How one in-house team is taking on industry incumbents


HomeToGo’s in-house SEO team.

Taking on industry incumbents that likely have more resources, staff and an established track record is a tall order for any up-and-comer. Like any strategic brand, HomeToGo, the self-proclaimed “World’s Largest Vacation Rental Search Engine,” decided to take the fight to an arena favorable to its strengths — the search engine results pages.

To make its way up the rankings, HomeToGo’s SEO team created content campaigns and found novel ways to make them appeal to travelers and journalists, increasing the likelihood that its pages receive mentions and backlinks from media outlets. In just five years, the team has managed to increase HomeToGo.de’s organic visibility, eclipsing that of Airbnb.de according to SISTRIX’s visibility index, and earn the Search Engine Land Award for best in-house team of the year for the second consecutive time.

The objective

Similar to other aggregators, HomeToGo competes for customers that might otherwise head directly to a provider’s website. The company is looking to challenge industry leaders like Airbnb and VRBO to become the brand that vacationers turn to when they’re looking for a holiday home.

With that goal in mind, HomeToGo aimed to improve its organic visibility by collecting high-quality backlinks from media outlets with a high domain authority. Those backlinks should, in turn, increase visibility and have a trickle-down effect on traffic and revenue.

The strategy

To get the attention of high profile media outlets, HomeToGo’s in-house team created over 100 data-driven content stories in 2018. In particular, its Ski Price Index campaign, which ranked top European and North American ski destinations by price, demonstrated remarkable skill, coordination, foresight and results.

Since the campaign was aimed at both international and domestic audiences, HomeToGo created localized angles for nine different markets. However, the target audience was not limited to potential winter vacationers: the company also wanted to make its Ski Price Index as conducive to media coverage as possible.

Knowing that journalists would be reluctant to link to something that appears overly commercial, HomeToGo placed content snippets on landing pages but added anchor links that direct journalists to sections of the page containing only editorial content. This consideration likely improved the success of the team’s media outreach.

This particular campaign earned the company backlinks from referring domains with a DA of 90+ in five markets, including mentions from outlets like the New York Times and MSN.com. An additional 180 referring domains with a DA of 50+ linked to HomeToGo’s homepage or campaign pages and rankings for relevant keywords also climbed by as much as 85 positions.

HomeToGo’s meticulously designed campaigns are also supported by the SEO team’s efforts to eliminate keyword cannibalization, optimize internal linking structure, manage Google crawl budget as well as an in-house CMS that builds campaign landing pages and helps to identify and resolve duplicate content.

The payoff

In 2018, the HomeToGo SEO team’s primary focus was to earn quality backlinks. The culmination of its strategy and techniques has procured over 1,700 unique referring domains — 180% more than the company initially hoped for. HomeToGo was also keen to emphasize the merit of its content, stating that none of the links were paid.

Along with its heightened organic visibility, the vacation rental aggregator also achieved a 329% year-over-year rise in organic traffic worldwide and a 446% year-over-year increase in organic revenue.

The team behind it all

Clever strategies and innovative techniques are only effective if your team is empowered with the support and resources to implement them. HomeToGo’s team is led by Chief Inbound Officer Dominik Schwarz. Under him are four senior inbound marketing managers who establish priorities and coordinate SEO growth projects.

Another 13 marketers are responsible for content, PR and social media across 17 markets. They’re supported by three developers and two data analysts dedicated specifically to SEO. The 23-member team combines flat hierarchy with a SCRUM approach to carry out the 100+ content campaigns it created last year and promote them across HomeToGo’s various markets.

Each industry operates differently and entering the fray with more experienced companies is always an uphill battle. The in-house SEO team at HomeToGo shows that, with the right talent, strategy and the support of the company, it is possible to gain an edge over industry favorites.

About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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