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How to work SEO in a niche as competitive as tourism, with Carolina Vallés (Marinalia)

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We haven’t had a program focused on the world of SEO in a long time, the last one was in June 2020 with Dean Romero talking about SEO for eCommerce. Let’s fix it by chatting with Carolina Vallés, co-founder and director of SEO, as well as at the agency La Fábrica del SEO, in Marinalia.

It is an eCommerce of leisure plans in Valencia that is now expanding to Andalusia. A modest project playing in a highly competitive sector at the organic positioning level. So let’s see how they managed to sneak into the first results and create something, within their modesty, profitable.

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Interview with Carolina Valles

03:15 To get to know you a little, tell us how you came to the world of organic positioning on the internet

Well look, I came through Marinalia, I’m a psychologist by training, in fact I worked with a gown and a couch. The truth is that during my degree I crossed subjects on the psychology of marketing and the psychology of advertising, but at that time online marketing was not understood as it is now.

There came a time in 2014 when, together with my partner Cristina, we decided to set up Marinalia. We did it and after a year and a half I discovered that what we were doing was called SEO. I discovered SEO through Marinalia and little by little we created La Fábrica del SEO and I already had a more specific training, making my profession what started as a hobby.

05:10 What is Marinalia, how was it born and how does it differ in this very competitive niche?

It was born in 2014 as a hobby, my partner and I really like adventure sports and water activities. At that time, websites like Groupon were also very fashionable, with massive purchase models where you had a discount. I am from a town on the coast of Alicante, and all those websites had many activities but in the city. On the other hand, in the smaller towns where there is a lot of activity and tourism, there was nothing. One day talking about this in a cafeteria, Cristina and I decided to make a website on the same theme, but in these areas that the current websites did not reach.

The concept of Marinalia, the initial idea was to work for the towns of Benidorm, Altea, etc… It really is about the Marina Alta and the Marina Baja, from here we took the idea and arrived at the mark. Thus, today Marinalia is an online store where we sell activities and excursions within the Valencian community.

12:40 Now that we know a little about what you do, let’s make a composition of the place: team, billing, conversion rate, etc…

In low season we have a colleague, who has been with us since 2017. For high season, we increase the team for a customer service issue, if you see on the web we have different means and we have a team to attend 7 days a week 12 hours a day.

We have changed in recent years, but for 2021 we close more or less at 420,000 euros in billing, including everything that is managed from the web. From the first day it has always been a bootstrapping model, although we take things very seriously, we have always taken this project as a hobby, we seek profitability and earn money but not to capture large market shares. Our main source of traffic is SEO, at a level of 88% last year. In terms of traffic, last year we reached almost 2 million page views and nearly 400,000 sessions.

I look at the conversion ratio almost every day and in Marinalia it changes a lot depending on the season. The average conversion rate in the high season is 2%, but in low season we are around 0.9% or 0.8%.

21:40 And 12% outside of SEO What are your next sources of traffic outside of SEO?

well this is the first year we’re doing email marketing so we’re just getting started. Mainly, this percentage comes from direct traffic, a bit of branding, from other websites with referrals and social networks, but they bring very residual traffic. But what happens to us is that customers call us directly because a neighbor has given them the contact and it is a direct entry.

23:30 The tourism sector is one of the most competitive in SEO. How do you do SEO for something so local against the giants of the sector such as Tripadvisor?

SEO has evolved a lot, for example for this year it would be a very different strategy from the one we launched Marinalia in 2014. Many times it is necessary to have common sense and see what users are looking for, or what we need to see when looking for an activity. At first we were clients of our own business, so we saw what we missed on one page or that it was not explained on another.

The strategy that we followed a bit was to generate activities at the SEO level, even above our possibilities. That is, without having suppliers or services, in order to have more activities, generating a lot of content and activities, betting more on transactional SEO than informational SEO.

51:45 What are your plans for the future

Well, let’s see, for this year 2022 we plan to launch activities throughout Andalusia, focusing on aquatic activities for next year to become leaders in this type of activity.

By 2023-2024 the idea is to have everything that is the Spanish Mediterranean, also add the region of Murcia, Catalonia and the Balearic Islands.

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