A global travel brand with over two hundred branches worldwide and more than three decades of experience, STA Travel specialises in holidays, tours, gap year trips and adventure travel for young people. Their UK web presence is based at www.statravel.co.uk, and the UK branch also has an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Pinterest linked from the website, as well as a regularly updated YouTube channel, although this is not linked from the website.

How Do They Rank?

Although by no means a definitive means of measurement, search engine ranking on a clean browser that is not using personalised search can give a good indication of how well STA Travel is generally doing in terms of their search optimisation performance. The below results are for a sample of 20 relevant keywords.

STA Travel Rank Samples

Not amazing results for such a significant brand – so what is going wrong?

How Could They Improve Onsite SEO?

The STA Travel UK site has some solid SEO ideas behind it but they haven’t been executed in a particularly keyword sensitive way. For example, their destinations pages are optimised purely for country names – with proper H1s and meta data and a reasonably clean set of code (except, sadly, for the mass of inline javascript from the interactive maps) – but optimising a site section purely for the names of countries isn’t the best way to attract relevant searchers.

STA Travel Countries

Fortunately, they make up for it with some good landing pages to capture keyword specific traffic. However, while their copy is very good in terms of flavour for the brand, it could easily be better in terms of keyword optimisation, without compromising on that good brand voice.

STA Travel Landing Page

Some of their landing pages have also been put together a little too hastily – a classic example of reacting quickly to a perceived lack without having a proper plan or strategy in place. This results in some very bare bones pages, which look poor and have no clear calls to action on them. Take this example for Asia Tours; it looks extremely lacklustre and probably has a fairly high bounce rate, as it looks like an incomplete draft that was accidentally taken live onto the site.

STA Travel Landing Page

The site also misses out on a golden opportunity with its image optimisation. A lot of the images on the site either have no alt tags or have inappropriate ones that aren’t ideally tailored to the content of the page where they are placed. Image files are also often poorly named, describing exactly what is in the picture using underscores, which isn’t search engine friendly and doesn’t make a positive contribution to page optimisation.

In the Asia Tours example above, for instance, the statue image has the filename HK_Big_buddha_200x133.jpg, (which is not optimised for search engines) and the alt tag “cheap flights to Hong Kong”, which isn’t very helpful for a page supposed to be focused on tours of Asia. They’ve also missed out on the opportunity to make better use of their well-written copy to get some logical internal cross-linking onto the website with appropriate link titles, which would help users find their way around as well as give their onsite SEO a boost.

Meta data is generally good but descriptions are generally a little too long, which results in cutoffs in the SERPs. It is always worth remembering to tailor meta content to look good as well as to optimise it for SEO. Remember that your meta data forms your organic search “shop window”. It needs to encourage people to click through to the website, so it is always worth paying attention to the look and style of it as well as the SEO factors.

STA Travel SERP Snippets

How Could They Improve Offsite Digital Marketing?

A quick backlink analysis shows a large dropoff at the end of May, just post Penguin 2.0, and then a sudden surge upward at the end of June. The start of a second dropoff in July should be a warning sign here – it looks like the backlink profile is being subjected to some pretty heavy low quality link building work, which will be flagging up issues to Google. The dropoff, sudden surge and then the beginnings of another dropoff is a fairly classic example of a domain struggling to maintain authority with a poor backlink profile.

A review of this would definitely be in order, along with a better thought-out strategy that aims to build a more natural looking profile – like taking velocity of link acquisition into account rather than spamming a large number of new backlinks all at once!

STA Travel Backlinks

Social media presence and engagement on Facebook and Twitter is generally good, with some excellent dialogue between brand customers, excellent use of images and a nice amount of authority development with people hopping onto Twitter and Facebook to ask general travel questions like “what should I visit in x” as well as about particular services. Their Pinterest is a good example of how the platform can be used to pin something other than your own content, although they are missing a trick by not expanding their competitions into a “repin it to win it” style event, which would greatly increase their visibility.

They’re also not taking full advantage of YouTube. Uploads seem to be irregular, although past videos have been of good quality and had plenty of views. There’s no reason why they couldn’t expand the existing content onto a Vimeo channel to increase exposure, and they should definitely start looking to embed some more of this video content onto the website landing pages for the SEO and conversion rate benefits this will give them.

STA Travel YouTube

Site Conversion Potential

The homepage is very good, presenting a clear set of search and book controls and promotional slides that feature prominent calls to action. The addition of “related blog articles” on many pages is a nice touch to encourage brand loyalty and perception of authority/expertise.

STA Travel CVR Potential

The search results aren’t entirely ideal, however – they just produce a page of rather unreadable results and usually far too many of them. At the very least, these should be limited to producing the top few most relevant pages for a given query, and for particular terms it might be worth looking at forwarding people automatically to the best pages.

For example, if someone types in “Argentina”, it might be better to send them directly to the Travel Argentina page rather than presenting them with a large and fairly unattractive list of possible destinations. Proper content analysis and tracking in analytics should give good indications of which pages should go where, and hopefully they are also tracking their site search, as this can give good insights into visitor behaviour.

STA Travel Site Search

What Does The Brand Do Well?

  • Generally good content and copy available
  • Generally good code structure
  • Good engagement on social platforms
  • Lots of landing pages to capture traffic
  • Well-used and promoted blog content

What Are Some Opportunities?

  • Improve meta data for SEO and CTR
  • Improve image URLs and alt tag use
  • Add internal links into copy sections
  • Better use of video content
  • Improve onsite search results/behaviour

This is only one of the many reasons 4Ps isn’t just another SEO agency. To discuss how content, search and technology are evolving together to meet new demands from brands and customers alike, give us a call on +44 (0)207 607 5650 for a no-obligation coffee and chat about data, marketing and user behaviour across all inbound channels. What could a 4Ps performance marketing strategy do for your brand?