SEO Case Study: Synotrip

The Situation is owned by the founder of NMG and has been in operation since 2006. In late 2008, we had an idea:  how about we turn Synotrip into a website that allows travelers and tour guides to connect with each other directly? We thought that would allow travelers more choice and a cheaper price, while also allowing the tour guide to earn more money than they would at a tour company. We tested this idea by adding just one tour guide on the site to start. She soon received a couple inquiries from customers. At this point we knew that it would be possible to move forward with the tour guide idea. But the site only had one tour guide on it so far and was operated on a shoe-string budget. How could we grow the site into a whole community of tour guides and travelers as cost-effectively as possible?

The Plan

The first step in any SEO project is proper research and strategic planning. We dug into some keyword research and found that our original assumption about travelers looking for greater choice must be right, because they sure were searching with a variety of keywords! Many were searching for tour guides in specific cities, some were searching for tour guides in China and some were searching for tour guides in China with specific qualities. Also important, our interviews with potential English-speaking Chinese tour guides revealed that they weren’t using Chinese to search for places to advertise their services. They knew their clients read English so they were using English keywords to search for places on which to advertise their services.

As such, we aimed to create hundreds or even thousands of search engine optimized pages to target a multitude of terms containing “tour guide” or “tour guides” on both Google and Baidu. What’s more, we believe that people are always more important than search engines. We knew we had to make sure that the landing pages were not only optimized for search engines, but were also written and designed in a manner that would drive Chinese tour guides to create a profile on the site and drive foreign travelers to contact them.

The Results

In January of 2009, before we started our SEO campaign, we had almost nobody reaching by searching for any keyword with “tour guide” in it, but that soon changed. Within a couple months, several hundred visitors found the site via such search terms.  By June of 2010, we already had 500 visitors finding the site each month for such keywords! That number doesn’t even include all the visits from other long-tail keywords targeted including keywords related to “interpreters”, “drivers”, “assistants”, etc. What’s more, since the site is optimized for people as well, we saw direct traffic and registrations increase along with search engine traffic. Our visitors weren’t just getting to Synotrip - a great deal of them were using it as intended: tour guides were signing up and filling out profiles. And “trippers”, as we call them, were contacting the tour guides.

An image from Google Analytics Showing SEO Results for Keywords Containing "Tour Guide"

By the end of 2010, had just shy of 600 tour guides, many of whom are quite active on the site, adding more content that continues to attract more traffic. Synotrip was on the first page of Google results for hundreds of terms such as “China tour guide”, “Nanjing tour guide”, “Shanghai tour guides” and many many more. Key to our strategy, now ranked fairly high on Google and Baidu for many terms. What’s more, an estimated 300 emails are sent to tour guides per month and many tour guides are now paying for premium accounts on Synotrip.

End result: the site receives lots of search traffic for highly relevant keywords, grows almost all by itself and makes money.