In the past, I have used the library metaphor to explain SEO. A lot of you seemed to have liked it. So, here's another metaphor for you — SEO is a lot like fishing!
In fishing, you identify the perfect location, the time of the day, the temperature, and the most appropriate bait. Then you cast the net and wait for the fish to come to you.
SEO is the same. Once you identify where your target users are and what they search for, you simply have to create content that matches their search intent and over time they'll come to you!
Airbnb and OYO both excel at this!
Together they attract millions of traffic to their website using their SEO strategy.
But the question is: Is one company better than the other at SEO? Well, yes, OYO attracts 4 times the traffic of Airbnb in India. And, it's all because of a specific strategy OYO uses that perfectly aligns with our fishing metaphor!
So, let's dive in to learn all the SEO strategies these 2 companies use to scale their SEO efforts!
Comparing Airbnb's and OYO's SEO numbers in India!
Before we go ahead and scrutinize all the little strategies OYO (oyorooms.com) and Airbnb (airbnb.co.in) use, let's first compare their SEO numbers, specifically for India!
OYO = 3.3M from India ➝ 73% of total traffic to oyorooms.com
Airbnb = 765K from India ➝ 98% of total traffic to airbnb.co.in
OYO = 4.3X Airbnb Traffic
Domain Rating & Backlinks
OYO = 77 & 295K
Airbnb = 77 & 73.2K
OYO = 4.03X Airbnb Backlinks
OYO = 274K
Airbnb = 141K
OYO = 1.94X Airbnb Keywords
OYO = 270K - 98% of total keywords
Airbnb = 140K - 99.2% of total keywords
Keywords at number 1
OYO = 6112
Airbnb = 1721
OYO = 3.55X Airbnb Keywords
Keywords in the top 10
OYO = 41204
Airbnb = 10245
OYO = 4.02X Airbnb Keywords
OYO's traffic is 4 times that of Airbnb. And, they have achieved this with only twice the organic keywords. Here we can infer 3 basic possibilities:
- OYO ranks better for high-volume keywords
- OYO and Airbnb rank for some of the same keywords but OYO ranks higher, hence it gets more traffic
- Both of the above options are true at the same time
But, where is all this traffic coming from? Well, let's look at their top subfolders to understand this better.
Investigating the location-based pages
You can see from these images that both Airbnb and OYO rank for location-based keywords. While there are also other significant subfolders that OYO ranks for apart from this. We will get to these other subfolders in the latter sections.
But, for the same location-based subfolders, OYO gets more traffic than Airbnb.
City-wise subfolders traffic
- OYO ➝ 59K
- Airbnb ➝ 7K
- OYO ➝ 45K
- Airbnb ➝ 18K
- OYO ➝ 57K
- Airbnb ➝ 17K
- OYO ➝ 17K
- Airbnb ➝ 7K
So, why is OYO doing better than Airbnb for the same location-based pages?
Well, both OYO and Airbnb employ the same basic strategy, but OYO's strategy goes a step further. There are valuable lessons in both the similarities and differences in their strategy. So, let's explore them one by one!
SAME SEO STRATEGY: The similarities
The main commodity of both Airbnb and OYO is stays and hotels. These stays and hotels are obviously distributed across different geographical locations. So, it makes sense for their site structure to similarly categorize their pages. Hence, the many location-based subfolders.
On the surface, the implementation of these location-based subfolders looks quite similar for both OYO and Airbnb.
⇒ City / Popular location URLs
⇒ Implementing the same basic template
⇒ Adding breadcrumbs
⇒ Internal linking
A) City/Popular location URLs
All the location-based pages on OYO and Airbnb follow the same basic URL structure.
OYO ➝ oyorooms.com/hotels-in-[location-name]
Example: /hotels-in-bangalore, /hotels-in-delhi, /hotels-in-goa
Airbnb ➝ airbnb.co.in/[location-name]-india/stays
Example: /goa-india/stays, /hyderabad-india/stays, /new-delhi-india/stays
Both these sites don't follow a hierarchy when it comes to their URL structure.
For example, Koramangala is a location in Bangalore. But, instead of creating a taxonomy structure, that is sub-sub-sub folders like this
➝ /india/karnataka/bangalore/hotels-in-koramangala OR /bangalore-india/koramangala/stays,
They use the same basic location-based URL structure
➝ /hotels-in-koramangala-bangalore AND /koramangala-bengaluru-india/stays
Now, in the previous analysis of Walmart and other startups like Swiggy and Zomato, we learned that having a proper classification and hierarchal URL structure helps search engines index pages more efficiently, in turn improving page rankings.
So, both OYO and Airbnb miss out on this. But, they remedy this by adding breadcrumbs 👇
B) Adding breadcrumbs
Breadcrumbs are basically a trail of pages that indicate where a particular page falls in a website's page hierarchy. So each page has a breadcrumb trail. Using this trail, both users and search engines can travel up or down the hierarchy. Google displays this breadcrumb trail in its search results.
Sounds confusing right? Well, let me explain with the same Koramangala example!
⇒ India ➝ Bangalore Hotels ➝ Koramangala Hotels
⇒ Airbnb ➝ India ➝ Karnataka ➝ Bangalore Division ➝ Bengaluru ➝ Koramangala
C) Implementing the same basic template
Now, an important part of implementing SEO is content optimization for the target keywords. Now, for a blog, you can identify a target keyword and organically infuse them in the text one by one. But, given the fact that Airbnb and OYO have thousands of pages, step-by-step infusion of keywords becomes a tedious affair.
So, to reduce all the work, both Airbnb and OYO use the same basic template and embed specific keywords throughout the page.
With the templates, Airbnb can just change the keyword and programmatically embed it on their web pages eliminating all the manual optimization work.
D) Internal linking
Finally, once all the pages are created they are internally linked to each other. Now, why is that important? Well, internal linking makes sure high-authority pages pass on their SEO-authority-juice to low-authority pages.
This means the "Bangalore stays" page internally links to all the nearby locations, other city pages, locations with bangalore and more!
These 4 strategies make the basis of OYO and Airbnb's SEO success!
DIFFERENT SEO STRATEGY: The key differences
Now, Airbnb's SEO strategy mostly ends there. But, OYO goes a step further to target more highly lucrative keywords.
Things OYO does but Airbnb doesn't 👇
- Long tail keyword strategy ⇒ Location-based subfolders ⇒ /hotels-in-[location-name]
- Pages ⇒ 23K
- Volume ⇒ 1.4M
- Near me keywords strategy ⇒ Near-me subfolder and pages ⇒ /hotels-near-me and more!
- Pages ⇒ 7.7K
- Volume ⇒ 674K
- Travel guide and blog keywords ⇒ Travel guide subfolder ⇒ /travel-guide and /blog
- Pages ⇒ 1.8K
- Volume ⇒ 221K
Let's explore this strategy individually.
1) Long tail keyword strategy
Long tail keywords are keywords that are long, more specific, and hence have a higher degree of search intent. Generally, these keywords have low search traffic compared to more general keywords. But, since they are very specific, they also have a high conversion rate.
Now, a reason why OYO's location pages do better than Airbnb's is the fact that OYO not only creates broad city/location-based pages but they also target these long tail keywords. Here's how it works:
- OYO's hotel listing pages have many filters in different categories. When one of these filters is applied, the page gets updated to incorporate that filter and the URL reflects the same.
- Some of these filters are:
- Family OYOs
- OYOs welcomes couples
- For group travellers
- OYO rooms
- OYO homes
- Budget OYOs
- When you select say the filter "family OYOs", the URL gets updated to ➝ oyorooms.com/hotels-in-bangalore/family-oyos/
- The benefit of this is simple. When users search for very specific queries the exact corresponding page appears. Search engines recognize that OYO has a perfectly matched page for a query while Airbnb doesn't. So, they rank the OYOs page at the top.
- Some of these keywords are:
- oyo rooms near me for unmarried couples ⇒ Volume 12k ⇒ /oyo-welcomes-couples
- cheap hotels in mumbai ⇒ Volume 1.5K ⇒ /budget-hotels-in-mumbai
Apart from this, OYO also increases the specificity of their location to target another set of high-conversion keywords.
Main URL ⇒ hotel-in-bangalore
URLs targeting long-tail keywords
- and more!
Another set of long-tail keywords OYO targets is the "near" keywords.
2) "Near" keyword strategy
Now, you and I have at some point searched for "near me" keywords on Google. "Chinese restaurants near me", "atms near me", "near me petrol pump" and more.
These can also include amenities that are near a remote location. For example, "hotels near gateway of India", "hotels near railway station", "hotels near bus stop".
OYO recognized that users usually tend to search "near-me" and "near-something" types of keywords very often. So, they created a bunch of long-tail keywords targeting them specifically.
The result? These types of pages bring 674K users every month to OYO's website.
3) Travel guide and blog keywords
Now, the categories we have discussed above only account for all the hotel listing pages. Google might rank these pages for some queries with "listings" intent, but there are other queries that need a blog-type result.
Travel guides and blogs target such queries. In contrast, to the above programmatically generated pages, these guides are basically long-length blogs that holistically cover a topic.
- Thanjavur temples ➝ 41K
- Andharban trek ➝ 60K
- Beach in Chennai ➝ 12K
- Shopping places in Delhi ➝ 1.8K
Casting a Wider Net: What do we learn?
The only significant difference between OYO and Airbnb's strategies is the diverse set of keywords each targets. While Airbnb sticks to the main, more obvious set, OYO tries to capitalize on all keyword groups that are directly relevant to their website.
Now, the main truth about any SEO strategy is it is keyword dependent. If 10k users search for a keyword group, your traffic potential will only be a fraction of 10K. So, even if you beat all the websites on Google's SERP there is only so much traffic you can gain from a certain keyword.
In all cases, your traffic increases over time as your page climbs in rankings and then it stabilizes to a certain peak. So, there is a saturation limit.
In this scenario, the best strategy is to cast a wider net on the type of keywords you target. This clearly worked out for OYO and will no doubt work for you!