Case study: Analyzing Drip’s (@getdrip) SEO migration audit and efforts


Posted on April 18, 2018 in Case Studies

If you haven’t heard of it, Drip is an email service provider that allows you to do smart tagging and segmenting of lists to dynamically email your customers based off of their actions and how you have identified them. They’re owned by LeadPages, which is a landing page software company that helps you improve your conversions. (If you want a really interesting interview with Clay Collins, the founder of LeadPages, check out his interview with Chris Ducker here).

I am in the process of moving over to Drip from MailChimp, a change that has been long needed if I am honest. The reasons why I am moving over are better suited for another blog post once I’ve done it and used Drip for a while, but as I have been onboarding onto Drip (which is a fantastic experience by the way) I can’t help but see their site through my SEO brain and identify multiple issues that, if fixed, could really help them out with SEO.

This is the first in a series of case studies about specific companies and how they could do SEO better. I am going to look at each site holistically and recommend what I see as being the highest value changes they can make. Some of them will be audit-like and thus fixes to their current setup, and others will be forward-looking proactive changes and content to develop to help them better target terms that can drive qualified traffic that converts to their site.

What you’ll learn

In this audit you will learn the following:

  1. What Drip could do to recover their traffic from their multiple domain migrations;
  2. Other technical issues at play on the site;
  3. Content and future looking SEO work Drip could do to further increase their audience;
  4. Tools to build and keywords to target.

Drip at a high glance

Drip’s site is Drip.com. Let’s have a look at their organic traffic according to SEMrush.

Woah. This tells us that one of two things has happened:

  1. They just launched and did something amazingly smart to get that organic traffic so quickly, or
  2. They moved from a different domain to this domain.

In this case, it’s the second one because they have been around for a number of years and were acquired in 2016 by LeadPages. They started off with GetDrip.com (just like I have GetCredo.com) and it looks like they acquired and moved over to drip.com sometime in the last few months. That’s an area for us to look at.

Because they moved domains, Drip.com’s organic keyword count has jumped (screenshot from AHREFs):

As have their referring pages and links:

But when we look at their ranking spread, we see a lot of noise. This either means that they’re ranking for a lot of irrelevant terms (very possible) or they don’t have pages targeted to terms that they should be ranking for (also very possible). We’ll look at this more in-depth as well.

Where do we even start?

Whenever you start an audit on a new website, you need to have a process you go through to figure out the highest value things to focus on. I’m talking low effort/high return as well as highest value regardless of effort.

It is easy as an SEO to go into the weeds really fast and start looking at canonicals, H1 tags, and all of those things that are very well correlated to ranking well. But SEOs too often get into those details and forget why we do what we do – improve traffic to grow businesses.

Too many SEOs don’t focus on the business and its goals.

SEOs too often get into those details and forget why we do what we do – improve traffic to grow businesses.

Let’s start there.

I don’t work with Drip as a consultant (nor do I have the time), but I know a few things from their marketing and their messaging on their site:

  1. They are an email service provider (ESP) that specializes in marketing automation;
  2. They are trying to focus on ecommerce businesses, based on their title tag. But they don’t want to alienate other customers (but might not know how to do that properly) as they’re talking about being an “ecommerce customer relationship manager”, or ECRM, but I don’t know what that means;
  3. They do have a blog and some larger resources, but neither is prioritized on their site;
    1. The blog is well segmented and easy to navigate;
    2. They have a lot of case studies, which is something you rarely see. Kudos here.
  4. They have integrations with other businesses to pass data around the marketing stack;
  5. They make money through subscriptions, but have a free trial. Realistically, SEO will focus primarily on acquisition and secondarily content on conversion.
  6. Personalization is a big selling point for them (though I wonder if it should be);
  7. They have a Facebook Ads offering as well, but it is not prioritized highly (it’s halfway down their homepage);
  8. They offer a demo, but I am unclear why I’d do that as opposed to a Free Trial?

A few other things I know about Drip are:

  1. They offer custom migrations but that is hidden in the footer;
  2. They have a lot of reviews, but don’t really emphasize them;
  3. Their Knowledge Base is pretty hidden, but is a wealth of content for both potential and existing users.

Ok, so where do we start for SEO for Drip?

Looking at what their goals likely are (get more free trial subscribers, get more email subscribers), there are two major things I want to look at for Drip that should move the needle way more than “Turn this H2 tag to H1” sort of advice. These are:

  1. Outstanding issues from their migration from GetDrip.com to Drip.com;
  2. Keyword spread to identify specific terms that they should rank for, but are not targeting well;
  3. Competitor link analysis.

There are some other issues around, such as some HTTPS issues and internal links that I will talk about at the end, but these are strategically much smaller and less urgent than the other two. These are issues that a junior developer or marketer who wants to learn how to code could handle, not larger issues that will show exponential growth.

Outstanding migration issues

Drip migrated from https://www.getdrip.com to https://www.drip.com in 2017. There are still multiple outstanding issues from the migration that are undoubtedly negatively affecting their search rankings, traffic and conversions. These are:

  • Redirect chains (with another fun twist);
  • Legacy content still on getdrip.com which requires extra upkeep and splitting of domain authority;
  • Site errors
  • Broader errors related to the migration

Redirect chains homepage

Whenever I know that a migration has occurred, I check to see what is going on with redirects using the LRT Link Redirect Trace extension. I saw this when starting with “getdrip.com”, which Chrome accepts as non-https, non-www. Here’s the redirect chain:

Well that’s interesting. Not only are there 3 hops taking place when you should only have 1, but there’s an extra domain in there!

Issue 1: chained redirects across two migrations

It looks like instead of migrating https://www.getdrip.com > https://www.drip.com, they actually went getdrip.com > drip.co > drip.com.

instead of migrating https://www.getdrip.com > https://www.drip.com, they actually went getdrip.com > drip.co > drip.com.

This presents a unique challenge, but the good news is that drip.co took over the organic traffic from getdrip.com and then in the subsequent migration about a year later has sent all of that to drip.com.

The resolution here is to tear down and redo the redirects. This is going to involve some server-level work and redirects, but if Drip wants to get the full strength of getdrip.com (3 years live, 5.05k linking root domains and 980k links), then they need to fix their redirects.

Here is the justification before we get into the fix. SEO professionals ballpark that a 301 redirect passes approximately 90-95% of link equity to the new destination. Google says that all value is passed, but many SEO tests have proven that this is not quite the case (all things being equal, which they never are).

We also know that chained redirects are treated as temporary redirects, aka a 301 becomes a 302 redirect. We also know that temporary redirects do not pass link equity. Once again, Google tells us otherwise but myself and many other SEOs have seen significant upticks in organic traffic when changing 302 redirects to 301 redirects.

If you want to check your own redirects, use the Link Research Tools Link Redirect Trace Chrome extension. Install it, then load your website starting from your base domain of domain.com. See where the redirects go.

At best Drip is losing 10-15% of its links due to chained redirects, approximately 500 domains and 90,000 links. I value links on average at $300, so conservatively this is ~$150,000 worth of links. Woof. At worst, well, it’s a whole lot more.

I’d save those if I were Drip.

Here’s how they do it.

Every old URL should have just one hop to the new URL. So all of these need to have this redirect:

  • http://getdrip.com > https://www.drip.com
  • http://getdrip.com/ > https://www.drip.com
  • http://www.getdrip.com > https://www.drip.com
  • http://www.getdrip.com/ > https://www.drip.com
  • https://getdrip.com > https://www.drip.com
  • https://getdrip.com/ > https://www.drip.com
  • https://www.getdrip.com > https://www.drip.com
  • https://www.getdrip.com/ > https://www.drip.com
  • http://drip.co > https://www.drip.com
  • http://drip.co/ > https://www.drip.com
  • http://www.drip.co > https://www.drip.com
  • http://www.drip.co/ > https://www.drip.com
  • https://drip.co > https://www.drip.com
  • https://drip.co/ > https://www.drip.com
  • https://www.drip.co > https://www.drip.com
  • https://www.drip.co/ > https://www.drip.com

There are three major areas at play here that we have to take into account:

  • http/https
  • www/non-www
  • trailing slash/non-trailing slash

Redirect chains deeper pages with temporary redirects

As I was checking deeper pages that redirect into drip.com, I found some temporary 302 redirects.

Now, there are absolutely times that a 302 redirect should be used. If you are moving a URL and intend to bring that URL back, then you should use a 302 redirect. If the URL is redirected forever, then you should always use a 301 redirect. I don’t care what Googlers might say.

You need to use the proper redirect for the proper situation.

Here is an example of a temporary redirect:

While this redirect is itself worth fixing (assuming Drip is not bringing back /workflows, which they may), this also potentially shows a deeper issue that Drip’s current stack might be using temporary redirects when permanent should be used. This merits deeper investigation by the Drip team.

Temporary redirects also apply to kb.getdrip.com to the now existing help.drip.com:

GetDrip.com legacy content

One thing I often see with website migrations is some pages not being redirected and instead being left live on the old domain. I uncovered this because GetDrip.com is still receiving organic traffic according to my tools and has some ranking pages. This is a problem for three key reasons:

  1. It splits domain authority, hurting both domain’s rankings;
  2. It causes brand confusion. I know how this feels as someone who runs a brand called “Credo” that people call “GetCredo” all the time;
  3. Developers have to maintain the old stack as well as the new stack.

Drip is an interesting case because the logged in app is still on getdrip.com, but this does not mean that logged out pages shouldn’t be redirected.

Here is getdrip.com’s traffic according to AHREFs:

An example of a ranking:

Luckily, most of the keywords the domain still ranks for are branded:

Pages ranking include:

To find all of the getdrip.com URLs still in the index, you can start with a site:getdrip.com Google search:

I do recommend doing this after fixing the chained redirects however as many of these are simply not dropping out of Google’s index because of the chained redirects, which is another common issue we see with those. Fix those, then run this query to find the logged-out URLs that are still live.

Site errors

I ran a crawl with Screaming Frog (check it and other SEO tools out in our Recommended Tools section) and discovered many site errors that Drip can fix (Drip team, email me for the full export).

Internal 301 redirects

Drip has ~50 internal 301 redirects that showed up on the Screaming Frog crawl. By fixing these, Drip can improve the search engine’s crawling of redirects which will help the search engine access more pages in each crawl.

This is a medium effort/low return opportunity that can be done in a morning when you have nothing else to do. Not a high priority, but worth mentioning.

Internal 302 redirects

The only internal 302 (temporary) redirects I found were from /workflows to /features. I have already talked about this issue above. Very small return on investment here and Drip may be planning to bring back this page.

Internal 404s

Drip has some internal 404s (meaning, URLs that are linked to internally the return an error) mostly within the /workflows/ and /integrations/ section of the site. This is also a medium effort/relatively low return activity that may be higher return depending on how many users land on these pages.

More 404s

404 errors on your site can be natural, but they can also really hurt your SEO in these scenarios:

  1. When you link to them internally and search engines hit them in their crawl, which hurts discoverability of good URLs on your site;
  2. When you have URLs with external links that 404 and do not redirect.

I don’t have access to Drip’s Search Console profile or their profiles for GetDrip.com or Drip.co, but through some spot checking I found places where they are redirecting URLs from those previous sites (mostly GetDrip.com -> Drip.com) that are now 404ing.

Here are a few that I found in Ahrefs.com that can easily be redirected. Drip team, let me know if you want a full export of this.

See my post here about fixing 404s being a high leverage activity. I expect this is an extremely high leverage activity for Drip.

Keyword analysis

I showed above that Drip has a lot of keywords that are ranking well below page 1, with large chunks of keywords being in rankings 30+:

This means that either Drip has:

  1. a lot of unrelated keywords for which is is ranking, or
  2. its target keywords are not being targeted very well.

It turns out, Drip has both issues going on.

Drip has created quite a bit of content over the years and thus have a lot of brand names and such that they do not rank well for (nor would ranking well really drive their business forward).

At the same time, they have a lot of conversion-oriented and relevant keywords that they do not rank well for because they do not have pages built out to target these terms.

After I point out a large area of opportunity for Drip, I will cherry pick a few terms that I have found through some light keyword research in SEMrush that Drip should target with a dedicated URL and some link acquisition. I used SEMrush for this because Drip has a lot of branded keywords, but Ahrefs does not offer the ability to exclude certain keywords on their web interface. I like to avoid Excel wrangling whenever I can.

I also want to note that Drip has done a very good job targeting terms like [marketing automation] and [small business marketing] with some dedicated pages on their site. I think they can take it further too.

Other brand names

When I look at the keywords for which Drip is in the top 100, I see a lot of brand names:

One thing you can notice though is that almost all of these are going to Drip’s Zendesk help section of the site, such as this page:

https://help.drip.com/hc/en-us/articles/115003731211-Integrating-Drip-and-Stripe

But Drip also has this page specifically about their Stripe integration:

https://www.drip.com/integrations/stripe

By having these two sections of the site, Drip is cannibalizing themselves keyword-wise. I’m not sure why Drip made the choice to use a help. subdomain (probably has to do with scaling support), but they would be well guided to consider bringing a lot of that content onto their main domain as it well help them rank better for these other brands.

I should also note that ranking for other brands is usually not a super smart strategy, as the search engines prefer ranking official profiles rather than other sites. But this could be a decent way to get some brand exposure, though I wouldn’t do it at the exclusion of other strategies.

I also want to point out that Drip has a partner page on Stripe.com, but that URL redirects to Drip’s homepage and thus might not be helping Drip rank. The URL that the Stripe page points to, getdrip.com/landing/integration-stripe, should go to https://www.drip.com/integrations/stripe and not the homepage. Drip should also get Stripe to update the link to the new URL.

Email templates/HTML email templates

Email templates as a search term has 8100 exact searches per month, which means there is probably around 50k or so related searches per month and probably higher.

Currently Drip’s homepage ranks for [email templates] and https://help.drip.com/hc/en-us/articles/115003738552-How-to-Set-Up-a-New-Email-Template ranks for [html email templates]. Now, Drip uses Liquid for its personalization templating but emails are still written into HTML (I think).

Drip should build out a resources section showing off the best email templates by type. Drip.com/email-templates and drip.com/email-templates/html could go a long ways.

Email tester

This search term has 6,600 exact searches per month according to SEMrush. The search results are not amazing:

Any time you see an exact match domain ranking for something like this, there is an opportunity.

There are some other tangentially related terms that some non-competitors are ranking for, such as [email deliverability test] at 210 searches a month, [email deliverability] at 390/mo which could be a great resource on improving email deliverability, [average email deliverability rate] which only has 50/mo but many many longtail terms which is just SCREAMING for a study to be done across the different providers.

Drip has so much opportunity here to use tools and surveys like this for more traffic and more importantly, better lead generation. Please do it.

Competitor link analysis

I would be completely remiss to not talk about backlinks, seeing as this is an SEO audit. Backlinks, for better or worse, still drive SEO and rankings and thus we need to take a look.

Simply put, Drip is way behind their competitors. In this screenshot, also from SEMrush in their Backlink Gap tool, I also included GetDrip.com because it is Drip’s old domain and has a lot of links to it (we covered this at the top).

Drip has ~365,000 links to its site, whereas all of their competitors are in the multiple millions. If Drip wants to really compete in SEO, they need to invest not only in deeper keyword research and building out resources to drive a ton more traffic, but they also need to invest in proactively building links through content, outreach, and digital PR if they want to stand up to competitors like ConvertKit (also a very good tool that I considered while making a decision about a new ESP).

Here are some opportunities:

If I were Drip, I’d hire a link building and content marketing agency to scale content production and outreach efforts. I don’t just say that because I run a company that can help Drip find the right partner (hint hint), but also because if they are not doing it now then that means that they don’t have anyone internally to do it. Hiring an agency is 100% the right move here because they can get started much faster.

If I were Drip, I’d do this first:

  1. Create a list of all the technologies Drip uses, then reach out to them to get links back. For example:
    1. Zendesk which Drip uses for all of their help articles as we already found;
    2. WPengine, because Drip plays nicely with them.
    3. Wufoo/Typeform/etc, really anything that Drip has an integration with.
  2. Use platforms available to you, like StackOverflow, and provide value there while linking back to resources you’ve created on your site to answer questions;
  3. Getting back in contact with sites already linking to you and getting the link updated to the new site. This can show a lift as redirects lose a bit of link equity.

That’s enough to keep anyone busy for at least a year!

Conclusion

So there you go, a tear down of Drip’s domain migrations, errors to fix, content opportunities, and a shell of link building activities that when all put together and executed upon could show awesome results for Drip.

Drip team, feel free to email me john at getcredo dot com and I can pull these reports for you.

Everyone else, I hope you really enjoyed this. Stay tuned for the next one.