Premier Inn – SEO case study 4

As part of Delineo’s Are you being found online?’ search marketing report, we’re pleased to launch the fourth in a series of 10 case studies focussing on various industry sectors. The purpose of our research is to establish:

• Examples of good practice in the field of search marketing.

• On-site and off-site factors which influence and affect keyword rankings

• How successful companies implement these factors to enhance relevant, targeted traffic.

Introduction

Premier Inn is the largest and fastest-growing hotel brand in the UK, with over 600 budget hotels and more than 44,000 rooms. As part of the Whitbread brand, the UK’s largest hotel and restaurant group, the group employs approximately 35,000 people, serving over ten million customers each month. In 2011, Premier Inn was named ‘Hotel Chain of the Year’ for the second year running, a significant accolade for the company as this is voted for by the general public. In 2010/11 Whitbread group total sales grew by 11.5% to £1,599.6 million with Premier Inn up 10.9% to £698.6 million.

Premier Inn Online

To get a better understanding of the traffic levels Premier Inn experience, the first factor to explore is the level of organic search behaviour, which reveals there are over 1,220,000 global monthly searches on average. This data has been produced using the branded search term ‘Premier Inn’ and does not include misspellings and variations, as well as ‘Premier Inn + location/product/service’.

In comparison to other major retailers such as Travelodge and Holiday Inn, it is possible to identify the search hierarchy and recognise who clearly performs for branded searches. Brand awareness and advertising is an important factor and a major contributor to this hierarchy.

Premier Inn Search Behaviour

Premier Inn perform well for branded search terms and it is logical to suggest the majority of search traffic results from the well-advertised brand name [premier inn] or variations of, such as a misspelling or a domain name.

Looking at non-branded terms, there is a good level of visibility with areas for improvement, for example; the Whitbread 2010 annual report, it states Premier Inn’s strategy is to increase room occupancy by targeting leisure customers however the term “short breaks” does not return the Premier Inn site listing within the top 100 search results. This would suggest that this area of non-branded search terms could be improved and if done correctly, may significantly boost web traffic and room occupancy for the company.

To research into the keyword terms further, we have chosen to focus on various offers (a variety of competitive ‘hotel + short-break’ terms) and compared this against our set of rankings correlation data.

Note: the above search research data is a sample and represents a proportion of Premier Inn’s web traffic based on a variety of non-branded search terms. The data allows us to identify the performance of a variety of search terms relating to its offers. The wealth of “hotel” permutations and associated terms are clearly targeted by the company’s search marketing plan, however as mentioned above, there is room for improvement on the term “short breaks” and attracting leisure customers.

Premier Inn Paid Search

To remain pro-active within this particularly competitive and crowded market, Premier Inn utilise an extensive Google AdWords campaign targeting both branded and non-branded keyword phrases.

Branded search results are reinforced with current price offers and as outlined above, geo-targeting is in place to pick up on the location of the user in order to recommend the nearest hotel, offering directions to further assist the user.

Premier Inn’s non-branded PPC campaign appears to target specific converting terms, such as hotels and city based terms rather than generic terms such as ‘short breaks’. Implementing this tactic targets the user at a later stage of the buying cycle and potentially increases the likelihood of a sale through the Premier Inn site. Targeted ad groups have been set-up to just target terms that include places and areas where Premier Inn have hotels in the portfolio.

To broaden the search horizon, we can clearly see from the homepage title tag the search campaign targets ‘cheap’ + keyword permutations so most hotel keywords and hotels + city with cheap in the query should trigger Premier Inn ads.

 

What influences organic search for Premier Inn?

As mentioned in the previous case studies, high quality links are influential for gaining page authority, as they assist in respectable organic keyword rankings. Superbreak is linked to from 24,071 external sites, including links from other travel providers, universities and high domain authority websites, adding to the overall authority of the www.premierinn.com domain.

The structure of the site must be well designed with a clear and logical structure in order to complement the link building activity. This involves site architecture elements including components such as the sitemap structure, on-site design and meta descriptions. For a greater and more in depth overview of site architecture, read our post on Pets at Home SEO.

As is now common search marketing practice, relevant keyword terms are well covered throughout the site using a front/client facing sitemap with embedded anchor text at the foot of site pages. This allows search engines to gauge the content and structure when crawling the website and provides one-click access to site users no matter the depth of the customer journey. Additional company information can also be found using this sitemap, for instance, the company’s privacy policy, terms and conditions and career information etc…

Another influence on organic search is the meta description attached to the site and site pages. Although the description may not be particularly important to search engine rankings, they are vital in gaining customer click-through from search engine result pages. These snippets advertise the site’s content to searchers and succinctly describe what the given page has to offer in regards to what the user is looking for. The meta description for Premier Inn (see below) employs keywords intelligently, but also creates a compelling description that the audience will want to click. Direct relevance to the page and uniqueness between each page’s meta description is key.

Premier Inn: Calls to action

As with any well designed ecommerce site, the call to action should assume the most prominent position to display the latest offer/promotion and entice the user into clicking through and ideally, placing an order or raising a sales enquiry. www.premierinn.com follows suit and is regularly updated with the latest seasonal offers or promotions, for example, Easter breaks and a promotion of the Premier Inn business accounts.

Looking closely at the homepage we can see the following calls to action:

• Book a hotel

• hotels (location + ‘hotels’)

• Exclusive deals

• Stay between (date range) price promotion

• Deals

Conclusion

Premier Inn is a well-organised, customer facing retail website with a clear objective on selling hotel rooms to the visitor. Both the organic and PPC campaign reinforce this strategy targeting the majority of location + ‘hotels’ short-break related terms easing the user journey onto the site.

The website has clearly been developed using the F-shaped heat map, with two horizontal stripes used for immediate navigation to a specific area of the site, followed by a vertical stripe, used for the ‘Quick booking’ of a hotel room. This increasingly common layout is easy for the user to use and allows them to navigate quickly to the area of the site they desire rather than being embedded in a long list of links or other jumbled content. To find out more about heat maps and website layout please refer to the previous Superbreak case study for further information.

The architecture of the site has clearly been structured with search in mind and targeting the previously discussed location + ‘hotels’ keywords. The site navigation is simple to follow and understand, allowing the user to search through the site and place a booking easily. Interestingly, when conducting a search for a hotel room, the URL structure uses a JavaScript driven dynamic coding system to populate search results rather than using a keyword rich URL.

http://www.premierinn.com/en/search!execute.action

As this page is JavaScript driven it cannot be indexed by the search engines, however, Premier Inn has created static pages for each hotel which can be indexed. As only these pages are indexed there are no subsequent duplicate content issues and these pages appear in the search results pages.

Upon closer inspection, the Premier Inn pages have been fully optimised with specific, relevant meta titles and descriptions for the majority of the internal pages. This provides specific information about the content on the individual page in the form of the snippet and broadens search terms for the site. Adopting this detailed approach ensures that search queries are seized and provided in the search engine results page, thus increasing the probability of the user clicking on one of the pages to browse the offer.

Premier Inn performs very well in terms of branded keywords and is accompanied by multiple forms of advertising to increase the level of brand awareness. As can be seen by the search hierarchy, the site is equal to many of its competitors in terms of branded search terms. Non-branded terms are always a challenge and there is certainly opportunity to increase the targeting of permutations of the term “short breaks” as currently this does not return the Premier Inn site listing within the top 100. If done correctly and accompanied by the multiple forms of advertising campaigns this may significantly boost web traffic and room occupancy for the company, working towards the objective of increasing room occupancy by targeting leisure customers.