Having pitted the 50 biggest holiday providers against each other on a range of metrics in our sector report, one site caught our eye in a big way – Sykes Cottages. Their online visibility of 40,366 blew away the cottage-focused competition, earning them a seat at the top table of our report alongside the big booking companies.

Simply put, Sykes are smashing it online. Ever an inquisitive bunch here at Salience, we thought we’d place the site under our SEO microscope to see which boxes Sykes are ticking as the market reopens its doors.

Responding To The Pandemic

While the holiday sector’s green light was a welcome return to normalcy for many, it didn’t come without its trepidations. Customers have plenty of questions about the new normal of holidaying, and they need answering. Now, more than ever, clear informational content is of paramount importance. Sykes do a great job at setting the customers at ease from the get-go through well-placed and helpful information.

Immediately upon landing on the site, you’re met with a link to a coronavirus update. This front-and-centre placement recognises the primary concerns of returning customers and lets them know that Sykes take the risks just as seriously as they do. This instils confidence that all precautions have been taken, and that customer safety is their first port of call.

The page has also acquired 6.7k backlinks, including numerous sites with high domain ratings. This response page acts as an effective asset, building trust and authority in the eyes of the customer and Google alike. The page is laden with information on refunds, FAQ’s, links to additional resources, as well as a personal message of confidence from the CEO. Through transparent messaging, Sykes set their stall out well, instantly putting the information customers need at their fingertips.

A quick scroll down the home page shows that their response extends even further. They’ve created a dedicated covid-19 information hub. From cleaning guidelines to an NHS key worker policy, this superb resource is broken down into separate advice posts. The individual pages have also picked up some notable backlinks along the way, including a tasty 74 DR link for the NHS piece. Take note – this is how you create worthwhile, informative content that boosts site performance and customer confidence.

Booking With Confidence

Speaking of confidence, Sykes are also pretty sharp when it comes to trust signals. We’ve spoken at length about Google’s EAT algorithm update here, and these guys have clearly kept their nose to the grindstone. The home page is littered with references to reviews and ‘about us’ type information. What’s more, their freshest reviews show up first – especially important for newly reopened properties.

Sykes are top drawer when it comes to showcasing their authority and legitimacy. As well as signalling expertise to search engines, the solid trust groundwork will pay dividends as quarantine restrictions lift. Put yourself in the shoes of a customer with anxieties over their post-covid holiday. Everything about the Sykes home page screams “You’re in safe hands”.

Away from the home page, their blog posts are also attributed to expert writers with personalised author bios. These bios are complete with images and information on the authors experience. This indicates that the information is coming from a trustworthy source who are clued up on what they’re talking about. Sykes even include a couple of informal fun points about the writer, further personalising the bio. The messaging is clear here – Sykes’s posts are written by real people with real expertise.

What can other sites learn from Sykes’ approach? Customers want to know they’re hiring from a reputable company. Shout about your positive reviews, lay out who your company is, put a face to the information you present and reap the rewards.

Capitalising On The ‘Staycation’ Hype

Staycation – arguably the biggest buzzword in the holiday sector at the moment. Love it or hate it, the term has plenty of traction. And search volume to boot. Year on year, ‘staycation’ searches have increased by 123%, with the head term earning 15k monthly searches. There’s also eyebrow-raising value in terms such as ‘staycation ideas’ and longtail ‘what is a staycation’ searches. Music to the ears of UK holiday providers, especially with far-flung travel taken off the menu for many.

Sykes haven’t slept on this, setting up a staycation page to capture lucrative traffic around the trend. The page ranks in position 4 for ‘staycation UK’, which garners 1.3k monthly searches. They’re also in position 13 for the big fish of ‘staycation’ and its 5.8k searches. Despite this positive performance, the page itself isn’t necessarily the finished article. Its inclusion, however, offers some food for thought when it comes to intent and keeping your finger on the pulse.

That’s not to say that you should go and deck your site out with pages for every new flavour of the month willy-nilly. Far from it. It’s all about identifying worthwhile and relevant opportunities. Sykes have spotted a high value movement towards the ‘staycation’ in the wake of the pandemic and leapt on its traffic. Equally important, holidaying in the UK goes hand in hand with their offering. As such, the page meets the intent of staycation searchers perfectly.


Content For People Not Bots

From seasons and occasions to property features, Sykes are also on top of capturing focussed searches. After a dog friendly cottage? A cottage with a hot tub? A romantic Valentine’s day getaway? All these searches, and more, are directed to specific topic-based pages. While they come with appealing volume, Sykes do a good job of understanding the meaning, and the searcher, behind the query. Top spot for the lucrative ‘pet friendly cottages’ speaks for itself.

Using the aforementioned page as an example, Sykes deploy a specific tone to deliver engaging content to the target audience. Who is this page for, how can we best speak to them and what information is of importance to them?

The jovial nature of the content, awash with ‘furry friends’ and ‘four-legged companion’ references, zeroes in on the animal lover target audience. They further show an understanding of this audience by highlighting countryside/coastline walks, a feature which is sure to be high on the searcher’s agenda, before topping it off by linking to a more in-depth guide.

The days of writing a keyword-stuffed version of War And Peace on your service pages are numbered. Sykes are quality over quantity manifested. Their content is laser-focused, clearly funnelling the exact type of user to the most relevant page. This signals to search engines which page is best suited to each search. Returning to the previous example, there’s no doubting where someone searching for ‘pet friendly cottages’ should be directed based on the on-page signals. They write for the searcher, rather than an algorithm.

Location, Location, Location

Location specific keywords are an especially valuable target to reel in. Crack the code on these and expect your website to fly. Peak District Cottages (6.4k), Anglesey Holiday Cottages (4.5k), Holiday Cottages Dorset (2.3k), to name a few, barely scratch the surface of the opportunity this arable ground offers. Who’s got the top spot for these terms? You guessed it…

But where do Sykes get it right on the location front? First and foremost, they both inspire and engage. There are two main pillars to their location strategy – travel guides and conversion-led location pages. Each of these are signposted effectively through the site and are among the main traffic drivers. They also link into each other well. We’ve dived deep into the relationship between service page and guide previously. Needless to say, Sykes are on their game.

Their location-specific guides are also housed within their own section, rather than sitting off the blog. Each guide almost becomes a category of its own, branching out into specific URL’s for walks/events/things to do etc.

Having a ‘walks in Norfolk’ page on the inspiration path, rather than blog, gives crawlers a helping hand while improving the user experience, keeping all relevant information grouped together. This depth of inspiration content can, of course, create a cannibalisation tightrope to consider when creating new blog ideas – but we trust you to walk it with care!


Thinking On Their Feet

During the pandemic, the trick for holiday providers has been retaining user engagement. For someone like Sykes, conversions went out the window. So how do you inspire a user base who can’t use your product?

Their inspiration page became all about ‘exploring from home’, full of language pointing to a brighter post-lockdown future, creating a tone of togetherness. The result? A spike in referring domains between May and September. This flexibility and quick thinking underpins much of Sykes’ impressive pandemic performance, and has set the tone for further success.

Hitting The Heights For Head Terms

It will come as little surprise that searches for ‘holiday cottages’ dropped by almost half at the outbreaks peak. Just as unsurprising, the term has exploded since holidays were given the thumbs up, to the tune of 201k monthly searches.

Sykes have stayed nice and stable for this term throughout lockdown’s uncertainty, fluctuating between positions 2 and 3. It’s a similar story across the board for their most valuable keywords. This has kept them in a prime position for peak performance as interest returns. With fresh content and regular updates, Sykes’ haven’t rested on their laurels to keep ticking on at the top.


In Summary

Between trustworthy inspiration content, diverse keyword performance, and high-performing inspirational guides, Sykes are entering the new normal with their best foot forward. With search rankings to back it up, a brief analysis tells you all you need to know about their noteworthy performance.

While there are tips and pointers to follow here, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Want the key to unlocking similar results? Our team of experts love to find the best opportunities and strategies for success. Get in touch today for a free personalised audit of your site.