Focusing on user experience and engaging content for VisitUtah.com, the Utah Office of Tourism and Aristotle successfully increased the website’s traffic for the second year in a row.
Utah’s epic landscape of canyons, arches, mountains and deserts makes for a uniquely rewarding and challenging travel experience. The Road to Mighty® is the unforgettable great American road trip that ties it all together. The Utah Office of Tourism (UOT) and Aristotle are dedicated to delivering in-depth, user-friendly content that inspires visitors and ensures that they’re fully prepared to explore the intense natural wonders of the state.
Aristotle created VisitUtah.com’s first responsive design in 2015. Over the next twelve months, the UOT and Aristotle’s content development and optimization work grew the site’s organic traffic by 46% and total traffic by 58%. In 2017, UOT and Aristotle planned to make the site’s content experience even more user-friendly, traveler-friendly, and search-friendly.
The primary audiences were families and adventurous travelers looking for road trip ideas to experience Utah’s raw natural beauty and welcoming gateway towns. UOT and Aristotle’s strategy combined website development, search engine optimization and paid search best practices for a holistic approach embracing the importance of user signals to search engine performance.
To ensure travelers have a safe and wonderful experience, VisitUtah.com must inspire travel and make that travel actionable. To meet this need, VisitUtah.com takes a radically different approach to tourism marketing, focusing on inspiration and authentic travel planning content and stories when many other states focus on travel guide requests and business partner listings. One of UOT’s key metrics is “cost per minute of engagement” across digital channels, which makes search-optimized content essential to the site’s success.
Our SEO strategy focused on creating clusters of in-depth, optimized content centered around key interest areas and target audiences, and our paid search strategy was optimized to increase traffic and session duration.
Our objectives were to:
- Increase website sessions
- Increase organic traffic
- Increase SEO visibility and market share
- Increase user engagement
- Increase YouTube video views and watch time.
We successfully increased organic and total traffic for the second year in a row, increasing organic sessions by 55% and increasing total traffic by 40%.
Throughout the campaign, we focused on helping people find the state’s most-visited destinations as well as other less-traveled roads to adventure.
Aristotle used the Searchmetrics SEO platform to identify content opportunities based on search volume and competitive gap analysis. Aristotle also launched a rebranded blog platform at VisitUtah.com called “Inspiration” with a new data structure for enhanced user experience, user paths, cross-linking and content clustering. This provided an improved platform to engage visitors with personal Utah travel stories and articles. For each page, we enhanced search engine performance by infusing supplementary search terms, while maintaining editorial integrity and integrating links to related content to keep users engaged and help them discover more reasons to visit Utah.
Our paid search campaigns drove traffic to 1,960 pages. We optimized each ad set and A/B tested landing pages to maximize session duration. The campaigns centered around Utah’s general terms (Utah Tourism and National Parks), long-tail keyword question terms, trip categories (such as urban, road trips, and skiing), and article content terms. UOT’s ad server data also tracked over $2 million in hotel bookings with paid search playing a role in the conversion.
We also audited the site’s internal linking structure and used weekly crawls and technical SEO programming to make sure search engines could quickly index new content.
Finally, to increase video views and drive more traffic to VisitUtah.com, we optimized the videos on the Utah YouTube channel for organic search. We also integrated video content into the site to provide a more interactive experience with improved SEO performance.
PPC Ad Creative
Activity-Specific Video Content
Time period: 7/17/2016 to 7/16/2017 vs. the previous 12-month period.
Goal 1: Increase overall website sessions
Total sessions increased by 40% (from 2,354,581 to 3,305,889). Users also increased by 44% (from 1,793,290 to 2,587,775).
Goals 2: Increase organic traffic
Traffic from organic search increased by 55% (from 1,121,909 to 1,738,247). With less than half the budget of PPC, SEO helped organic traffic deliver 53% of total website traffic at an approximate value of $1,145,434 based upon the average cost-per-click in paid search.
Goal 3: Increase SEO visibility and market share
VisitUtah.com saw a 38% increase in its Searchmetrics SEO Visibility score on U.S. desktop and 40% for mobile searches. The site saw a 17% increase in SEO Market Share for desktop and 13% for mobile with increased rankings for 256 keyword phrases over the year.
Goal 4: Increase user engagement
VisitUtah.com saw a 29% increase in returning visitors to the site (from 572,161 to 739,453). Page views increased 25% (from 6,060,818 to 7,577,820).
Goal 5: Increase YouTube video views and watch time
YouTube video SEO and integration increased video views by 1,040% (from 179,253 to 2,044,943) and watch time by 445% (from 160,491 minutes to 874,342).
The UOT and Aristotle team are dedicated to providing authentic travel-planning content. Our search marketing is about more than just driving traffic — it’s about really helping people and guiding them through their entire journey. This campaign is a showcase project for how search engine performance and answering people’s questions through search are coming into alignment.
This campaign also showed how focusing on the user experience can create great results for a travel destination. The three-pronged attack of inspirational organic content, optimized paid search campaigns and strong technical foundation makes for an incredible user experience for millions of VisitUtah.com’s visitors, leaving the path clear for inspiration and the next amazing Utah adventure.