How a solid SEO strategy made Thomas Cook grow organically

Business Problem


Gaps in SEO strategy, missing out on organic growth.


Aim

  • Analyzing website and identifying gaps in the SEO strategy to

  • Increase organic traffic for the largest seasonal travel packages

  • Identifying the right keywords

  • Creating strategies to rank higher for the selected keywords so the landing page ranks higher in a short duration


Company Profile


About Thomas Cook Ltd.: Thomas Cook is one of the leading online travel portals in India. It is a travel agency with integrated financial services related to travel and offers International and Domestic Holiday packages spread across different themes, Foreign Exchange, Visa, New Passport, and Travel Insurance. Thomas Cook India created their digital footprint on Google in 2013.

It had a variety of packages for Honeymooners, families, old couples, and backpackers to choose from. The travel agency also focused on themes and different popular festivities across the world like the Tomatina festival in Spain and many more.

The travel industry has a diverse audience and its needs and demand differ significantly from each other, hence it has to be catered to by creating various packages for these segments.

This industry has a high search volume, most users have a habit of searching online before booking their travel packages. Hence SEO is naturally the central part of every online travel website’s marketing plan to challenge for the top rank on the top on Google where every travel website is fighting with similar keywords and packages.


Target Audience:

  • College students

  • Families

  • Upper middle class

  • Newlywed couples looking for holiday packages

  • People looking for weekend getaways for domestic/ international vacations

Competitor and Keyword Analysis

  • MakeMyTrip

  • Cleartrip

  • Yatra

Thomas Cook’s competitors were ranking ahead on Google for all keywords associated with their primary travel products which were

  • Holiday packages

  • Honeymoon keywords

  • Cruise holidays

  • Luxury Holidays

  • Student travel

These search trends are time-based like the ‘Family holiday packages’ were more popular during summer vacations and Diwali holidays where the target group was between 35-45 year-old parents who were planning holidays with their children.

‘Honeymoon packages’ were prominent search terms between November and December. So the target audience started looking out for honeymoon packages from August onwards. Here the target group was newlyweds and was one of the biggest target audiences in the travel industry in India given that the wedding season falls in these months.

Other popular search trends were ‘Weekend getaways’, ‘Summer holiday packages’ and ‘Diwali holiday packages’, and ‘Honeymoon packages’. Thomas Cook did not rank well on SERP for these keywords.


Analysis and Interpretation

Keyword search volume and average ticket price.
Keyword Search Volume and Average Ticket Price

Competitor ranking on SERP for package relevant keywords.
Competitor Ranking on SERP for Package Relevant Keywords

Thomas Cook's website analysis and page ranking by keyword.
Thomas Cook's Website Analysis and Page Ranking by Keyword

  1. Competitive analysis to check Thomas Cook’s position with respect to its competitors, for specific keywords and their average ‘Search volume’ in Exhibit A and Exhibit B respectively.

  2. The keywords ‘Honeymoon Packages’, ‘Luxury Packages’ and ‘Beach Packages’ had the highest search volume of 400,000, 200,000, and 220,000 searches per day (Exhibit A), respectively, amongst the keywords its competitors were using. Moreover, the revenue potential for these packages which was estimated from the average price of a package was in the range of 30k-35k and 20k-25k (Exhibit B). This was higher than any other package that Thomas Cook had on its website. Hence, from both the search volume demand data and from the revenue point of view, these were the keywords that Thomas Cook had to focus on to garner more traffic and a higher top line.

  3. Optimized for the keyword Thomas Cook ranked the worst rank out of the top three keywords, ‘Honeymoon Package’ had to be optimized to rank better. Moreover, its corresponding page was the homepage which was a problem, since it had a bounce rate of 60% (Exhibit C), and for a homepage with such a high bounce rate meant that the visitors were not happy with the content because they are arriving on the homepage for the ‘Honeymoon package’ and seeing other packages which don’t sit well with their search experience.

  4. Based on my insights gathered, it was best for Thomas Cook to come up with a microsite for ‘Honeymoon packages’ rather than using the home page. After that Thomas Cook needed to create a web page for the keywords involving various ‘Honeymoon packages’ based on location and days as a part of this microsite. We have to get external links through bloggers and other websites in the travel niche to improve the rankings on SERP. Mentions from popular bloggers in the travel industry added authority to the website in the eyes of Google and thus helped rank higher on the search results because the traffic which came from these bloggers was relevant to the niche and had higher conversions and lower bounce rate.

  5. Getting backlinks to the landing page from bloggers for various packages to help it rank higher. The bloggers have to be given different topics related to holiday packages and asked each blogger to mention Thomas Cook’s packages in their content or give a natural backlink to the holiday packages because getting backlinks from similar content creators can be identified as paid backlinks by Google. Hence repetitive or similar content can also raise suspicion of black hat SEO and had to be avoided.

Constraints

  1. Time constraint- all the content had to go live by September because that was the peak time for search demand for this package. Hence Thomas Cook had to rank number one by October to avoid losing out on their potential customers

  2. Integration of honeymoon packages on the current website- The homepage is meant to be very broad in topics and it couldn’t be targeted specifically for one category of packages

  3. High competition for keywords- Honeymoon package related keywords have been of high commercial value in the travel industry. MakeMyTrip and Yatra had specific sections just for honeymoon packages. Their page for honeymoon packages had multiple supporting pages that gave Google crawlers a fair idea and importance of this section by those websites


Campaign Metrics

  • Traffic generation from pages

  • Organic traffic due to SEO

  • Estimated ranking of the page

  • Traffic estimation


Solution


1. Created fresh content


1. Decided and established content hierarchy

The landing page was designed to specifically talked about Honeymoon Packages consisting of both international and domestic packages. The page listed out 7-8 packages.

Supported the main landing page with multiple destination honeymoon packages pages. This resulted in building authority and credibility with Google to showcase a structured theme through this hierarchy.

2. Blogger outreach

Travel bloggers were asked to create generic content related to travel, for example, the content could be around 'Places to visit in Kerala', and give a backlink with a text saying "Why not explore some Kerala holiday packages" and backlinking that to the Kerala holiday packages. More articles on such specific attractions to visit for particular locations in the form of checklists, history, and trends.

3. Infographics

  • Depicting package trends

  • Top destinations

  • Dos and Don’ts for your trip


2. Create relevance for Google to reindex the content on SERP


1. On-Page SEO

Optimized content for SEO by optimizing headers, alt tags, meta tags. Keyword targeting with the right density in the content.

2. Off-Page SEO

  • Targeted Fashion Bloggers

Who wrote Content about bridal outfits and gave a backlink to honeymoon packages.

  • Targeted Travel Bloggers

Suggested content about places to visit and itineraries with backlinks to Thomas Cook.

3. Off-page submissions

  • PPT submission

  • Forum commenting

  • Blog commenting

  • Bookmarks


3. Get recognized for the Honeymoon packages


1. Keyword sitemaps

Honeymoon packages were identified to be the highest revenue category as they had higher search volume and expensive packages. The ranking had to be improved and a content-rich landing page had to be built with an attractive layout attributed to different content clusters on the page.

2. Keyword analysis

Analyzing keywords used by Yatra, Makemytrip, Cleartrip rankings for potential keyword phrases that fell under Honeymoon packages, Beach holidays, Family holidays, adventure holidays.

3. Website health

Analyzed competitor pages by feeding keywords on Google and checking their page ranking. Analyzed how their websites were built across and compared with gaps on Thomas Cook’s website.

4. Content strategy

Blog content that Thomas Cook already had, gave a link back to the honeymoon packages page. Built external backlinks from third-party bloggers to the honeymoon packages page to boost SEO. Outsourced content by using content generated by travelers and posted it on their pages on a weekly basis.




Disclaimer: The data used on this project was shared with me for educational purposes by Upgrad. The analysis are based on the particular dataset and are my own interpretations of this data.

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