Home Search Engine Land Awards How one in-house SEO team is taking on industry incumbents

How one in-house SEO team is taking on industry incumbents

Gaining traction over established competitors that have more resources, staff and longer online track records is a tall order for any up-and-comer. Looking to improve its organic search visibility against well-funded competitors, HomeToGo, which bills itself as the “world’s largest vacation rental search engine” with more than 17 million listings, developed a content strategy for audiences in target markets.

To make its way up the rankings, HomeToGo’s SEO team researched and created localized, data-driven content for unique markets. Also key, the team found novel ways to make the content appeal to both vacationers and journalists, increasing the likelihood that its pages received mentions and backlinks from media outlets.

In five years, the SEO team has managed to increase HomeToGo.de’s organic visibility, eclipsing that of Airbnb.de according to SISTRIX’s visibility index. HomeToGo’s SEO campaigns have earned it the Search Engine Land Award for best in-house SEO team in both 2018 and 2019.

The growth of HomeToGo’s German, Austrian and Swiss domains compared with Airbnb’s German domain. Source: SISTRIX

Research and localization

“Our Inbound Marketing Team is constantly monitoring general travel trends as well as the search behavior of our users,” Dominik Schwarz, chief inbound officer for HomeToGo, told Search Engine Land. “It is crucial to research and understand the topics that our readers and journalists are interested in.”

HomeToGo uses Google Trends in tandem with other SEO content tools to discover topics of interest. To further inform its content, the company also relies on native-level speakers to understand audiences across different markets.

“You need a team that is familiar with the specifics of a certain market to advise what works best and what to avoid. To ensure that our users get the best possible localized content, we work with native-level speakers, who have a 360° responsibility for their market,” Schwarz said, adding, “Only if you truly understand the user can your content be totally successful.”


To get the attention of high-profile media outlets, HomeToGo’s in-house team created over 100 data-driven content stories in 2018. In particular, its Ski Price Index campaign, which ranked top European and North American ski destinations by price, drove results.

Since the campaign was aimed at both international and domestic audiences, HomeToGo created localized angles for nine different markets. The target audience was not limited to potential winter vacationers; the company also wanted to make its Ski Price Index as conducive to media coverage as possible, so it included non-commercial content that would garner press attention. However, creating useful content does not necessarily mean that backlinks will come pouring in.

“We are an international team of native level speakers who create personal networks of local journalists and travel professionals,” Schwarz prefaced, highlighting the priority that HomeToGo places on localization and outreach. “In my opinion, there is nothing better than doing highly targeted outreach to a group that is interested in our content. You need to stay in touch with your network, keep a finger on the pulse to figure out who will be interested in which topic at what time.”

The payoff

This Ski Price Index campaign earned the company coveted links in five markets, including mentions from outlets such as the New York Times and MSN.com. Rankings for relevant keywords climbed by as much as 85 positions.

Over the course of the year, HomeToGo’s strategy and techniques helped it procure more than a thousand unique referring domains, with organic traffic and revenue increasing worldwide.

Each industry operates differently and entering the fray with more experienced companies is always an uphill battle. There are countless approaches that an aspiring brand can take, but being methodical in its research, creating content aimed at consumers as well as journalists, and localizing for international markets with attention paid to native language have given HomeToGo an edge in the search results.

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