The following blog post includes an interview with Hamlet Batista and Cloudflare’s Zach Bloom. What the full interview on CloudflareTV here. Bloom: I would love to hear about the story of RankSense and what problem it solves. Batista: Ranksense is an agile SEO platform. It’s about doing things iteratively, having a fast feedback loop, and...READ POST
Editor’s Note: Leonisa is the leading lingerie manufacturer in Latin America with a global distribution network in 17 countries, including Europe and the Americas. In July 2009, the company hired Victor Yacaman as Ecommerce Director, and a key part of his responsibilities is the performance of the SEO channel. In collaboration with RankSense, Victor has managed to revert a painful SEO downtrend using our agile SEO platform and professional services.
As Leonisa’s Ecommerce Director, a major part of my job is to ensure that our marketing is effective across all twelve of our websites. Our lingerie is sold globally, in major department stores such as Macy’s, in more than 150 of our own stores, through a network of more than 250,000 catalog sales reps, and on our e-commerce websites. Managing all of our online marketing across many channels requires me to be in the weeds with SEO so that I can ensure that we are continuing to grow.
In November of last year, our traffic was at -21.0% YOY across all of our sites, with -21.8% YOY on our US site. I knew we had to drastically change our SEO course going into the holiday season.
We’d been using Akamai for eight years as our content delivery network in order to speed up our site for our global user base. As I’d worked with RankSense in the past with great success, Hamlet convinced me to switch to Cloudflare in order to use the SEO implementation app that he built. Many people would have been reluctant to make a switch like that at their busiest time of year, but I took a calculated risk and it paid off big time.
Hard to diagnose SEO issues on our existing ecommerce platform
Our sites get a lot of traffic in the aggregate–monthly we are managing over 70 million requests with a bandwidth of 1.2 terabytes. However, around the middle of 2018, I began noticing that we were losing organic click through rates across all of our sites. By the time we reached out to RankSense, those rates had decreased by half, and we were needing a lot of A/B testing in order to figure out the reasons as to why. We discovered there were technical issues, such as problems with canonical tags, blocked pages, and product page errors. In addition, we had also recently moved to a progressive web app and were having trouble integrating SEO into its functionality. In other words, we were dealing with a lot of site changes and compounding backend problems affecting SEO.
Akamai is a very popular content delivery network that many large companies use. In speaking with Hamlet about our SEO issues, he said that he had built an app that he thought would help, but we needed to move away from the Akamai platform. When I related Hamlet’s assurance to my boss, and given Akamai’s strong reputation, he was understandably hesitant about making this kind of move, and more so, during our company’s busiest time of year. But Hamlet was emphatic that making this transition at such a critical time for our business would not only improve our SEO, it would save us money and time.
Making a bold CDN switch that paid off
Initially, we discussed doing more rigorous A/B tests with RankSense but faced challenges given the limited time frame during the holiday season that we had to get it right. RankSense was launching the Cloudflare app at the time and told us that Leonisa was the type of client that inspired them to create this app with advanced SEO monitoring capabilities. Hamlet explained that many of the SEO problems happened on the web host’s end, and they only get discovered after the damage is done. In conceiving of the app, he and his team were inspired to discover a better way to monitor traffic that could anticipate SEO issues before they compounded and impacted revenue.
It only took a couple of days setting up Cloudflare and the app. For example, Akamai had a lot HTML caching rules to speed up the site. RankSense helped us replicate those rules in Cloudflare. They then used the app’s technology to take a deeper look into Googlebot crawling behavior and identify some serious problems that didn’t register in Google Search Console. This process freed me from constant SEO monitoring and, we saw improvements in a few weeks. What could have been major issues, were now minor things that had to be tweaked. In May, we were at +3.2% YOY for global organic traffic. We have seen more benefit in the US, our main focus, which went from -21.8% YOY in November to +16.8% in May.
Making the switch to Cloudflare and RankSense
The best part of this process is that we have seen the SEO trend revert. I was expecting RankSense to spend more time to set up, but the app dovetailed perfectly with our existing workflow. I also thought this switch was going to be a lot more of a hassle, but Hamlet said, “No, I want you to think differently about the benefits of switching at this time.” I’m glad I followed his advice because now I spend my time improving upon what is already working.
For instance, I’ve begun testing additional features in Cloudflare, such as Rocket Loader, to continue increasing our site performance. It’s only one click to install, and our pages went from 5.5 seconds in load time to now 3.7 seconds. Initially, we had to turn off another service we use for CRO called Visual Website Optimizer, but we turned it back on with the help of Cloudflare support.
What’s also incredible is that Leonisa has not only seen improvements in SEO and revenue, we’ve saved money by switching to this platform with a greater support network. To put our savings into perspective, our current account with Business account with Cloudflare costs $200 a month, combined with usage costs it goes up to $600 a month, it is fraction of Akamai’s –Akamai was costing us $3400 a month! Now we are transitioning to an enterprise account with Cloudflare so that we can have 24/7 assistance, account management, dedicated IP address, 100% uptime and extra features to boost even more page speed. RankSense’s team of experts handles the technical SEO work for us through the app and, I use Cloudflare as my CDN. While the enterprise account may be the most costly, it still is an incredible savings to Akamai–and we have far better results.
As one of the largest retailers in the Americas, Leonisa needs to be sure that we are doing everything we can from an SEO standpoint to stay competitive. And, in this particular instance, we had to realize that what was riskier from an ROI standpoint was not making a switch from our CDN given our SEO traffic issues. Now that we have partnered with RankSense, I have seen the value in making this strategic move and look forward to onboarding all of our sites to their platform by the end of the summer.