank you, Stacy, for all the hard work.
Stacy: Awesome. Thanks for letting us tinker with your site even though it was scary.
How to Reach David and Stacy
Kathleen: I know that you can find Stacy at IMPACTbnd.com. David, if somebody wants to get in touch with you, learn more about what you do, maybe talk with you about coming to speak, can you tell them the best way to find you online?
David: The fabulously redesigned DavidMeermanScott is a great place. If you google my name as we spoke about earlier, David Meerman Scott, it will only pop me up, which is neat. On most social networks, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, I am DMScott, D-M-S-C-O-T-T.
You Know What To Do Next…
Kathleen: Great. Thank you both for being here today.
If you’re listening and you enjoyed what you heard or you learned something new, of course, as always, I would love it if you would give the podcast a review on Apple Podcast or the platform of your choice.
If you know someone who is doing kick ass inbound marketing work, please tweet me at Workmommywork because I would love to interview them. That’s it for this week. Thanks.
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