Myths and Mountains
Myths and Mountains is a leading provider for luxury adventure travel. They cater to more affluent travelers looking for custom trips to exotic destinations world-wide. Already a well established brand, our role was, and still is, to position Myths and Mountains alongside mammoth rivals like GeoEX, REI Adventures and Adventures by Disney.
This Internet marketing case study provides an overview of Myths and Mountain’s complex goals and we set out to achieve them.
Background and landscape
OCG was originally brought in by another search engine marketing firm specializing in PPC advertising like Google AdWords. That campaign hit a wall at the conversion level because the website was, well, horrific.
Meanwhile, their ad spend was ridiculous–especially considering the poor user experience provided by the website. So, while the pay-per-click advertising did indeed bring visitors, it did nothing in terms of ROI.
Since, that was the primary, if not only, driver of traffic to the website, it really was like throwing money out the window. In short, the website was never going to perform, no matter how great the advertising budget.
Step One: Assess the competitive landscape
As mentioned, Myths and Mountains is in direct competition with the biggest names in adventure travel. In the old days of Yellow Pages advertising, the rule was that you had to take out an ad at least as big as your largest competitor. In website terms, that means your website has to be at least as cool as that same competitor.
With that in mind, our first job was to find out just who we were going to have to compete with. We begin by conducting a few simple searches like any other Googler (yes, of course, that’s a word). Once we have a sense of who shows up in various keyword combinations, we use several super-secret ? research tools to find out what competing companies are doing.
In this case, it’s all the big names; National Geographic, Lonely Planet, REI… They have lots of resources, tons of clout, and they know what they’re doing when it comes to designing promoting websites. What that meant for us is the bar could not have been set any higher.
Step Two: Beautiful, responsive, search engine friendly website design
To begin with, our Myths and Mountains website design had to be awesome. When your competition is National Geographic, you’ve got to be over-the-top good. We set out with the following must-haves and began working from there.
- Responsive, device-agnostic (mobile friendly) website layout
- Simple, popular CMS platform
- Highly polished, branded appearance
- SEO ready
- CMS Integration for lead capture functions
- Utilize spectacular photography
- Scalable and flexible for future updates and expansion
We had several CMS options, but chose WordPress largely because it has such an active developer base. Security issues tend to be resolved quickly, and updates are generally very stable. We are well aware of Joomla, Drupal and others, but we hate surprises. Also, clients like WordPress because it is easy to learn.
The website design itself: challenges and solutions
For the design of the website, we wanted to give visitors a sense of “being there” and to provide depth. To accomplish this, we created a mountain range in layers, using silhouettes and gradients for suggest the misty hillsides of Southeast Asia. On its own, the image is beautiful and supports the Myths and Mountains brand exceptionally well.
But, we needed more than a cool image to stand out against out big league rivals. Our solution was to break the image into six layers and use a parallax effect to make it feel as though the website visitor is descending into the canyon between the hills. As you descend, we rely heavily on the incredible photographs and textures unique to the places Myths and Mountains travels.
Originally, we silhouetted a single traveler against our mountain background, but replaced that image with that of a family to subtly encourage traveling with kids. Take a look.
One challenge we hadn’t anticipated is how difficult it would be to integrate to the client’s CRM. Client relationship management is a cornerstone of every one of our online marketing campaigns. We integrate CRMs to websites every single day, so it was a surprise to us to learn we would have zero access to be able to properly configure theirs.
It was a struggle, and an unnecessary expense to the client, but we managed to get pretty close to what we needed by working with that company directly. Essentially, it serves lead generation functions by managing communications for potential travelers as they request itineraries or catalogs. For now, that’ll have to do.
Step 3: SEO & Internet Marketing
As mentioned, OCG was originally brought in to design and develop the website, but not for ongoing Internet marketing efforts. However, ROI from par-per-click advertising was actually negative, due to the high bid price for competitive key-phrases. That made organic SEO a critical mid to long-term strategy.
The problem with organic search is speed. Myths and Mountains had (still has) realistic, attainable goals, but happens to be in a highly competitive market. So, while the website has tons of unique and relevant content, onsite efforts weren’t going to be enough. Regardless, that’s where we always start, because if your onsite ranking factors are screwed up, you’ll never compete, no matter how many back-links you manage to get.
Blogging & SEO
Myths and Mountains is a very engaged client, and as a result, we have a lot to work with in terms of planning and content. To fast forward, traffic from the website has increased about 4 times in under a year–and it was significant to begin with. There are several reasons.
- We have monthly marketing and strategy meetings where we set goals and set specific action plans for each individual involved.
- Enlightenment. Myths and Mountains is committed to understanding the organic search landscape as much as we do. As a result, they understand how to write blog articles for SEO that interest human readers.
- Backlinks. Since Myths and Mountains is fully engaged, they are constantly leveraging relationships to earn backlinks we would have a difficult time getting on our own.
Through constant communication and working together toward achieving the same goals, Myths and Mountains is competing at the national level, in a market made up of global heavyweights.
Email Marketing Campaigns
Another important component of the Myths and Mountains marketing mix is email. Primarily, this is a twice-monthly newsletter that continues to be a strong performer fostering interest in new destinations among subscribers.
When we got involved, the company had tens of thousands of contacts across multiple email lists. The problem was, those contacts, while all legitimate subscribers, were moved around and stored in several different formats over a period of years. As a result, there were duplicates, partial addresses, spammy ones… you name it.
We cleaned it by writing software that first confirms each address is legitimate. Next, it checks for duplicates before checking it against a known spam database. Once all that’s done, it writes the clean list out to a new file. The next trick was to pull the clean data into their email service without losing data from past campaigns. Setting aside the nerdy details, we got it done. As a side benefit, they no longer pay the email people to store all those duplicate email addresses.