The Value of Understanding the Consumer
Tourism was massively hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated travel websites were equally impacted. One of our long-term search engine optimization clients is a tourism site for a region near Washington D.C. and they needed a way for their site to not only stay afloat during the pandemic but also provide valuable information to the public. The following case study explores the problem we were facing, the goals that were set and the outcomes.
The client’s site focused on generating tourism to a region close to Washington D.C. The site consistently ranked well for tourism specific terms and had strong organic traffic growth year over year – and then COVID-19 hit. The state as well as most places in the United States closed down for tourism. Restaurants, hotels and attractions all closed leaving the tourism bureau unsure of its future. Organic traffic took a steep decline starting in March of 2020 and by June of 2020 we had to begin efforts to turn organic traffic positive again.
The Transistor Digital Marketing team worked closely with the internal marketing team to build out a plan to shift a majority of the site to focus on the needs of the local community rather than generate out-of-town traffic (both online and offline). This wasn’t going to be a small feat because the site had always been targeted to inform visitors rather than reach locals.
Maintain traffic levels by increasing local traffic to the site. As soon as the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the site’s organic traffic dropped significantly. We needed to find a creative way to maintain traffic levels and grow visibility despite the outside circumstances.
A business goal was also to keep local businesses up and running. We needed to find ways to connect buyers and sellers to help the local businesses generate revenue during the height of the pandemic.
The quantitative goals included:
- Regain traffic to pre-pandemic levels (about 43k organic sessions a month)
- Increase local traffic by 30%
- Increase long-from blog traffic
Where We Started:
We had to take a much wider look at user needs to define a successful organic search strategy.
This wasn’t just about generating traffic but it was about stabilizing a community around the site. It was essential that we do our part in keeping the people in the local community healthy and working.
Typically SEO initiatives are focused on historical search data and trends, but we didn’t have any of that information because everything was new and changing constantly. We had to rely on social media indicators and direct input from local business owners to truly understand the search climate. The SEO team monitored and reviewed Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (especially in the area) to understand what people were looking for during the Summer of 2020 and beyond. We also relied heavily on Google trends data to support our observations. On top of our own research, we worked very closely with the internal team to understand the plight and concerns of local business owners.
SEo Strategy :
Once we collected social media data, local business insights and reviewed trending pages in Google Analytics, we developed the following plan of attack:
- Alter messaging sitewide to focus on supporting the local community rather than travel. Content and meta data was changed on 70+ unique pages to reflect this conversation change.
- More than half of these pages saw a positive improvement compared to last fiscal year. Some of these included outdoor associated pages like outdoor activities, restaurants and attractions.
- Support technical implementation and targeting for local initiatives such as a local restaurant trail initiative.
- Adjust any and all pages with COVID impacts to directly speak to those changes. We needed to tell people what was closed, open and altered to make sure everyone was properly informed. (We had to keep detailed track of all these alterations to ensure they could be reverted when changes occurred). This was a massive
- Build pages for any and all virtual attractions and new services due to COVID. There was a big shift to virtual tours of attractions.
- Focus on the blog. We provided blog suggestions and structured content to help target local queries such as drive in movies, heated outdoor dining, and virtual events.
- Update the top navigation. We needed to alter the top navigation to provide the information that local users needed. This included adding pages to the top navigation such as Virtual Attractions and Outdoor Things to Do.
Since kicking off our plan in June of 2020, traffic has not only rebounded to pre pandemic levels but grown to provide for the biggest organic traffic peaks in the site’s history (~82k organic sessions a month). In 2021, we saw monthly traffic increase by about 30% compared to 2019 traffic and more than 300% compared to March 2020. The below snapshot is from Google Analytics from January 2019 – July 2021.
Local traffic met and exceeded our goal of 30% increase.
Organic blog traffic jumped significantly in 2020 and 2120. The blog hadn’t received any noticeable organic traffic in 2019 and didn’t start generating traffic until mid to late 2020 because of our blog-specific SEO efforts. Organic blog traffic in 2021 was up by more than 300% compared to 2020.
Not only have organic traffic and local traffic numbers improved for the site, but we heard from local business owners that we were driving traffic to their businesses as well. It was incredibly helpful for people to know what was open, when it was open, if there were delivery options and more. Many of the changes that were made to the site have stayed in place (other than shut down information) and continue to be a resource for the community.
To learn more about our SEO Services contact us today.