Interview Between Jan Klin and Colin Maddocks of Future Travel Ltd
Preamble by Jan Klin:
The last time I met Colin was during a SEO course I was running. Surprisingly he had little content on his homepage and NO metatags (no title , description or keyword tags) but still ranked number one on Google for ‘Nile Cruise’.
This is a great example of the importance of building quality links to get top rankings. After the interview below Colin explains in detail how he went about getting these links. A great lesson for all of us….
How would you describe your company and its mission?
We are an “online” retail travel agency business. We used to have 3 “high street” bricks and mortar shops on Merseyside but sold them to Going Places and moved “online” about 10 years ago.
Initially we had a “generic” travel website that allowed clients to search for almost any type of holiday but over the last few years we have started to create “niche” travel websites where we target specific specialist destinations, such as “Nile Cruises”, “Cape Verde Holidays”, “Cuba Holidays”, etc, etc.
How long have you had a website and what is its main purpose?
We have had websites for about 10 years but have had our “niche” websites for about 3 years and are adding to them all of the time. Our first real “niche” website was www.Nile-Cruises-4u.co.uk and our latest are http://www.ChinaHolidays4u.co.uk and http://www.goaholidays4u.co.uk
The great benefit to being online is that when we had our bricks and mortar agencies we basically only had our passing trade and when that passing trade had booked their holidays we found it hard to increase our sales. Plus there was great competition on the High Street which made getting our share of the passing trade that much harder.
Of course there is great competition online but I think the playing field is much more level. By that I mean that you can be a tiny company “offline” in terms of employees and resources but if you are reasonably interested in grasping “online” optimisation and strategies you can compete with the big players. In fact, because a small online company is usually able to create their own sites quickly and economically as well as alter them in an instant I think that they are much better placed than a major player to act very quickly to react to changes in the marketplace on a daily or even hourly basis. Plus its’ much easier to be “proactive” rather than “reactive” as a smaller player.
Does the site work for you? i.e. deliver the benefits you were expecting?
Yes the sites really do deliver the results we were looking for. Obviously it has taken a bit of time to reach the position we are currently in but now we know a lot more about what we are doing we can create and get a new “niche” site online within days, and, using an initial Google Adwords campaign, can be getting potential clients to the site the same day. In fact its’ a fantastically exciting business model. Un-reaptable in any other format.
What is your online marketing strategy? – which methods do you use to attract potential customers?
Our main strategy is based on trying to reach the first page of Google’s natural search results.
Our Nile Cruise site is currently fluctuating between number one and number two for the key phrase Nile cruise out of 567,000 and we are number two for the second search term Nile cruises out of 189,000.
Thanks to attending a breakfast seminar led by yourself last November and really taking onboard your recommendations, particularly back-links, we have reached those current placements pretty quickly and the difference is amazing.
Prior to being at number one or two on Google we conducted a Google Adwords campaign for the site that meant we spent £40 a day to bring in traffic. We usually paid about 60p per click which meant we were guaranteed to get a least 66 visitors a day to the site.
Now being at number one we get an average of 600 visitors a day to the site and as you can imagine our conversions from site visitors to actual sales has risen tremendously.
In January we received approximately 18000 visitors. If we were paying Google 60p per click/visitor that would have cost us £10,800!! Which we just could not have done.
How does your online activity mesh with your offline marketing?
To be honest we do not have any “offline” marketing strategy or budget. Everything is done online.
How much business do you do on the web?
How do you see the future regarding your online activity?
To keep on developing “niche” travel sites, following on the “long-tail” concept that even though some of our “niche” sites will not do massive sales by having a large number of such specialist sites the combined sales figures will be excellent.
Plus, of course, implementing the various strategies I have learnt from attending your recent full day “Search Engine Masterclass” which I found fascinating, exciting and marvellously practical. So I’m very excited about our future online development.
What is the single biggest lesson you have learned about your web activities?
That it takes time, effort and enthusiasm. Plus you need to seek out the experts, (like yourself) and learn all you can from them. Then…keep on keeping on.
Can you imagine life without a website?
No. Our websites are our business. I would never go back to operating on the High Street. We now have thousands of clients from all over the country and from many countries overseas. This could never have happened without us being “online”.
How I Build my quality links.
Normally I will take my top 5 competitors for the same keyword/phrase that I’m trying to compete on and do a search for their links. For example I will use the “link:www.firstcompetitorsdomain.co.uk” search on Google to find out how many backlinks each of my competitors has. (Actually a more accurate way is to go to www.linkpopularity.com and click on the Yahoo ‘click to view’ option.) Then I’ll take that list of back link partners and visit each one individually looking for an “add your site” button so that I can obtain a backlink too.
I then go through each competitor in the same way, searching out their backlink partners and asking them for a backlink to me. I sometimes have to provide a backlink from my site but not always.
I also use the list of directories supplied by SEOMOZ.com and I have also paid the $299 to Yahoo Directory as I have read many times that this is worth paying for.
Finally, I search out for “on-topic” blogs that I can add a post to ensuring that I add my name as whatever anchor text I’m trying to create backlinks for. So if I’m trying to be found for “Florida Holidays” I will “sign” my blog post answer as “Florida Holidays” which means that my name is my chosen “anchor text”. I know that some blogs have a “no follow” rule for posts but just as many dont’ and I have found this method a good way of getting good backlinks.