How Propellernet reached a Visibility high for CV Villas (even in a tough context)

Published on 11 November 2020, updated on 15 November 2022

Propellernet and CV Villas’ relationship spans almost 10 years of collaboration, with both technical struggles and a full global crisis to overcome as 2020 packed a hard punch for international travel, and brands in the market felt the full extent of it.

But, as any story goes, let’s start from the beginning…

The family-owned company offers luxury handpicked villas around the world. They pride themselves on expert, personalised customer service, offering not only the villa hire, but also flights, car hire as well as offering villas with local guides and your own personal chef. They’re a popular choice with inter-generational families and honeymooners alike but operate within a highly competitive “rental villas” niche historically dominated by a number of larger brands.

Therefore, being a smaller brand in comparison to the other players in the market, CV Villas wanted Propellernet’s help to grow their visibility and gain market share.

The team at Propellernet, the digital marketing consultancy for brands with big ambitions, had mainly been driving this change with technical SEO, content improvements and occasional blasts of PR link building. The road to improved visibility has been a long one. Limited budgets meant things took longer and the pace of change was further hindered by a CRM that relied on dev support to make even the simplest of changes. It was just as this work was starting to bear fruit, the whole world was disrupted by a pandemic crisis that brought new issues to the table.

However, the team had a solution for that, too:

The perfect strategic mix

Ever since the end of 2018, the agency team realized  they needed to create a multi-level strategy: firstly to create a technically optimised site which would include a migration to a new CMS, then to publish detailed content that answered a proliferation of customer questions (in much more depth than competitors), and to turbo-charge the result of this work with high quality, relevant links.

“The combination of these 3 activities would dramatically increase visibility.” said Dan Pearson, Propellernet’s lead SEO consultant for CV Villas.

Technical SEO and UX improvement for a great first experience

The odds were against the client as their pre-2018 CMS made it difficult to implement the agency’s technical and content recommendations and they had limited development support.

That’s why a site migration needed to happen to drive SEO performance to its fullest:

“We successfully guided CV Villas through the site migration at the end of 2018, which allowed us to make significant changes to the site’s structure and technical capabilities. After this, our goal was to use the improved functionality of their new CMS to further improve aspects of technical SEO and content, before building relevant high-quality links to the new improved pages.”

It was a joint effort with the client’s development agency to prioritise technical SEO improvements, optimize the site’s conversion funnel, and create a brilliant user experience.

This meant a number of longstanding recommendations could now be implemented, including:

  • Post-migration redirects
  • A range of site speed improvements (prioritizing basic HTML at load, image post-processing, JS compression, caching of price data, image optimisation)
  • Blocking crawlers from parameter content to improve crawl budget
  • Updating historic redirects and pointing them to new content
  • Improvement of internal linking to category pages
  • Improving top navigation and changing to open on hover
  • Optimise delivery of home page search bar to improve above the fold load
  • Improve the size of clickable areas on mobile
  • Make relevant icons and images clickable links
  • Add auto-complete options to search boxes
  • Display villa numbers when searching with filters and show ‘no results’ message when needed
  • Simplify enquiry forms
  • Separate enquiry forms to unique URLs to aid reporting
  • Standardise link text format
  • Content optimisation for the end-user’s needs

Content optimisation for the end-users’ needs

After putting the new CMS in place, it was time to use Propellernet’s creative skills to generate relevant engaging content needed to drive growth, which meant starting with a thorough audience and content gap analysis.

“We used Answer the public, a tool actually developed in-house at Propellernet, and Search Listening™ methodology to analyse audience data (using long-tail search behaviour to uncover and understand people’s questions, needs and potential fears) and ensure we were answering all the questions users might have. We also used data from Google’s People Also Ask to build out destination page content with answers to common questions. These were marked-up with schema which also helped to secure answer box rankings.“

With the right data at hand, there were numerous content optimisations to be made, including the creation of new category pages based on extensive keyword research and audience insight, and ‘combination’ pages based on both destinations and villa type facilities (like Beach Villas in Spain or Large Groups Villas in Croatia) . Propellernet also helped the brand to develop category pages with enhanced product listings and worked on an overhaul of the site’s main destination landing pages with more relevant copy, better imagery, more useful internal linking and keyword optimization based on SERP CTR.

Using data from Google autocomplete and People Also Ask to inform the blog content strategy proved effective in reaching the target audience and their specific profiles. They included families spending long holidays in top destinations like Greece, France or Italy, to large groups looking for resort villas or even couples looking for VIP wedding destinations.

The final creative touch — The winning Digital PR campaigns 

‍The audience and gap analysis resulted in a series of compelling insights for designing digital PR campaigns with a twist.

“We developed some creative Digital PR campaigns based on insights from not only Search Listening™ data, but also audience data and segmentation.” 

One such campaign was an ingenious use of Spotify data sets using internal infrastructure to scrape large volumes of information and identify the most common songs used in people’s holiday playlists. The campaign targeted playlists with keywords such as ‘holiday playlist’, ‘beach playlist’, ‘summer tunes’, ‘summertime songs’ and ‘holiday playlist 2020’ and then pulled out the songs and artists that featured most often. By analysing over 7,000 playlists featuring over 150,000 tracks from almost 21,000 unique artists, Propellernet’s digital PR team was able to create a fascinating story that revealed the ultimate Summer soundtracks for UK holidaymakers.

All the insights were turned into an infographic that had large media coverage, with results including:

  • Over 20 pieces of coverage
  • 4.18m number of views

Then, for the summer of 2020, the team developed a campaign looking at the most underrated beaches in the UK, fulfilling their audience’s desire to head off for a UK based staycation, post lockdown – but without the crowds.

The team actively pitched the campaign across the UK press and obtained the following:

  • Over 20 pieces of coverage and 20 high-quality links to the specific landing page.
  • 1.92 million estimated coverage views, based on the estimated total views the specific page of coverage can receive during its lifetime.

And the sky-high results

This combination of improved technical foundations, relevant, engaging content and high-quality links has contributed to a huge improvement in organic visibility, with a YoY increase of over 98% between Jan and Sept 2020. Visibility is also up over 325% since the site migration that took place in Jan 2019, helping CV Villas make significant market share gains versus their competitors.

This improved visibility has helped minimise the impact of Covid-19 for CV Villas, and has actually seen organic traffic increase, despite the huge drop in demand caused by global pandemic. Organic traffic to CV Villas actually increased by almost 9% between April and October 2020.

CV Villas also saw:

  • YoY increase in organic traffic to Destination pages of 25.27%
  • YoY improvement in organic conversions for the period 17.22%
  • YoY improvement in revenue from organic search by 15.36%

In addition, at a time when the demand for villa holidays has been at an all-time low, CV Villas are experiencing an all-time high in visibility, setting them up perfectly to benefit when the demand returns post-Covid.

Lessons learned

  • When you have limited resources, focusing on incremental improvements based on user stories and other relevant data can go a long way — the impact will be greater than the sum of these seemingly small optimisations.
  • Use data well and show the business value from the start. For instance, when planning the CMS migration, the agency explained how different business stakeholders would benefit from the new CMS in their own roles and in achieving their objectives. This helped ensure SEO was considered at the start of the CMS project and helped generate great, long-term business results.
  • The power of data storytelling — creating solid audience profiles and in-depth research from large data sets helped the agency in their content and PR endeavours. 
  • Knowing how to use data, even with small budgets, will lead to impressive results.