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How Did We Accommodate 12,200 Additional Bookings For Classic British Hotels?

In a Nutshell

Classic British Hotels had previously worked with another UK search engine marketing company and brought QueryClick on board to refresh their Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns.

We increased page views by 4.7 million, compared to their previous SEO campaign. QueryClick also helped the hotel chain achieve a 248% increase in organic traffic to the site. PPC clicks shot up by 9,000 for the same spend as before.

The Background

Classic British Hotels first approached QueryClick because they wanted their site to be more visible to users. They also wanted to better show off the features of their independent hotels. The hotel chain had experience working with another agency but were not satisfied with the results of their SEO and PPC campaigns.

Our Analysis

The QueryClick team discovered various issues that had to be resolved in order to deliver a powerful SEO campaign. We found a number of technical errors that were causing canonicalisation and duplication. There was also great potential to consolidate existing hotel listings that took up 8 to 9 pages. And we decided a link building campaign was in order, targeting the term ‘luxury hotels’. Changes to the site’s internal linking strategy came hand in hand with this decision.

In terms of Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO), the team felt there was a good opportunity to improve the conversion funnel. This describes the track a consumer follows from an initial search result through to a website to an actual sale.

By looking at the hotel chain’s existing PPC strategy we discovered that campaign budgets were set evenly across the board. This meant that Classic British Hotels weren’t taking into account the profitability of individual campaigns. It became clear that we had to concentrate our efforts and the paid search budget on the hotel’s capacity and value.

The Process

The team felt it was important to start by fixing all the technical bugs that were causing on-page and canonicalisation issues. One of the first steps we took was a 404 audit to discover broken links and “dead” resources. To tackle these we built redirects and repaired internal linking structures. We also turned valuable PDF content into the more internet-friendly HTML format. To improve page response times and remove further errors, we restructured the website’s legacy code.

After carefully assessing content, the technical team removed unnecessary pages. We then built targeted landing pages for SEO and PPC keyphrases. To further consolidate site content, we compacted the existing hotel listings to one to two pages by redirecting  individual pages, and removing duplicates thus preserving domain value. It is important to note we made these changes before the introduction of canonical tags. This is a simple code that informs search engines of which URL is the original version of a page.

To get a better understanding of visitors’ experience of the site, we carried out user testing. The results lead us to adapt the site to focus on the parts that users liked, particularly the map. We quickly went about enhancing these to deliver an optimal user experience, and improved conversion rate.

We decided to completely revamp the Classic British Hotels paid search and CRO campaign. One of our first steps was to reallocate the budget based on hotel capacity and value. We then replaced all broad and phrase matching bids with expanded sets of exact match terms. While broad match keywords let Google serve your ads for a very wide range of search queries, the net it casts is so wide that your ads risk showing on many irrelevant queries. The use of exact match narrows this down considerably, making sure your ad is only triggered for truly relevant search terms.

To further avoid users landing on a page for the wrong reasons, we implemented a comprehensive negative keyphrase list. This stops ads getting clicks for irrelevant queries. In this case we included words like “cheap” as Classic British Hotels offer luxury accommodation.

Conversion rates are boosted by delivering a consistently relevant user journey from advert to landing page. So we came up with 3 to 4 alternative sales messages, all featuring the bid term that was matched to the landing page. This helps both the user and Google see the relevance to the specific search query. Using multiple versions allowed us to test for performance, eliminate poorly performing ads and create new ones based on our findings.

Throughout the campaign we ensured the ads were visible at the most “fruitful” times of day by introducing dayparting. This is the name given to a technique that allowed us to control when the campaigns were active, so as to avoid any periods in the day that saw a drop in conversion rates. These usually imply online “window shopping”.

The team sussed out the best seasonal campaign opportunities by performing keyword research throughout the year to focus on celebrations and public holidays like Easter and Christmas. Our campaign content was therefore always topical, allowed low cost clicks and resulted in high conversion rates.

The Outcome

QueryClick’s decision to combine SEO, PPC and CRO services proved to be the right one as we delivered a much more effective ROI than if each were performed in isolation.

Our SEO campaign resulted in not only more traffic, but more relevant and engaged traffic. The number of site visits increased by 59% and total page views shot up by 180%. Visitors were engaging more actively with content as 77% more pages were visited and the bounce rate dropped by 38%.

We saw an impressive 475% increase in the PPC clickthrough rate from February 2009 to February 2010. This refers to the number of people who click on a link in a search engine results page and land on a page.

The CRO campaign lead to 12,200 additional bookings for Classic British Hotels countrywide and contributed to an additional 2,400,000 page views over the year. We also played a major part in the 107% increase in the hotel chain’s sales. From March 2009 to March 2010 there was an improvement of 150% in booking funnel conversion for all channels. This is the amount of users who converted as a direct result of a paid or organic search result.

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