Video: How We Optimised Thales L&D’s Content For Users & Search Engines

Sometimes returning to basics can have the biggest effect. In this video, I explain how we optimised Thales L&D’s content, which boosted organic traffic and time on page.

Video: How We Optimised Thales L&D’s Content For Users & Search Engines

Video Transcription


Today, I wanted to do basically a little case study. A really, really nice bit of work we did for Thales Learning and Development. I’m sure you all know them, they’ve been a client of ours for ages. Obviously, Thales is a really big, national company; they are an arm of Thales that does purely learning and development.

So, I wanted to talk to you about some optimisation work we’ve done, where we’ve managed to optimise for users and search engines at the same time, which sounds like this crazy, impossible thing, but actually these days it’s essentially the same thing. It’s all about best practice and doing what’s right for the user, because that is what search engines are looking for these days. So, I’m just going to walk you through the process we took and the results we had.

Some background on Thales

So, before I get onto that, just a little bit of background about Thales. They work with large, multinational businesses that have kind of really big technical challenges. So they work with people like the Civil Aviation Authority; they also work with our friends, Gatwick Airport; they work with Nissan. And they all basically take a sort of top to bottom approach to that company’s learning and development and identify where the problems are, fix those problems and make sure that all of that company’s staff are performing as best they can to help hit that company’s goals.

So, their strategy is all about connecting with the decision makers in those companies and they do that through the people that work at Thales. I know some of you know some of these people – obviously we’ve got Sarah in there who we see regularly – some of us have also done some training with Nick in the middle there. He’s a really, really interesting guy. Chris and I absolutely love-




Lucy, on the right, who is an MBE. She was awarded that for getting IT systems into the Army. She is just a fantastically interesting person. So, the strategy is basically all about showcasing these people and their wisdom and their expertise and their kind of drive to make these companies better.

So, our job on this account is kind of, to make that happen in a digital realm, because actually – interestingly – learning and development is kind of a bit of a traditional industry, so they still have a print publication, which they publish every couple of months, goes to all of their clients, goes to lots of kind of learning and development professionals in the industry. There is fantastic stuff in there. Really, really good articles, but they weren’t making the most of it from a digital point of view. They were using one of those, kind of, PDF hosting platforms where you can spook through the magazine. The problem with that is, those platforms say they’re, sort of, Google friendly, but they’re not really, because they’re presenting the entire magazine as a whole document, so it becomes a bit of mess and Google doesn’t know what to index. So, they’re ‘Google friendly’ in the sense that search engines can crawl them, but they’re not really Google friendly in any kind of meaningful way.

How we digitised Thales’ magazine content

So, as part of their strategy, we recommended taking some of the really great content that was locked up in here and republishing it on their website so that people can get at it in a digital way.

So, we kind of took a first stab at it. That was what one of the articles looked like when it was published on their blog. It was fine, but because of some restrictions in their website templates and development work that needed doing, there was a lot of missed opportunities from an SEO point of view. I mean, first of all, it’s quite a long article. A lot of people will say, oh, you know, you can go to a lot of digital marketing conferences and people will say: “The ideal length for a blog post is 500 words” – but actually that’s crap. The right length for an article is the appropriate length for the story you’re trying to tell. So, the fact that some of these articles that we are publishing from this magazine are 1,200, 1,600, 2,000 words, is not a problem in the least, because they’re fantastic. They’re really detailed. They’re really expertly written and, in fact, for the audience that Thales is trying to target, they’re exactly right because they can take the level of detail and expertise that those people want to see before they engage a learning and development consultancy.

Reviewing the technical foundations

So, what we did first off is we looked at the kind of technical foundations of them. What could we do? What small changes could we make on their website that would have a big difference? We found that when these articles were put onto their CMS, actually the headings on the page had been put in as, I think, H4s or potentially bold text; so quick fix, change it to H2. Really, really basic stuff.

You’ll notice we also put an internal link in there. Obviously, that is something that would never be carried over from a magazine because you can’t have a link in print, but I think internal links are a really, really fantastic way to get people moving around your website.

If somebody was to go back up to the navigation, that’s a conscious choice. They would say I want to move around this website, by going back to the navigation and choosing what I want to go to next. An inline text link like that is a really great subconscious way of getting people to investigate something, where they want to find out more about it, and obviously it has organic search benefit as well.

Improving the editorial design

Once we kind of got those technical foundations in place, we moved onto these kind of editorial design elements. So, we’ve done the, sort of, data side of it and now we are moving on to the more creative side of it. We work really closely with the creative team to develop some of these elements and as you can see, they’re really nice.

This is what the top of the page looked like to begin with. We made some sort of very subtle changes here. We just wanted it to be a bit more friendly to the intro, so we just put that little standfirst in there, where you see that larger text, just to lead people down to the article a little bit.

You’ll notice actually if I split between them, we actually flipped the picture around of Matt. That’s a thing called gaze following. There was a sort of psychological experiment in the 1960s where a scientist got a bunch of people to stand on the street in New York City and just stare up at a window like that. Nothing at all in the window, they were just staring at the window and lots of people stopped and stared at the window with them. Nobody had a clue what they staring at, but because other people were doing at it they were doing it too. So, there’s this kind of you know psychology element to it. So, in this light, Matt is looking off over there. It doesn’t look like he’s particularly interested in his own article. Here, he’s kind of gazing lovingly at his intro, so hopefully that will mean other people do the same.

Again, we’ve got internal links in there. What we also did. We added some more, kind of, creative elements. So we put in these pull quotes just to break up the text a little bit, because obviously it’s a long article. The length of the article isn’t a problem, but we don’t want to make it a massive wall of text, so that it feels really intimidating for people reading it, so we put these pull quotes just to break it up a little bit, highlight the key insights from the article.

We also put these, kind of, contextual calls to action in, so you see that little box out on the right. Where we’re talking about something in the copy that’s directly related to one of the services that Thales offers, we want to give people who are ready to convert, a really, really quick path through to the service page, so that they can. So these are a really nice way of doing that.

You’ll find a lot of websites will have these elements kind of in the side bar or at the top, but those are real easy to ignore. If you get it right in the copy, like that, it can have a really, really big impact and again, it serves to break up the text. It’s just a nice user experience.

And then, for people who have made it down to the bottom of the article, we also put in this kind of call to action at the end of the article that’s kind of a classic thing with company blogs is, you get to the end and you’re just kind of left in this cul-de-sac of stuff you don’t really know what to do. So we will just make it really clear what the next step is for people when they reach the end of the article. So, if you like this, come over here and let’s have a chat about it.

The results

So you know, it was really, really simple stuff and I just wanted to give you a little snapshot of the results. So, the month before implementation versus the month after implementation, we saw time on page go up about 20%, which is really nice. So, there were a lot more people spending a lot more time with that content.

And taking the three months previous to the changes versus the three months after, we saw 140% increase in organic traffic. Really, really big increase.

And I kind of wanted to highlight as well, we didn’t do anything kind of weird or scummy here. We didn’t even change the copy on the page. It was all just best practice stuff and a bit of creativity. We didn’t do any key word stuff or link building. We literally just put some best practice structure in place and made it look nicer, and Google has obviously recognised that by giving us a boost in organic search results and the traffic has followed. And I think we can all hopefully learn something from that and so that’s it. Thank you.


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