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Case Study: OnFoot

Lisa Ashe

Business Profile:

Launched in May of 2002, OnFoot is the first free adventure travel Website that leverages the Internet to help active travelers find, plan and prepare for treks and climbs anywhere in the world. OnFoot offers a comprehensive, online catalog of more than 1,500 treks and climbs in more than 100 countries worldwide.

OnFoot’s Top SEO and SEM Tactics:

  • Wrote Custom, Meaningful Title Tags for Each Dynamically Generated Page
  • Created Custom Page Descriptions
  • Implemented Breadcrumb Text Navigation to Include Keywords on Every Page
  • On Google AdWords and Overture, bought common keyword misspellings offered at lower PPC than the highly sought-after correct spellings
  • Search Engine Optimization Results:
  • First Page, #3 & #4 rankings on Google
  • 33% Increase in Traffic over 6 months, 50% Increase to Date
  • Decreased Search Engine Marketing Spend Over Time
  • Rankings Continue to Climb

When it comes to climbing Kilimanjaro and trekking to exotic destinations, John Briggs seems to have done it all. He’s traveled the world to climb with the most knowledgeable outfitters and explored a lion’s share of mountains. In 2002, John left behind a high-tech executive career and pursued a new venture that stemmed from his long-time passion for climbing. In May 2002, John launched OnFoot, the first one-stop, online shop for adventure travelers and climbing enthusiasts.

To gain market exposure for OnFoot and quickly reach the targeted on-line audience, John was convinced he needed to leverage the major search engines to drive visitors to his new site. Drawing from his e-commerce experience at Yahoo and seeking guidance from our company, OnFoot was out to get highly qualified traffic from search engines without having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars building an on-line brand. This case study will showcase the accounts of OnFoot’s site evolution and its ascent to top of the major Search Engine rankings.

‘Googled’ in Less than 30 Days

When made its debut, none of its pages were listed on any major search engine despite many submission attempts. The goal was to penetrate the top two search engines, Google and Yahoo! Now that Google results also appear on Yahoo, the following tactics were used to get listed primarily on Google.

  • Submitted to Yahoo/DMOZ to get Google’s attention
  • Main menu "text links” were added to the bottom of each page. OnFoot’s top navigation bar was made up of static graphic tabs linking to each section. Adding text links make it possible for the "Google bot” to follow and index the main section pages.
  • Meta tags were written for each of the main section pages and submitted to Google for good measure. Google often displays meta tag descriptions in its search results for home pages and uses them to find keywords
  • On each page, the header text and title tag was updated with custom, descriptive content dynamically generated. Page title tags are displayed on the first line of search engine results and very important for rankings to appear under the words "climbing” and "trekking” but not for specific trips or geographic locations.
  • Created a site index page naming all trips, with links to every trip page
  • For each trip page, navigational "breadcrumbs” were added, describing the trip outfitter and name of trip (e.g. Home > All Berg Adventures International Trips > Lemosho – Western Breach Traverse).
  • About 3 weeks after these actions were taken, the Google bots crawled the site and indexed previously unidentified pages. Under keyword search for "Kilimanjaro Climbing Trips”, could be found at #4 on Page 1. The addition of the breadcrumb navigation alone accounts for ~65% of OnFoot’s traffic driven by search engines.
  • Accelerating Marketing Reach and Maximizing Sales Potential
  • In order to gain immediate exposure on Google, Yahoo!, and MSN we recommended that OnFoot buy "Pay Per Click” ads through Google AdWords and Overture. We used the following keyword buying strategy:
  • Bought keywords balancing general climbing words (trekking, climbing) with high quantity impressions with specific geographic routes and compound keywords relevant to climbing (e.g. everest climbing, base camp trek)
  • Purchased common keyword misspellings offered at lower PPC than the highly sought after correct spellings (i.e. Kilamanjaro vs. Kilimanjaro). This allows OnFoot to continue high bids for popular, more expensive words and now can buy more at a higher price

With this strategy in place, OnFoot maximizes their marketing budget and can eventually decrease their keyword spending over time. Over 50% of OnFoot 2002 sales were accredited to the keyword buy for "Kilimanjaro”.

OnFoot’s Rankings on Google: 30 Days after SEO

Keywords Ranking Climbing Kilimanjaro Trips Page 1 #8 Kilimanjaro Climbing Trips Page 1 #4 and #5 Kilimanjaro Trekking Page 1 #3 Kilimanjaro Trekking Guides Page 1 #8

Savvy Content Design Boost Incremental Sales and Pages Indexed on Google

Once the search engines were steadily driving traffic to, we made recommendations to enhance the user experience by giving visitors more related information based on their clicking behavior. OnFoot added a series of "actionable” content sections that appeared at seducible moments on popular pages. Using the following "point of action” techniques, OnFoot increased the number of visitors that booked trips and purchased related books, maps, and gear.

  • Created a series of lists made up of text links strategically located throughout the OnFoot Website
  • Produced "recommended trip list” linking to trip pages
  • Listed "trip-related” books and "recommended gear” for every trip detail page
  • Generated a "top 10” and "best sellers” book list sprinkled on various pages
  • Added in book cover thumbnails and descriptions in the "best seller” books column that appear on trip specific pages
  • Within the book section, added roundtrip links to related trips and gear pages. Likewise, within the gear section, added links to trips and book section

By increasing the number of text links on the home page and frequently used pages, the search engine bots followed these links and even more OnFoot pages were indexed on Google.


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