When I started working as a copywriter, I didn’t realize the impact the content I created had on a business. Then, I began to learn and deliver social media and content strategies and to track my results. I acknowledged how important it is to have a roadmap for your online communication and clear goals for your business.
Then another “a-ha moment” I had in 2023 is that rarely you can work in online communication and deliver real results on your own without a team.
This is my new Case Studies series. In these blog posts, I’ll share my projects, the challenges my clients or my team faced, and how we solved them. This is the first article of the series. It’s about Balkan Trails, a project I am very fond of.
The initial problem
When first meeting with Balkan Trails, their main challenge was getting more leads organically, not via paid traffic. Their sales were decent, but they wanted to be more independent of the paid campaigns on Google and Facebook. Their paid media budgets were significant as they targeted highly competitive markets: the US, Australia, and New Zealand.
Balkan Trails is a boutique travel agency and a family business run by Vlad and Zoe Trestian. They focus on private, custom tours for middle-aged and senior travelers from the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
For the Trestian couple, professionally managing their business and growing it through good-quality, organic content were their main objectives. All while keeping costs under control.
Once I had a clear comprehension of their business goals and challenges, I suggested a plan for an organic social media and blog strategy and an SEO optimization strategy. This was the initial step we had to take to determine how to increase their organic website traffic and social media channels.
Before implementing, it is crucial to analyze the current situation and the market context and to design a plan and goals to target for the next 6 to 12 months. This is the process I follow for every new project I work on, and it has never failed.
The Balkan Trails project was made in collaboration with two of my freelancer colleagues: Andrei and Cami. Andrei specializes in SEO optimization and is an outstanding professional. Cami is an extremely creative content writer, and she helped implement the social media & blog strategy I created. Considering all of our skills, we were the perfect team for this project.
Organic Social Media Strategy
First, I created the social media and blog strategy, which included:
- A complete SWOT analysis of the competition through the lens of organic social media, blog, and website content.
- An audit of the existing social media accounts
- Research and creation of the customer personas and their unique online habits.
- Clarifying the digital objectives and propose different tactics to reach them in the next 12 months. Considering that Balkan Trails wanted to grow its organic website traffic and lead generation, I focused on raising brand awareness tactics. Our goal was to maximize reach on social media channels and send traffic to the website through blog posts.
- Explaining the customer journey and what type of content we should create for each stage.
- Establishing the content pillars for social media and those for the blog.
- Deciding on the social media channel mix and the posting frequency. We started with Facebook, Instagram, and, at a later stage, YouTube.
- Then, I illustrated how to create and plan content considering the specificities of each proposed platform.
- The strategy also contained an example of a monthly content calendar for social media. Also, it included a few examples of post mock-ups on the different content pillars.
- Because we had Instagram on our list of social media channels, the strategy contained hashtags research and a few best practices to remember while using them.
- We also clarified the key brand messages and the tone of voice. The “Balkan Trails” brand should become recognizable to our target audience online; how it “speaks” to them is essential to achieve that.
- Then, I included the editorial plan for the blog for the next 3 months while considering the content pillars and keyword research to better understand what topics interested our audience. In this section, I inserted a list of best practices for writing SEO-friendly blog articles if they decide to implement the strategy with someone else, an employee, or another contractor.
- The last part of the social media and blog strategy contained special editorial projects to increase brand awareness and position Balkan Trails as an authority in creating custom tours in Romania and Bulgaria for foreign travelers.
SEO Optimization Strategy
The SEO strategy my colleague created included a comprehensive analysis of Balkan Trails’ current situation: a full audit that highlighted all the current SEO problems of the website and the opportunities we had to improve them. It proposed several approaches for the next six to twelve months. Everything from purely technical SEO tactics to content optimization was taken into account. The strategy comprised the following sections:
- What are the SEO goals Balkan Trails should be targeting? (increasing the notoriety of the brand, the volume of targeted traffic, reaching top positions for the most important keywords, measuring and improving the conversion rate)
- What tactics are relevant for the brand to achieve these goals?
- On the technical side of the SEO optimization strategy was an in-depth analysis of the accessibility and indexability of the website. This meant taking a look at the loading speed and proposing ways to improve it, avoiding broken pages and redirects, optimizing sitemaps, URL structure, canonical tags, robots.txt, duplicates, and others.
- With the help of this strategy, Balkan Trails gained an overview of the market’s potential. In the Forecast section, we observed a minimum of 200.000 monthly searches for our topics of interest for Bulgaria and Romania at that moment. In this context, the estimated traffic for the average 5th position in Google was around 12.000 visitors. Of course, only some were travel-related searches, but even so, it was not bad for such a niche business.
- The strategy also comprised a competitive analysis from an SEO standpoint. This helped the client understand his current position compared to their main competitors. We looked at KPIs like domain authority/referring domains, keyword rankings, and organic website traffic.
- The key takeaways from this SEO strategy were the opportunities Balkan Trails could implement with the highest probability of success. We noticed that only some competitors were doing technical SEO. The brand could earn some good points just by handling that. The competition was not very strong on the most relevant keywords for Balkan Trails. They could quickly start ranking for them with good quality and optimized content on their website and blog.
The Results for Balkan Trails
After delivering the strategies, we all had a clear roadmap to increase organic website traffic for Balkan Trails, and the implementation phase began. We had to prioritize because the client’s budget had some limitations.
We chose to do the SEO optimization first and start with 4 blog articles every month for 6 months. This is the minimum period for an SEO optimization project to start showing some results.
After 6 months had passed, Vlad was delighted with our results. He decided to stop SEO optimization for a while. We continued publishing 4 blog articles each month and started building the social media presence on 2 channels: Facebook and Instagram. Despite only 6 months of SEO optimization, Balkan Trail’s results on website traffic and conversions (leads, in this case) were excellent.