An established business with a traditional approach

Since we started working with Cottages & Castles, we have helped transform their approach to marketing their business; moving from being a business reliant on print-based advertising to one that generates a significant quantity of its bookings & enquiries via search & social media marketing.

When we began working with the team at Cottages & Castles in 2012, they had built a highly successful self-catering accommodation business; one which relied heavily on print advertising to drive enquiries. Cottages & Castles is the UK’s premier portal for quality self-catering holiday properties in Scotland & they represent owners of all sizes & types of property. With over 35 years’ experience, they understand the nuances of the holiday letting business & offer a ‘one stop shop’ for property owners & holidaymakers who want to explore the best that Scotland has to offer.

At the time of our appointment Cottages & Castles regularly placed small ads in the national classified travel sections, in niche travel & tourism magazines & in some indigenous newspaper supplements with the express purpose of driving requests for their physical brochure; a weighty tome that listed all their properties, from tiny but n’ ben cottages in the Hebrides to stately baronial castles in the Scottish Borders.

An increasingly competitive marketplace

As a backdrop, competition from the likes of Airbnb and other self-catering accommodation providers was ramping up considerably. UK holidaymakers were increasingly conducting research, booking and sharing travel inspirations online, so we wanted to show the team at Cottages & Castles how we could (a) increase their search visibility and (b) use social platforms like Facebook to increase newsletter signups & bookings, promote their ever-expanding range of properties and attract new owners so they could develop & grow their existing accommodation portfolio.

The other benefit of moving the media channel mix from traditional print into online channels was that we could start to be more transparent in terms of ROI and begin to track the best-performing platforms and messaging – something they’d hitherto been unable to do.

One of the main challenges from the outset was the modest marketing budget that we had at our disposal – the nature of the sector is that businesses like Cottages & Castles make a competitive commission on every booking – and we had to ensure we could demonstrate value for money and make sure every marketing pound spent was spent in the right place.

Our approach to the challenge

This started with a root & branch audit & set up of the Cottages & Castles Google Analytics account, carried out by a Space & Time Insights specialist. Our search marketing specialists then began to explore ways to get the most out of organic SERP listings & ensure that on-page and off-page SEO techniques were maximising organic visibility. Ongoing training in SEO has been a fundamental part of the relationship too – ensuring that the client has the relevant knowledge to enable them to prioritise & manage elements of what is an increasingly important space.

Building out the right combinations of targeted keywords & compelling ad copy, location & interest targeting for display, ongoing account optimisation & the best use of video in YouTube created the foundations of a healthy & sustainable paid search strategy.

Social offers the perfect platform for promoting self-catering accommodation

What was clear from the outset is that Cottages & Castles’ offering is made for social media. Their fantastic range of properties is complemented by fantastic imagery and – often user-generated – video collateral & their range of ‘inspirations’, from pet-friendly breaks to romantic getaways & stunning waterside retreats, allows us to deploy some clever targeting & to inject some contextually relevant yet fun copy into our paid ads. Facebook’s lead generation ads are also ideal for driving newsletter sign ups and building an engaged database.

Demonstrable results

As a result of the visible impact of our digital marketing efforts on their web traffic, bookings & brand awareness, the client took a further leap of faith by decommissioning their print brochure and moving all listings content online – deploying some of this print budget back into channels that continue to drive engaged customers to their website. Cottages & Castles are now significantly more visible on SERPs, they have a healthier website and tracking abilities and are using social media channels to drive continued awareness of, and engagement with, their brand.

    Some key facts for the period 2017-2018:

    • Paid search conversions increased by 92.28% year on year & the cost per conversion decreased by 20.38% for the same period
    • Paid social leads increased by 9.24% year on year & booking initiations increased by 83.86% year on year
    • Organic search booking value increased by 14.56% year on year
    • Property owner bookings increased 42% over the period

Mathew Bettoli, Digital Marketing Manager at Cottages & Castles, is delighted with the results to date.

“We have always found the team at Space & Time to be highly professional but very friendly & personable at the same time. They are currently working hard to maximise the return from our budget & we are seeing some great results – long may it continue! We enjoy working with their extremely helpful & knowledgeable team & look forward to another successful year.”

To book your next Scottish escape visit

To find out how Space & Time in Edinburgh can help increase bookings and enquiries for your business contact Keith on 0131 220 7200.