Search Engine Optimisation
(SEO) can be one of the most cost and time efficient ways of increasing online revenue, which is why brands work hard to increase their visibility for relevant keywords in the search results.
Visibility is the goal of all marketing functions, and when talking about SEO it’s defined by how many people using search engines can see a brand within the natural search results without the brand paying for ads. Low SEO visibility means users are unable to find the website ‘organically’. It is an important measurement for any brand to determine a site’s success for both clicks and revenue.
This case study
will look at the growth of one of Verb’s client websites over the last 9 months since launching; starting off with practically no visibility in two new markets, they have since gained an exceeding amount of site traffic due to investment into SEO.
Our client is a provider of luxury student accommodation internationally. They provide a wide variety of content on their website specific to their different target markets and their search behaviour. Their USP is the provision of all-inclusive accommodation, offering impressive facilities not commonly made available in standard student accommodation. These include benefits such as on-site cinema’s, en-suite bathrooms, private fitness suites, and exclusive dining rooms.
2. The Challenge
Client goals and high authority competitors
The client set out with one very strong goal: to rank for many high search volume keywords, some that only universities and official institutions rank for. Although their offering relates to student life and living, ranking against other student accommodation providers would have been a lot easier without high institutions in the mix.
The client recently launched a trio of new websites for the UK, Spain, and Portugal.
Compared to their competitors, who had years of authority building behind them, the client had a lot of SEO efforts and trust building to catch up on in these new markets. As SEO is never immediate – and age is a ranking factor – the odds were against the brand.
The company has an older more established site in the UK – where they built widespread awareness for themselves in both the media and within the luxury student accommodation community. The two new sites had very low visibility for both branded and generic keywords around student accommodation.
The Iberian market consisted of completely new competitors, new keywords and there was a lack of historic tracking data for the specific sites in these countries. Google can provide search volume and trends in the market but without supporting tracking and data for these new locations it is unwise to provide an SEO strategy that lacks flexibility as adjustments will be necessary to better support the site.
3. The Solution
When setting up an SEO strategy there are 3 main areas to look at; Tech, Content, and Offsite.
As comes standard with most SEO projects, our priority was to get the site up to an ultimate technical performance to make it as easily accessible to Google and users as possible. We started with updating sitemaps, clearing it of all the no longer active or redirected pages, and making sure all live pages were also added.
On the site itself, we looked into any broken links and non-functional features, together with setting up correct redirects to make sure the site was being read correctly by Google and correspond correctly to the robots.txt and sitemap files.
Aforementioned, the visibility for generic keywords within student accommodation was very low and it was important to update the current content and metadata with keywords that would increase this visibility. Together with the client we discussed which terms they identified with as a brand, discussing which keywords were currently circulating among competitors to find their unique niche in the market – trying not to compete with everyone and everything, a common SEO mistake. Together with creating not only interesting, unique page titles including major keywords, meta descriptions, H1 and H2 on the already existing content, we were able to make all pages clearly answer users search intent.
The site already had a blog section set up, here we optimised for long tail keywords and questions, together with identifying gaps in content that could increase visibility for important keywords. We also created a content calendar for blog posts for all 3 countries, making sure there would be new content coming up on the site continually and consistently. We focused a lot on responding to seasonal search trends and interest around locations – all available through Google Trends and using Google Keyword Planner for ideas.
From the beginning, we put in a monthly backlink audit to be part of our ‘Housekeeping SEO’ – making sure that all links coming into the new site was of high quality to make sure we would consistently gain authority.
For any client with multiple locations, Google My Business and local SEO are essential parts of the SEO strategy. We made sure that the site provided Google with all important information for ranking for local search terms, e.g. phone number, address, images of the buildings. We also optimised all locations in Google My Business with facilities, opening hours, contact numbers, and answering reviews. Furthermore, we kept updating the listings continually to make sure we updated anything not found by Google or any new keywords that people were searching for when they landed on our site.
As the engagement with the website increased and we produced more content – we linked the different blog posts to the different locations on Google My Business, together with adding events.
4. The Results
When we began tracking keywords for our client, we made a list of words that we were aiming to rank for. At that time we were ranking for around 720 keywords in total but only 10 of our ‘target’ keywords. There is no set number of keywords that are ‘good’ to rank for – if you are ranking for irrelevant keywords it might actually damage your business.
In February we were ranking for 199 of these selected keywords for ES. For the Portuguese market, we have gone from ranking for 3 of our selected keywords to ranking for 156 of them.
Building brand awareness is important when looking at a new site and impressions are an important metric at this stage. We’ve seen a strong upward trend over the last 9 months and are currently in low season, surpassing the impressions for peak season – building a stable foundation for when booking season starts.
Looking at the organic traffic we have seen an increase of 771.6% in the Spanish market from 123 visits a month to 2,519. The most important result of all our work with this client is data. We now have important insights into how users move around the sites including seasonal searches, the user booking journey and what type of content achieves the highest engagement rates within the different regions. To give one example, we saw information around student life and the local area is very popular for potential customers considering doing a study exchange. We also learned that booking a room is tied to peak seasons but enquiries for more information is high all throughout the year, making this an important feature to make easy for the users to find.
SEO is not an overnight traffic boost and a mixed approach to reach traffic goals, including PPC and social, might be preferable for some brands. It’s important to set realistic expectations as it does also depend on your brand and its competitors on how easy it is to rank.
Be flexible in your approach – the longer you work on your site the more data you will get and can from there adapt your strategy to best fit your end goals. Your initial goals might change depending on what happens in the market beyond your control, such as algorithm updates and what you initially thought was a solid SEO strategy will need adapting at some point.
Content is king. It is an easy way to bring new visitors to your site in a new market. It’s a great way to explore topics which users may find interesting and make you visible among search results.
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