2019 was proving to be a tough year for Arctic Adventures, an important travel & leisure player in Iceland, so they reached Wolfgang Digital for support. The multi-award-winning digital marketing agency knew it would be a challenging project, needing a different approach than what was successful in the past.
The context looked quite adverse — the cheapest and easiest airline company servicing Iceland collapsed almost overnight which in turn caused a dip in conversions for Arctic Adventures.
Plus, as one of the client’s main target audiences were UK tourists, there was another unfavourable aspect to take into account: an important British travel group had closed, making it harder for UK people to reach Iceland.
All these macro-factors directly affected the client’s business.
Yet, the objectives for Wolfgang’s team were clear: retain company growth despite the harsh context, make existing content “work harder”, while capitalizing on the year’s most relevant trends, and close the organic search gap in visibility between the client and its lead competitor.
Finding the most compelling angle
What was special about 2019? As it turned out, the two ‘hot topics’ related to Iceland were Climate Change and Game of Thrones. The SEO and Content teams at Wolfgang uncovered this winning insight with an in-depth analysis of Google Trends, Twitter trending topics, and the media context at large.
So they decided to create a strategy that would use that insight to its fullest. That meant turning from “top of the funnel” content loosely based on Icelandic culture, which worked in the previous years, to hyper-relevant content, focused on conversions and the particularities of 2019 in Iceland.
“With GoT scenes filmed in Iceland, there was potential to play up to this and sell tours to pop culture/fantasy fans. With Climate Change a hot topic that dominated the news around the world in 2019 thanks to the efforts of highly charismatic public figures such as David Attenborough and Greta Thurnberg, our client found itself in a fairly unique position to gather interesting data from its own customers and use that to garner media attention.”
A creative turn of events — The “Game of Climate Change” campaign
With content as the driving force for conversions and two major subjects to further explore, the team started piecing together the campaign:
1. Representing Game of Thrones & Iceland
While the client had a say in the GoT phenomenon before, with related blog posts and some touristic references, there was an opportunity to go one step further — creating a GoT “hub” representing Iceland and all the connections between the series and the place. And time it right, as the final season was airing in the spring.
The agency designed this landing page as an experience for all things “Thrones-y”, as they say while taking into account its timely context. “Between the information-based keyword targeting and internal linking between GoT-related pages, transactions on the GoT pages quadrupled YoY, with 76% of these coming from organic search.”
It was quite the change, as the client didn’t drive any GoT-related organic conversion in the previous year.
2. A community with a shared vision
To make a stand for climate change, Wolfgang Digital, together with the client’s team, created the Environmental Impact Survey — a Survey Monkey-based research applied to +250 customers with provocative questions about tourism's impact on Iceland’s environment. The answers showed worrying insights that turned out to be a meaningful piece of content (blog post) and a press release highlighting the concern for Iceland and its environment, the negative aspects of tourism, and climate change consequences.
Both drove unexpected media coverage, high authority links, and even print mentions in such magazines as Geographical. The New York Times also mentioned the client’s research, which drove 61 referring domains:
“Spotting an opportunity within a crisis was a watershed moment for us and really illustrates the kind of ‘box clever’ thinking that allowed Wolfgang and our client to make the most out of a series of difficult circumstances.”
How the client’s content “worked harder” in the end
Together with the creative content generated, the agency team was aware that optimizing existing assets will also increase conversions, and add to the overall business results.
So they went ahead with constant tweaking and improving on-page content, making incremental changes that contributed in the end to achieve the long-term goal — overtaking the lead competitor in terms of organic results.
Many pages were tweaked to produce incremental improvements. For example, by moving the call-to-action and optimising its anchor text (book the Flybus Kefflavik Airport transfer) in the blog about Keflavik Airport, the team doubled the page’s revenue YoY.
Similarly, they reworked the site’s Whale Watching Tours landing page to make it easier for people to find whale watching trips in the specific Icelandic region that they are visiting (whales can be viewed from Reykjavik, Dalvik and the West of Iceland. Wolfgang gave each section a short blurb explaining what kinds of whales they'd be likely to see in each region. Not only did this help the landing page rank for more specific search terms, it also improved the user journey, meaning less clicks were needed to convert (as users had the information they needed on the page). These changes led to a 79% uplift in organic traffic year-over-year, and a 65% improvement on YoY conversion rate.
“We were very happy to see such a big improvement on Arctic Adventures’ whale watching landing page. As Arctic Adventures are very keen on running their whale watching tours in an ethical and environmentally sustainable way (not all Icelandic companies are so keen on animal welfare - it is a very divisive issue), so this tied in quite well with our environmental impact outreach.”
- Sean Markey, Head of SEO at Wolfgang Digital
The winning results
After a rough start, considering the unfavourable market, the agency managed to help their client finish the reporting period up 3.12% YoY for revenue. Although it may seem small, that represented a substantial amount of revenue for the company.
The agency constantly optimized their campaign and the results showed:
The organic visibility overall was improved by 10%:
There were solid improvements across the majority of the client’s keyword themes, such as Activities (up 4.3%), Locations (up 19%) and Day Tours (up 16%).
For ease of tracking and reporting, the agency used SEOmonitor's folder system to separate the overall keyword list into more manageable sections. The main folders lined up with Arctic Adventures' main offering types, such as Activities, Attractions and Locations, while sub-category folders allowed them to delve deeper, focusing on specific areas of opportunity, showing what worked and what needed to be revised.
“We managed to drive growth in a granular way. Important keywords that achieved top position on Google during that period included Iceland Northern Lights Tour and Iceland Day Tours, while the likes of Iceland Tours and Hiking in Iceland also achieved their all-time ranking positions.”
Wolfgang Digital’s ingenuity in approach and thorough execution of a difficult task needed to be recognized. So no surprise there that this campaign turned out to be a winner of such prestigious awards as SEO — Best use of Content at the Drum Search Awards Europe (2019), Best Online Marketing Campaign in Iceland at Nordic Search Awards (2020), and Travel & Leisure Content Campaign of the Year at the European Content Awards (2020).
“It’s always nice to win a trophy at a prestigious awards ceremony, but when a single campaign wins in three, it’s a really big deal. That removes any niggling doubt that you might have just got a bit lucky on the night. When you’ve managed to impress three separate panels of judges enough to award you top spot, you know you’re on to a real winner!”
- Sean Markey, Head of SEO at Wolfgang Digital
Summary (lessons learned)
- The importance of building a strong, trusting relationship with the client — it makes it easier to gain the buy-in and create this sort of bold, creative campaigns.
- It’s good to take a step back from the day to day and look at what the world is thinking about at a certain time, what people care about etc. It’s insights like these that spark a high ROI campaign.