Things are changing. People are on the move. We can travel again. The world is opening up, and so is the opportunity for growth, to rebound, rebuild and welcome international tourists once more. 

The travel industry has taken a massive hit. International tourism was down 22% in Q1 of 2020, equating to 67 million fewer international tourists and around US$80 billion in lost exports, according to data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).  

At the same time, the UNWTO were predicting a potential annual decline of between 60 and 80%. That’s the equivalent of 850 million to 1.1 billion fewer international tourists and 100 to 120 million jobs at risk. 

The numbers are mind-boggling, the last 18+ months have been unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. For VisitScotland, and many in the travel sector, organic traffic from outside of the UK all but vanished when the pandemic took hold. In some cases, we were looking at traffic drops of around 70% YoY. 

An empty plane with no passengers

But what can you do when international travel and interest in international travel doesn’t exist? You plan for when it does. You build a strategy that puts you at the front of the queue when the world does open up. You get over the initial shock and create a strategy that will increase your organic visibility in whatever market you want to achieve organic growth in. 

So that’s what we did.  

For some of our clients, the focus is changing back from local to global and we’ve been working with them to be ready for this moment. We do this while recognising that domestic growth is still important and the demand for domestic tourism also presents an opportunity to be considered, alongside international growth. Build a strategy that targets both. 

In 2020, we put the foundations of a global content strategy in place for VisitScotland that would help them understand the organic search opportunity in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. We worked with our global Yardies to expand our keyword data in each market and set about recategorising all of the keywords to be more targeted and to align with the planned new site.

To help us determine the overall search opportunity for each of the 39k+ keywords, we collate huge volumes of data on each keyword. The data set helps us understand how much organic traffic can be achieved. We consider the market, product, topic, mapped page, seasonality, average search volume, product priority, opportunity, outreach opportunity, current click through rate and potential click through rate, rank and potential rank, page score and keyword score. As we said, that’s a lot of data! 

We established that there’s a huge search opportunity across these markets. From the keyword set we have; we can target a potential 42 million visits. The question most people will struggle with, is where do you even begin with that? How do you make this data work for you? That’s where Cubed comes in.  

Cubed helps us to understand what keywords and pages within each market will drive the most clicks and sales. We can look at that at an individual market level, for example the UK or Germany in isolation, or we can look at all markets and prioritise the keywords, pages and/or categories that will drive the best return for the least amount of effort.

A man hiking in Scotland

We know our strategy can drive over 3 million monthly clicks if we achieve ranking and CTR targets, and we know what pages will get us there quickest, as well as which keywords have the highest potential for conversion. 

We’re already seeing both international travellers visiting Scotland again and search demand returning. Green, Amber and Red countries keep changing, but if you do plan on visiting Scotland, VisitScotland is a good source of advice.  

If you need a global or UK-based content strategy, Yard is a good place to start. Please get in touch. 

Barry Begg