7.7 Case Study: Southern Sun

Southern Sun (http://www.southernsun.com) launched a new Web site in May 2006. The changes included an updated look and feel, a greater quantity and quality of information, and better booking functionality. As often happens with a site relaunch, Southern Sun lost all the previously good organic search engine rankings. A new Web site needs time to climb up the search engine rankings, and it can take a minimum of three months before it starts receiving organic traffic. Southern Sun could potentially have lost out on bookings because of the decrease in organic traffic. Therefore, they required a way of ensuring that their site still did the following:

With the new site, Southern Sun hoped to increase the number of bookings made online and to tap into the international-tourist and business-travel market. This meant they needed to migrate a significant amount of their offline promotions and special offers to their Web site in such a way as to attract a favorable online response.

Quirk eMarketing, the online agency for Southern Sun, set up a PPC (pay-per-click) campaign with the following intentions:

Separate campaigns were built for the following:

Quirk did an extensive keyword research exercise to identify high-traffic-generating keywords in order to get as much traffic as possible, as well as niche long-tail keywords for better cost per conversion. Keywords specific to Southern Sun’s various customer groups were targeted, such as families, business travelers, couples, and tourists.

Furthermore, advertisements were set up that tested the best marketing message, that is, whether people responded best to the following:

As a result, Quirk could assess whether different groups of people were influenced by different advertisements, as keyword research had been done according to customer groups.

In order to determine whether people responded better to special offers and campaigns or just hotel and area details, landing-page split tests were conducted. Tracking for various different stages of the hotel-booking process was implemented, including the hotel room quote and the final thank-you-for-payment page so that it would become evident where any drop-offs occurred.

One of the great advantages of PPC is that it gets immediate results. As soon as the new site went live, so did the PPC campaign, which meant traffic from day one. The traffic generated by the PPC advertising ensured that the site was noticed by search engines and was trusted as a valid South African hotel site.

Split testing revealed some very interesting and useful behaviors and trends:

Running a PPC campaign when you launch or relaunch a site will do the following:

Case Study Questions

  • What information from the PPC (pay-per-click) campaign could be used to help optimize the Web site?
  • Why does a PPC campaign give instant traffic while SEO (search engine optimization) does not?
  • What is the importance of landing pages in a PPC campaign? What sort of different landing pages do you think would be used?