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Case Study

Structured Markup SEO Test

SmokyMountains.com are Tennessee based business that help people plan trips to the Smoky Mountains, from finding good restaurants and hiking trails through to booking lodgings via local experts. The business is predominantly marketed online, and have around 400 pages on their website meaning organic search is an important and critical part of the mix.

Together with the SmokyMountains.com team, we ran an SEO split-test on the lodgings section of their site, made up of about 100 pages with one lodge per page. Initially the website had structured markup using the schema.org vocabulary with the @type "WebSite" across all pages of the site.

David Angotti
With DistilledODN, companies can be more agile, profitable, and data-centric in their approach to SEO. The testing process empowers companies - you can now determine what works before you invest substantial time, traffic, and effort rolling something out for your organization. It is now possible to use data to make educated SEO decisions and develop a culture of SEO testing. Unless you are my competitor, you owe it to yourself to check this out! David Angotti
CEO, SmokyMountains.com

Our hypothesis was that we could help Google understand the specialised content of these pages, especially with regard to the rest of the site, by changing the structured markup to detail them at @type "LodgingBusiness". This allowed us to give more specific information about these pages and what they offered to users - specifically details about the lodge detailed on that page, which also helped to differentiate the purpose of these pages from other pages on the site.

Pages
~100 lodging pages
Before (Control)
schema.org markup: @type "WebSite". Generic on all pages.
After (Variant)
schema.org markup: @type “LodgingBusiness”. Customised to each page.

All of the pages used the same primary template and obviously had similar content, which is an important consideration for running SEO split-tests. Unlike with CRO testing, where users are bucketed into two groups, we bucket pages into two groups so having similar content and templates amongst those pages is important to ensure a consistent test. With about 100 lodgings pages in the test the DistilledODN platform divided them into two groups of approximately 50 pages each and then rolled the change out across those 50 pages. All visitors and bots to those 50 pages got the version with the updated structured markup.

You can read more about DistilledODN's full SEO split-testing testing methodology to get more detail about how it runs tests, accounts for other variables and automatically analyses results.

Wes Melton
Distilled ODN has revolutionized how we think about SEO efforts. It has enabled us to implement data-driven technical SEO tests with little-to-no additional development overhead from our engineering team. Wes Melton
CTO, SmokyMountains.com

With tests on smaller groups of pages our experience has been that the changes are crawled and taken into account more quickly than tests with large groups of pages. In this instance the changes were detected very quickly and the variant pages started receiving an immediate uptick in organic traffic.

The following graph shows the total additional sessions to the variant pages coming as a result of the change in structured markup being tested, with the shaded area highlighting the 95% confidence interval.

smokymountains.com SEO Split-Test results

In this instance we saw an uplift in traffic of about 5%, and took 9 days for us to reach statistical significance. We let the test run for another 10 days to demonstrate that the upward trend was stable and the variant pages would continue to out-perform the control pages. The DistilledODN platform then allowed the change to be rolled out across the entire site immediately.

The SmokyMountains.com are very agile and able to get changes made to the site very quickly, and the DistilledODN platform allows them to be just as quick in terms of iterating and testing changes.

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