From Underdog to SEO Champion

"In this case, a trend development was impossible without historical Google Search Console data. Ryte was our ace here because it is one of the few SEO tools that stores the GSC data in Big Query and then allows segmentation within it."

- Nick Jelsma I SEO Consultant & Teamlead, valantic

About valantic

valantic is a full-service digital agency and the number one in the field of digital transformation and ranks among the fastest-growing digital solutions, consulting, and software companies in the market. valantic combines technological expertise with industry knowledge and a personal touch. valantic is present in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Portugal, as well as numerous other international locations with over 150 specialists in the Netherlands and +3,500 European colleagues. Moreover, they specifically collaborate with software from the provider SAP and, of course, Ryte. The solutions and strategies of valantic are significantly influencing the digital strategies of both medium-sized and larger companies. One of them is Van der Garde, a furniture retailer with 70 years of experience and a strong determination to compete in an extremely competitive market.

Van der Garde: A small player in a competitive market

Van der Garde became a client of valantic in the spring of 2020 because they wanted to make a big step in their online discoverability. Their ambition, as with almost every SEO client of valantic, was to get as many high-ranking positions in Google as possible. But how do you pull that off as a smaller player in one of the most competitive industries? Van der Garde is definitely a specialist in outdoor furniture, but also a relatively small family business that competes online with parties that pretty much all have much higher budgets. 

And as if this challenge wasn’t big enough, many of these parties began placing extra emphasis on their online Outdoor Furniture assortment. In other words, the already competitive playing field became even more competitive. This showed, among other things, in the huge expansion of the product assortment on the websites leading to large competitors such as Vidaxl, or FonQ offering a product range with thousands of products.

This is the online presence of furniture retailer “FonQ” with over 2.000 product pages.

FonQ March 2023 - 2146 lounge sets (+507%)

The Success Story

The road to 192% growth

Van der Garde's peak season picks up slowly starting in January and really takes off starting in March, based on when the summer weather arrives. The high season usually continues through September, depending on how warm the late summer is. The SEO process started in May 2020 and towards the new high season, valantic achieved great results.

The team of valantic saw an increase in key search terms (lounge set, garden set, etc.) after a few months. By the end of the peak season (August/September) even entering the top 5. The enthusiasm soon turned into disappointment. Simultaneously with the 2020 December Core Update, volume began to slowly sink, and from February onwards things went into overdrive. All positions were lost and dropped even further. 

Season 2020/2021 

A comprehensive competitive analysis followed the December 2020 Core Update, and literally, every letter and kilobyte of was analyzed. The drop seemed unfair and highly illogical: valantic concluded that, while there were certainly areas for improvement on the website, the website was certainly not less optimized than competitors outside the top 5. As of August 2021, Van der Garde scaled its internal capacity, and the valantic team started implementing all the SEO points in the roadmap fast.

The hypothesis posed

In the months after August 2021, recovery occurred at lightning speed and after two months of hard work, Van der Garde was back to its old level, which of course lead to euphoria at Van der Garde. However, at valantic the team was happy but also surprised that it picked up so quickly. They critically evaluated the situation and tentatively came up with a hypothesis at the annual Roadmap Meeting with Van der Garde in November 2021. 

"As good as we are doing and as much as we want to claim credit for this rise, we foresee a possible 'doomsday scenario.' If we start losing positions again around the start of the high season (December 2021 / January 2022), we will see this as a confirmation of our hypothesis. Namely, that the increases and decreases are a seasonal trend caused by lack of brand awareness compared to the competition."

The hypothesis was also underpinned by a competitive analysis of the brand demand of 15 competitors vs. the brand demand for Van der Garde and the non-branded search market. Thus, valantic knew that Van der Garde had the second-lowest brand demand, and that compared to its competitors, there had been no percentual improvement here either.

Confirmation of the hypothesis

Two weeks after the Roadmap Meeting, positions began to sink, and in January 2022, the rate of descent accelerated again as it did in 2021. Both valantic and Van der Garde were convinced of the hypothesis. Investment in a branding strategy was made shortly thereafter, and starting in 2022, the first branding campaigns were tested in the off-season before scaling up in the 2022 peak season. The only bright spot was that Van der Garde dropped significantly less than in 2021. Van der Garde did about 20% better in terms of average positions, so finishing the SEO priorities clearly had an effect. 

That valantic’s efforts paid off was also shown by how they performed on the mid- and long-tail search terms (short-tail is for example "lounge set", mid- and long-tail are more specific search terms like "Lounge set 6 persons"). This is where Van der Garde performed better and more stable than ever before.

And even though the search market in 2022 was down a lot from Corona's 2021 year, where the first half of the year was plagued by lockdowns, shopping by appointment and "click & collect," there was much more visibility on this long-tail created and a roughly equal number of clicks.

The rise toward high season 2023

Throughout 2022, they continued to rocket ahead on the SEO roadmap while also scaling up branding efforts. A higher bottom line was achieved on short-tail. 

In December 2022, there were two new major updates, fully in line with the SEO vision and expectations for 2023 that were published a month earlier.

They were the Link Spam Update (aimed against buying backlinks) and the Helpful Content Update (aimed at rewarding websites with truly quality, value-added content). From one day to the next, both long-tail and short-tail positions skyrocketed. The Link Spam update in particular made an impact. According to valantic’s view, because Van der Garde was better optimized than its competitors in all areas, Van der Garde was only lagging on domain authority and name recognition of competitors due to higher budgets. Domain authority was suddenly weighted differently by these updates.

Example: Outdoor furniture

Example: Loungeset

Results: High Season 2023

While this case was recorded, the high season 2023 had just begun and by then it was clear that brand awareness once again plays a role: The correlation between the increase in impressions and the unstable average positions on the short-tail speaks volumes. However, it does become strongly apparent that for the second year in a row, the bottom line has gone up (significantly).

Example: Tuinmeubelen

Example: Loungeset

Average positions of the entire short-tail 

Average positions have never been higher, topping out at 2.7 in December 2022. The downward trend on highly competitive search terms in the peak season is still there but with a much higher bottom line. In June 2021, the average position was 11, in June 2022 9.7, and in June 2023 6.5. The keyword set has not changed otherwise.

The result is that people who searched for the short-tail keywords in June 2023 were on average twice more likely to click on Van der Garde than in 2022: The CTR increased to 1.5%, where it was still at 0.7% in June 2022 and 0.8% in June 2021.

On the total Non-branded dataset of over 100.000 keywords, valantic saw a 192.2% growth in SEO clicks in June 2023 compared to June 2022 and even a 54% growth compared to the Corona years 2021 (54% growth) and 2020 (7% growth).

Year-to-date (January to June), Van der Garde has a growth rate of:

+77.32% vs. 2022

+14.76% vs. 2021

+21.70% vs. 2020

How impressive these results are becomes really clear when taking the graph of the non-branded search market in the Google Ads Keyword Planner into consideration.

In this we see the following figures year-to-date (January through May, June 2023 is not yet available) compared to 2023:

  • -10% vs. 2022

  • -35.1% vs. 2021

  • -34.29% vs. 2020

This result was achieved because Van der Garde can now rank much better structurally, and also on a much larger keyword set.

Branding (January to May, compared to 2022 and 2021)

Valantic benchmarked search demand for Van der Garde against 15 competitors and the non-branded search market. All data relates exclusively to the outdoor furniture industry. Valantic used the brand name with outdoor furniture search terms (van der Garde lounge set, e.g.). In the specific case of the outdoor furniture specialists (Van der Garde, Tuinmeubelshop, Tuinmeubelselland, etc.), valantic also included brand search terms without outdoor furniture keywords in them (Van der Garde e.g.), since this brand query is 100% related to the Outdoor Furniture industry.

Over the period June 2020 to May 2021, there were only three competitors with lower brand demand than Van der Garde. Over the same period in 2022/2023, Van der Garde overtook two more competitors. The outdoor furniture industry experienced a 30.76% drop in non-branded search demand during this period, with demand for the Van der Garde brand only dropping 17.67%.

Valantic's Online Advertising team contributed to the fulfillment of Van der Garde's branding strategy during 2022 and 2023. Compared to 2022, a 127% growth in conversion value was realized between March 2023 and June 2023. For this, 57% more budget was spent, but in return, they achieved a 44% ROAS improvement.