Case History: the Directory as an SEO Tool

By: Cesare Ambrosi

The Europelowcost project originated as a search engine and price comparison tool for both leisure and business travel. The subsequent development towards themed directories has a clear strategic validity, both in terms of positioning on search engines, and ease of use, by allowing travellers to make the best use of the information.

Preliminary analysis

The fundamental assumption is that the organisation of data into categories with varying levels of depth is the most logical solution for providing simple, rational and fast data retrieval. This type of structure on the web is known as a directory.

We discovered the best way to organise the content available by analysing two possible alternatives:

  • Sub-division by country, grouping together all the services for that destination (i.e. flights, hotels, hostels and cruises are offered together).
  • Vertical sub-division by service, separating and "specialising" the individual directories (i.e. organisation by service: just flights, just hotels, etc).

After the necessary consideration, the development team opted for the second solution: to divide the information by theme.

The logic that led us to reject the first option resulted from the fact that, in terms of ease of use and of indexing by the search engine spiders, developing a multi-service directory organised according to destination would have resulted in information overload (and therefore a sense of disorientation for the end user), due to information on airports, airlines, hotels, hostels, cruises, etc.

all being on the same page.

It was therefore clear that we should specialise and sub-divide the search by service, with cross marketing of services by destination (e.g. from the page of flights to a particular destination, there are links to hotels and hostels in the same city/country).

Search Engine Optimisation Requirements

From the point of view of search engine optimisation, the path we chose is more effective in terms of its thematic focus: a large number of pages with unique, specialised content, which are rich in hypertext information.

The model of directory development can be summed up as follows:

http://en.europelowcost.com/cheap_flights/default.aspx) and static pages containing useful information;

2.????? Unique internal pages. Great care was taken in the differentiation of the title tag (which not by chance includes the europelowcost brand), the meta description and the introduction texts;

3.????? Rewriting the dynamic URLs.

The whole design of the site fully conformed to the search engines' quality guidelines, there was no addition of graphics to slow down access, and despite what the many detractors of all things Microsoft have to say, the Asp.NET programming language proved itself to be robust, fast and versatile.

Organisation of content

Large databases and a proprietary multi-service search engine allow us to record and trace a large quantity of data based on user behaviour (the toolbar for Internet Explorer and Firefox was also a significant factor). The crucial point was to decide how to make best use of this mass of information, by rationalising it and making it easy to consult.

The most important sector in strategic terms was the flights, which were organised in the usual way, listing destinations by continent, country, and city.This classification of results was extended to the other directories (hotels, hostels, cruises). The way the information is structured allows for two main search criteria: for flights to and from a destination or airport, each country is linked to the list of national and international airlines that serve that destination. The area dedicated to airports, which is also present for every single location, allows users to consult information on every airport worldwide, shown on interactive maps with satellite photos.

The Conversion Rate of the project, which is significantly over 4% (October 2006 – January 2007) and its stable presence on Google, achieved in less than two months (77,000 pages indexed, excellent search engine results position for a very large number of searches, no penalties whatsoever) are very encouraging and positive resultsFind Article, which lead the observer to believe that the tool is of particular significance and popular with the public.

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