To oversimplify, Educational Discovery Tours is a student travel agency. Every year, EDT is responsible for sending thousands of students on educational and performing arts tours worldwide. It is a massive undertaking in a competitive market, and one the company doesn’t take lightly. Sending our kids to far away places for the experience of a lifetime requires expertise and a commitment to safety that is unique the the travel industry.
We are proud that Educational Discovery Tours chose us to help them extend their reach online. This Internet marketing case study provides an introduction to Educational Discovery Tours, their goals and we went about achieving them.
Background and digital marketing history
As is often the case, we met Educational Discovery Tours through another agency that had been struggling to meet the company’s growth objectives. Their strategy was to rely on PPC to drive traffic to third-party landing pages–an online marketing tactic that has to be meticulously planned and executed to be effective. In this case, the results didn’t come close to covering the costs, so change was inevitable.
Educational Discovery Tours was already a very successful company, and had worked with several online marketing agencies. Not one of those digital marketing companies had delivered as promised, so skepticism ran high throughout our early conversations. The only advantages we had at the time were 1) we had just finished designing and developing EDT’s new website, and 2) we weren’t one of the past agencies that made empty promises. So, despite a lack of confidence in digital marketing in general, we got the contract.
Assess the competitive landscape
We seem to have developed a niche, marketing companies that could be viewed as underdogs taking on nationally entrenched rivals. In many ways, that describes EDT. It’s a solid, successful company run by incredibly smart people, but growth means taking market share from competitors doing hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.
As we assessed each of the major competitors (and quite a few smaller ones), it became obvious that organic search rankings would be THE critical success factor. We had already addressed conversions during the design of the website, so this was going to be a major SEO effort that would likely go on for quite a while.
We knew we would need enough early SEO wins to bolster EDT’s confidence, and keep us in the game long enough to make marketing gains that would increase bookings.
Develop and execute an SEO strategy
As mentioned, one major advantage we had was that we handled EDT’s website design and development. That meant everything about the website had already been structured to achieve top search engine rankings. It also meant there wouldn’t be any surprises to derail our efforts as we pushed ahead.
Strategically, SEO shouldn’t be that hard. In fact, often it isn’t, but for competitive national rankings, it can be frustratingly slow. In this case, EDT’s competitors are big and tough, but there aren’t as many as in other markets. That meant we could focus on onsite SEO with a good chance of scoring early gains.
Agonizing over backlinks could wait a few weeks. That’s not usually the case for national rankings against major competitors. But, the student travel market is a lot narrower than travel in general, so our onsite strategy made sense. It often does.
Conversion Rate Optimization & Campaign Management
Educational Discovery Tours is very engaged in the success of their online marketing campaigns. This is essential. Often, we can achieve top search engine rankings (local SEO included) without any input from the client. However, we are Internet marketing experts, not student group travel experts. EDT’s goal is to generate leads. Content needs to speak directly to the motivations of their website visitors.
- We have regular (monthly at minimum) marketing and strategy meetings where we set goals and establish action plans. We focus specifically on traffic and conversion metrics, rankings, leads generated and other measurable objectives.
- Education. We work to help EDT understand the organic search landscape as much as we do. At the same time, they help us better understand their market and related consumer groups.
- Editorial planning. Our onsite SEO tactics have been incredibly successful, so broadening content through blogging and focused landing pages is an ongoing effort.
Through constant communication and working together in achieving the measurable goals, Educational Discovery Tours competes at the national level, in a market made up of much larger competitors.
CRM & Lead Generation
Educational Discovery Tours has a fairly sophisticated pipeline, so customer related activity is well managed and documented. To gain insight into the needs of EDT account professionals, we interfaced with department heads. With that, we have discovered additional opportunities and set new goals to support them.
As an online marketing firm, it would be easy for us to hang our hats on our success with SEO. In truth, however, high rankings are pointless without a correlating increase in leads and sales.
In the beginning, Email marketing took a back seat to organic search because of the high-touch nature of EDT’s work processes. Having achieved top 10 rankings for nearly every target keyword and phrase, we’ve been able to shift energy into conversions and lifetime value. Email marketing is a significant part of that.