Fabrizio Ballarini joined us for episode 21 of the RankUp podcast to talk about his experiences in scaling up the Wise SEO team from one person (himself) to a team of dozens that includes SEOs, writers and developers.
Fabrizio is an organic search specialist tasked with growing the organic presence of Wise (formerly TransferWise). He spoke to us about some of the tactics and practices that have helped his team achieve and maintain success as it has grown over the years.
Listen to full podcast episode on this page or your app of choice, or keep reading for some of the highlights from our interview.
Ben: How did you get to where you are today in SEO?
Fabrizio: I have been been doing SEO as a serious thing that actually pay your bills since probably 2012/13. For my first job, like I started to work for this company that was organizing a bunch of events. They had a lot of websites – pretty much all the same – about their events.
And then I joined Ogilvy where I was working on a bunch of clients, including Intel and a few ecommerce websites. One of the last clients, that I spent most of my time on, was HSBC – working across their international websites.
I spent roughly three years in an agency and then I joined Wise – that back then was called TransferWise – as the first SEO, though there was a guy before me for less than a year. I took the job to actually kick off things for a new company. Wise wasn’t a brand new company, probably in year five or six at the time, but as you can imagine, it hadn’t been a priority to build their presence organically earlier on. Especially if you’re a well-funded company, you might scale a bit quicker by turning on ads. So I came in with this task to start building what today is a bunch of teams and a bunch of activities to acquire customers organically.
Growing the SEO team
Ben: How did you grow the team at Wise to the point you’re at now?
Fabrizio: This is now my sixth year, so I won’t go day by day! To summarise, the first year was purely getting confidence that whatever we were doing had any impact, to the point that my first call with the wider company was just explaining to them that I wasn’t just some kind of magician trying to do something very obscure.
After that, we did a lot of research on where our customers were, what they were searching, what our could we could add for them… We did some work to validate that what we were measuring was legit, up to the point that we had enough confidence to justify scaling the team. That gave us enough confidence that some of this stuff was working.
Then, in years two and three, we invested roughly in two areas, which today are two teams, more or less. One is a content/editorial team, where we started to scale our production of content with freelance writers and editors. The other area was more of a technical team, which today owns most of the tech for that you see when you land on wise.com, and we built our CMS for landing pages, we’ve built our tools, calculators – all sorts of products.
These are the two areas that we started to invest in. They’re quite different in that one side is scaling people that can write content and produce content.
The other one involves figuring out with technical SEO product engineers, what what is it that is really scaling? And what is it that you can work out to be smarter from a technical standpoint, so that you don’t have to add complicated processes for the team to manage?
Other areas that we invested in over time are a relationship with affiliates and other people that can work with us, because they also show up in search. There is an additional team these days that also manage a couple of other properties on the web. We are part of a portfolio that is not just wise.com, which was interesting enough for us to dedicate resources to. But the core of the team is still a group of people working on technical stuff, from the backend to front, and then a group of people that try to produce content.
Successful SEO tactics in recent years
Ben: In terms of the SEO strategy and tactics you’ve employed within the last few years, what sort of things have been most successful for Wise?
Fabrizio: Our vertical within finance is a bit strange. There’s not a big awareness among consumers that they should shop around and search for this service. As opposed to if you want to get a mortgage tomorrow, or a credit card, you’re not just going to google our service and try to compare it.
Because of that we do a bunch of work to try to capture customers a bit further away from the point at which they’re ready to search and transact with us. What that requires is confidence in the fact that in future these might turn out to be customers, right? We have invested quite a bit, you know, without seeing the results right away.
In terms of appetite for us doing this it’s a bit different from other situations where you need to get results straight, as opposed to getting results within six months or 12 months.
It doesn’t mean that we build stuff that that is a waste of money, quite the opposite. We have quite a tight agenda, and we have to ask, what is the payback of this work? Some companies, however, won’t do it if it’s a longer bet. We often see that we had content we produced three, four or five years ago that now we’re saying, “Oh, wow, not too bad, right? This page alone brought so much money, and it was a good idea.”
Building trust through comparisons
Fabrizio: We do a bunch of other things, like running a price comparison within Wise. We get a lot of competitors’ brand traffic as well, through a few things that other companies would not do a lot. This is driven by the fact that, in our industry, people don’t even show the price of their service when you go to their website. So it’s really important that we communicate to customers the price of our competitor or alternative services. They need to understand why they should use us. Because often you read advertisements of no commission, money transfers, zero fees, right? And it’s difficult to realize why you should choose one business if another is free. But it’s often not free! So we do a lot of work on this stuff, which is probably a bit different from what you do in some companies, where people tend to be a bit more conservative.
Edd: It sounds like a really big benefit that you’re able to create content around your competitors, helping you target the price-comparing searches that others are a bit more frightened to go after, right?
Fabrizio: This is not just SEO, it’s the nature of humans. Why should they trust what you say on your website? Why should they be using you? What we realised over time is that customers trust the website if we’re transparent, even to the point that if an alternative provider is cheaper, we’ll tell you to use them.
With that level of trust in a company, the day that you show them that an alternative is not cheaper, they know that the comparison you’re showing them is accurate.
But it wasn’t easy to do, especially at the beginning, because you had the question of why you should run a price comparison on your own website, as opposed to just telling customers to work with you. We already have affiliate partners who we could have worked with – and still do – but we decided to do it on our own website as well.
Join the on-page conversation
You can see more from Fabrizio on Twitter and on his website, pechnet.com. If you like the sound of working with Fabrizio in Wise’s SEO team, they’re hiring now at wise.jobs. Don’t forget to check out the whole interview on a podcast app of your choice.
If you’re interested in being a guest on the show, please reach out to us on Twitter or via email.