Today I am going to show you how my specialist SEO team built 1,951 first page rankings in the seasonal travel hire niche-
656 of those keywords are ranking in the top 3.
Which has had a significant impact on organic search traffic year on year-
How did we do all of that?
Well keep reading and I’ll break down the complete strategy for you step by step!
What Will I Learn?
A Closer Look At The Case Study
This is a European company operating in a highly competitive international travel hire niche.
They sell in locations all over the world and offer a multilingual site.
Our main focus was to increase rankings by improving user experience because there is absolutely no substitute for getting the basics right when it comes to SEO.
That meant that we had to:
- Audit the website
- Increase website speed
- Optimize on-site content
- Become mobile-friendly
- Resolve technical issues
- Build high-quality inbound links
And it presented us with several major challenges…
Bringing Order To The Chaos
The travel hire niche is brutally competitive with lots of well-established brands with big budgets fighting for keywords.
All of which have intuitive user interfaces on fast websites with well-written content.
And our website had, well…none of that.
It was complete chaos. We had to deal with:
- Illogical site structure (especially URLs!)
- Poorly optimized content
- Deep-rooted technical issues
- Zero mobile optimization
- Harmful backlinks from irrelevant sites
So to tackle these challenges and make sure we were building our castle on rock and not sand, we had to:
- Perform a technical SEO audit
- Fix all the problems we found
Which as I write this, was way easier said than done!
Creating A Plan Of Attack
We broke our strategy down into 7x steps and each of those steps had its own goal:
- Keyword research: identify relevant keywords to build content around
- Backlink audit: understand the site’s current link profile
- Competitor analysis: understand the content structure Google is looking for
- Content strategy: create a long-term, research-backed publishing schedule
- Onsite audit: uncover all technical issues
- Improve user experience: make the website user- and crawler-friendly
- Link building: support the site with relevant inbound links
Each of those areas plays a role in supporting organic growth and its important that you address all of these areas to see success.
This can mean different things for different sites but let me walk you through how we did it this time around.
1. Keyword Research
The first step was to identify benchmark keywords.
These are keywords we track daily to show us the:
- SERP movements
- Current health of the site
- Impact of our strategy
We then researched a broader set of keywords. These keywords interlink with our core keywords but could also rank on their own.
Then we categorised those keywords into topic-based clusters:
This provided us with an almost endless database of relevant topics and their keywords that we could attack across the site.
Backlinks ARE an important part of SEO. There’s no denying it.
So we needed to:
- Review the current link profile
- And flag links to disavow
These low quality links were coming from:
- Spammy web 2.0s
- Old directories
- Irrelevant paid links (like those sold on Fiverr etc.)
The Ahrefs “Referring IPs” tool was VERY really useful in this process:
Here we could identify harmful links in large batches to disavow them.
However, this isn’t a “one and done” process.
We had to routinely check our link profile because we have no control over WHO links to the site.
This means low-quality links pop up all the time:
So we had to regularly check (and disavow) these links as they appeared.
Don’t know how to disavow your bad links? Follow my step by step how to disavow backlinks tutorial.
3. Competitor Analysis
User experience is CRITICAL for rankings because it feeds into and influences so many other signals.
It’s important to remember that Google’s main job as a search engine is to pair users with websites that provide answers.
Which means you must make sure there are zero barriers between answers and users.
To understand what that means in our specific niche, we looked at our organic search competitors.
We needed to create an industry benchmark we could work from-
- What does Google look for in a well-ranking site?
- What do our competitors do better than us?
- What were the most important areas to improve?
We looked at:
- URL structure (also called permalink structure)
- Page structure
- Post structure
- Design elements (layouts, forms, boxes, etc.)
- Website processes (bookings, payment gateways, customer reviews, etc.)
- How fast things were on mobile data
This gave us all the information we needed to create user and SEO-focused templates for:
- Landing pages
- Blog posts
For example, we updated the home page to make bookings available above-the-fold which increased both user engagement signals and conversions signficiantly-
We also did some competitor backlink analysis to see how and where they acquired high-quality links.
Using Ahrefs Link Intersect tool we were able to see the most common sites:
Which gave us an actionable starting point for our link building strategies which we will talk about in a moment.
4. Content Strategy
After following the last few steps, we had acquired enough information to build out a complete content strategy.
- Which topics were relevant
- What keywords to focus on
- How to structure the content (for users and search engines)
- How long the content should be
- Where we could outrank competitors
On a post-by-post basis we took one of 3x actions:
- Improve: restructure or rewrite the existing post
- Remove: delete the content entirely
- Consolidate: combine multiple pages into one comprehensive post
So we increased the overall length, quality and relevance of those pages by adding extra sections that actually answered related search queries.
Once the existing content was fixed, we switched our focus to creating new content.
We created a monthly posting schedule that looked like this:
This meant we had a growing database of high quality content which we could later leverage for link building.
5. On-Site SEO Audit
It was obvious from the beginning this site had lots of technical issues. But it was only when we performed a complete technical SEO audit that we understood the extent of it.
So let’s take a look at each of the problems we found and how we went about fixing them.
Problem #1: Illogical Site Structure
The client’s site was missing a clear hierarchy which made it hard to understand for search engine spiders. They had:
- Scattered content
- Limited internal linking
- Hard to find “priority” pages
In the perfect world ALL website pages should be accessible within 4x clicks of the homepage.
It’s paramount a travel hire website has easily accessible destination pages.
It should be no more than a 3x click process:
Google > Homepage > Destinations Page > Greece
The website was lacking this logical structure. So we spent a lot of time getting this right.
One process that really helped us was…
Problem #2: Internal Linking
The site was so hard to navigate because there were so few internal links. We found this to be really bad on location specific landing pages.
But internal link building is critically important for a number of reasons-
Let’s say you searching for something in the travel hire niche and landed on a popular page of our client’s site.
The page would provide internal links to pages about:
- San Sebastian
- The main “Spain” page
- Related destinations
- Booking pages
Which as you can probably imagine created tons of problems like:
- High bounce rates
- Low dwell time
- Awful conversion rates
- Lower search traffic & rankings
Problem #3: Duplicate Content
To try and combat the navigation issues the client had created lots of duplicate pages.
Now it’s no secret that Google doesn’t like duplicate content-
And they really don’t like it when there are 3x exact replicas of the homepage!
It seemed like the previous SEOs had added a copy-and-pasted page at every dead end.
This was…seriously problematic because it created a ton of issues like:
- Content devaluation
- Index bloat
- Deleted duplicate content
- No-indexed pages with low SEO benefits
- Removed “sliders” that created duplicates
Resolving these technical issues made the next step possible…
6. Improve User Experience
The user experience was ABYSMAL to say the very least.
Competitors websites performed 1000x better than ours and despite 50% of traffic coming from mobile devices, the site wasn’t responsive.
To combat this we:
- Increased website speed
- Created a new responsive website design
- Added new high-quality images to all pages
- Built interactive maps and calendars
- Created a new streamlined booking process
- Added engaging CTA buttons
There are still elements that need to go live. But we have being improving things and deploying them consistently.
I’d say around 75% of the necessary fixes have being deployed to date and the results have been staggering so far.
But there’s still one more step before we get to those…
7. Link Building
Link building was ALWAYS going to be a part of our SEO strategy but there are 5x things this case study should show:
- Link building is pointless on a poorly built site
- Your site needs solid foundations first
- Links can do as much harm as good
- You need to build strategic links
- Obsessive compulsive link building leads to wasted budget
And because we spent time revamping a lot of the existing content, link building was mostly a downhill battle because no one wants to link to poor content.
We made sure the link building strategies we used were tailored to focus on-
- Quality over quantity
- Building trust and authority
It’s easy to overstep the mark here and get excited but you’ll be amazed just how much impact a handful of relevant links can have on a properly built site.
Each link we built came from well-established sites that we considered to be equal (or better) than our own.
Outreach based link building is a time-consuming process.
But we were able to build lots of high-quality links:
And it is the most sustainable way to build links that ensures the longevity of your site.
The Results Are In
The site’s growth has been incredible.
Traffic has grown from an average of 9,846 visitors per month to 58,883 at the very peak of high season.
Overall we have more than tripled organic search traffic and more importantly, increased revenue during the off season as well.
We also increased the number of top 3 results from 197 to 656.
And of course:
This all made for some glorious Google Search Console data-
All of which is absolutely fantastic result given how competitive this niche is and how much money is on the line during peak season.
If you want help ranking your website… Click Here Now!
Wrapping It Up
So there you have it.
That is how you can triple organic search traffic in competitive niche by just focusing on the foundations of SEO.
It’s not rocket science. You just need to follow my simple 3 step SEO strategy:
- Technical SEO: build a logical and healthy website structure
- Content: understand your user’s needs and optimize for them
- Link building: acquire relevant links
Otherwise please feel free to check out our other incredible SEO case studies-
I promise you are going to love them!