Marketing your escape room business doesn’t need to be complicated.

One of the things that I always notice when talking to escape room owners is that they are always looking for a “secret ingredient.”

Like a marketing company that will turn the tables overnight.

But truth be told:

There isn’t a “silver bullet” that will fix a broken business over night.

If you want to grow your business, it is as simple as:

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Conducting a competitive audit

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Identifying the gap between you and your competitors

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Doing what your competitors are doing (but only better)

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Optionally (Add an extra channel to create extra leverage in the long run)

That is the exact approach we used to 2.5x Fox In A Box Chicago traffic in today’s case study!

We took the traffic from 3700 visitors/month to 9600 visitors/month in 2 years. (not taking into account a year lost due to covid).

Now that’s just traffic, but the brand has increased its revenue by 50% Y-O-Y.

How did we do it?

Let’s dive in…

ABOUT THE BUSINESS

Fox In A Box Chicago is an Escape Room business. It’s an independent franchisee under the European brand of Fox In A Box based out of Stockholm. It has four immersive physical escape room games and team building for corporate groups.

When the owner contacted us on Feb 14, 2019, he mentioned that the brand wasn’t doing as good as they hoped, and his lease would renew in 3 months.

We only had three months to achieve tangible results to restore his confidence in renewing the lease and continuing with the business.

The main focus of our campaign would be:

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Push the rankings to the first page for the most important terms

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Reach a tolerable Cost Per Acquisition

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Identify and tap into unexplored market segments

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Make the brand omnipresent in Chicago

With a lot of ground to cover, the clock was ticking, and the SEO ORB Team immediately got to work.

CHALLENGES WE FACED

The escape room market in Chicago is super competitive. There were around 48 Escape Rooms in 2019 and 40 in 2022.

The brand had no marketing in place, apart from some automated Google Ads campaigns.

The website had a bunch of limitations, like lack of customisation. We cannot create new pages on the website but could publish blogs with minimal features. A web design revamp was out of the question as the Franchise owns the website.

Given the not-so-userfriendly CMS that the website is using, we had a massive task to rank it on Search Engines. 

OUR PLAN OF ATTACK

When forming the marketing strategy, we had one mantra.

K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple Silly

After a competitive audit, we identified quite a few untapped opportunities. 

OUR MISSION – Elevate the brand, make it shine, make it omnipresent to the point that people who come into their sphere of influence should easily pick them over their competitors. 

We  could break down our strategy into these ten pillars:

Google Search & Display Ads

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Targetted Search Ads To Hit The Hottest Customers

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Retargeting Display Campaigns To Keep Visitors Warm

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Prospecting Display Campaigns To Go After A Cold Audience (That's Never Heard Of Escape Rooms / Fox In A Box)

Facebook & IG Ads

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Display Ads For Retention & Recall (Mostly Branding)

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Display Ads For Prospecting

Search Engine Optimisation

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Technical Audit To Create A Healthy & Solid Website Architecture

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Write Relevant Content To Increase Topical Relevance And Create More Entry Points

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Acquire Links From Relevant Websites Through Outreach

All of this sounds chic and fancy, but let me take you guys behind the scenes and show you how these strategies look in the real world.

WHAT DID WE DO? REALLY.

Let me walk you through the nuts and bolts of our strategy for the three core pillars that I mentioned above. 

Google Ads

The Google Ads account was pretty bare bones. A few Ad-groups with many keywords were dumped in them and primarily focused around “escape rooms in Chicago.”

We analysed the past two years of data in the ad account and created multiple segments based on the search intent.

For Example:

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escape room for couples

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escape room for kids

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discounts

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family

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horror

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groups of #

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gift vouchers

^

theme based kws

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things to do

^

birthday party venues

^

etc..

We created specific ad groups and ads to go with each segment. And created posts for the other segments where a page wasn’t already available.

Eventually, the idea was to narrow down to a handful of 3-4 segments. Only bring in the most results for the lowest CPA in any given market.

Our strategies are outlined in the 14x Google Ads Hacks For Escape Rooms.

I’ve had the privilege of peeking behind 10s of Escape Room Google Ads account, and it won’t be an understatement to say that most ERs don’t even reach this far.

But, this is only 50% of the Google Ads game.

We uploaded their double opt-in customer list into Google Ads to provide Google with more data around their customers.

Now, it was time to tap into the power of Google’s insanely massive and accurate banner inventory.

We had two objectives with the display banners:

Prevent existing website visitors from forgetting the brand with retargeting ads

In any given market, only 3% of visitors are actively looking for the solution. The rest, 97%, are not even aware that they need / will need a product. This is where Google's display banners can come into use to prospect new audiences.

Some banner examples from a prospecting campaign

Facebook & IG Ads

There’s an internal saying in our company.

If Google is like a Shopping Mall, Facebook is the TV

This statement is significant because most ER owners I meet have stories about how they don’t seem to get any returns from their Facebook Ads.

Suppose you are in the same boat and have asked this question at any point in your life. I want to ask you a follow-up question.

When was the last time you bought something directly from a TV commercial? 

Like, never – RIGHT??!?

So how can you expect from Facebook any different?

This was the same dilemma that was plaguing this client. 

Besides, we aren’t even solving a “hair-on-fire” problem like a Plumber or a Dentist. So how can we expect customers to book from Facebook when we already know that there are a lot of decisions to make when someone books an Escape Room.

For example:

Who all would want to play this game with me?

Which of these themes would my group choose?

Will we split the bills?

When's everyone available?

Is the game avaialble at 7pm on Sat?

Can my 8 year old nephew enjoy this? or is he even allowed to play?

When people search for our business/service on Google, they have intentionally decided to search for it, which implies that they already have answers to most of these questions and more before they even do the first search.

They are already in hunt mode. Cash in hand. They are looking to give it to the next suitable business.

But, with Facebook and IG. Things are different.

People usually hang out with friends, or maybe spy on their crushes or show off what’s happening in their life (or something in between).

When your ads show up, you are most likely interrupting them.

And if your creatives and copy are not captivating enough, you’ve lost any chance of getting their attention.

The chances of getting a direct conversion from the ad itself are slim to none.

So how did we go about creating a strategy for Facebook? 

We had a similar approach to our Google Display Network, with a few additions to the mix.

Use FB and IG to funnel new prospects into our sphere of influence with Prospecting.

Be top of mind amongst our existing audience with retargeting ads

Run seasonal & holiday campaigns to position the brand as "Always showing up" throughout the year.

Here are some examples of campaigns that we ran for FB & IG.

Pro tip: Whenever we are working on Google and Facebook Ads, we always refer to this 1001 Escape Room Google & Facebook Ads swipe file. It’s super helpful.

Search Engine Optimisation

SEO is simple, and people love making it complicated. 

Whenever we make SEO Decisions, we are always thinking about what matters most to Google. Google only cares about websites that provide a good user experience. 

Keeping that in mind, this is the baseline approach that we used.

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Keyword research

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Competitor analysis

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On-site SEO Audit

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Site Structure

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Content strategy

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Link Building & Citations

Step #1 – Keyword Research

When it comes to SEO, we always start with keyword research. We asked our client to give us a base list of keywords. And then we used the seed keywords to expand our list to even more keywords. 

Expanding our keyword list with seed keywords from client

… then we expanded the list further with data available in their Google Search Console
We grouped all the keywords we found into the following categories, after removing any duplicates or irrelevant keywords. 

Money keywords (escape room Chicago, Chicago escape games etc.)

Generic keywords (related to different forms of money kws, best escape rooms Chicago, family escape rooms in Chicago etc)

Questions (are escape rooms in Chicago safe for kids? what is the age bracket for escape rooms? etc.)

Research Keywords (things to do in Chicago, what to do this weekend in Chicago?. games to play with family etc.)

When selecting our final list, we paid particular attention to search intent, but we wanted to expand the general “escape room” keywords that most businesses get stuck at. 

Pro tip: Don’t focus on the 3% keywords everyone’s targeting. Go for 97% of keywords that your market is not chasing.

These are high intent evergreen keywords, free from the up and down fluctuations of the escape room market. 

If you need ideas or inspiration for coming up with your editorial calendar, take a look at our 501 Escape Room Blog topic ideas. 

Here are some of the keywords we are ranking for when writing this case study.
They are ranking for terms like …

friends escape room, zodiac escape room, romantic escape room, teenage escape room, escape room for teens, private escape room near me, escape room for 14-year-olds, escape room kids party, kids escape room, couples escape room, family-friendly escape rooms, and many more terms…

And even super competitive terms like “escape rooms”.

See how their organic keyword profile has grown from 1400 keywords in 2019 to 5000+ keywords in 2022.

So let’s see how we made this magic happen. 

Step #2 – Competitor Analysis

Identifying the top competitors for an Escape Room is easy. Just search for “escape room” / “escape room +city” in Google, and take note of the businesses that appear at the top. 

Once you have a list of 3-5 Top competitors, it’s time to deep dive into their websites and looks at their design and structure.

Page layout and content length

Common elements and words

CTA and Banner Placements

Types of products offered

Activity on the blog

By doing this base level scan, you will already have a list of things that should be present on your website if you want to win. You will have to consider your limitations (like, we cannot create new pages or introduce new elements in the page layout).

Here’s an example of a competitor website review, this is not the full review but enough to give you an idea.

Why do we go to such lengths to break down a competitor’s website?

Well, Google has been using machine learning for ages now. At its core, Google wants to show only the best results for every query that a user enters to provide the best experience, and users keep coming back to it. The more time users will spend on Google, the more they will earn from ad revenue.

With the help of AI, Google can quickly note all the positive user experience signals on a website. By looking at the top-ranking websites, we can understand machine learning experts.

Step #3 – On-site Technical Audit

Now that we know the competition and also the demand, it’s time to benchmark our current position.

We start with a comprehensive website audit that typically spans between 30 – 50 pages. 

Escape Room Website Audit

This audit aims to identify technical issues (that can prevent search engine robots from adequately crawling and indexing the website) and user experience issues that are preventing the site from achieving its full potential.

Some of the things in this audit are:

Site Structure Audit

Do we have the best website architecture to get max benefit?

Page Speed Audit

What issues are preventing our pages from loading fast enough?

Indexing Issues

Are all the essential pages indexed? And are all irrelevant pages and resources removed from indexing?

Duplicate / Thin Content

Do all the pages have enough content? Is there any repetitive content on the website or pages that are not marked as canonical?

Internal Redirects?

Are there any old link redirects that are not required and wasting Google’s crawl budget?

Internal Linking

Are the pages and posts on the website interconnected adequately with the right anchor texts?

E-A-T Signals

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trust. These signals were part of the core YMYL (Your Money Your Life) update introduced by Google in 2015. Initially, they were launched for specific industries like Healthcare, Finance, Affiliate, etc.. but eventually, we started noticing that the same signals were also being used for all other types of businesses.
This site had a range of problems that needed to be fixed. 

Some changes were limited due to the website’s features, but we managed to implement the ones that we could on our own. 

We sent off the rest to the franchise’s dev team, who took care of it from their end. 

Step #4 – Site Architecture

Once we’d gone through the technical audit, it was time to work on the website architecture.

Creating a healthy website architecture is like putting oil in a machine. Just like the lack of oil makes the engine less efficient, the lack of a proper website structure makes it less efficient.

Here are a few advantages of creating a good site architecture:

It helps search engines quickly crawl, understand and index the website.

It helps users find what they need

It gives more weight to important content

It helps distribute link equity to other pages of the website as well.

One key distinction between a website with good architecture and one with lousy architecture is that it always has all its core pages within three click depths from the homepage.

Example of a good website architecture

There were many challenges along the way, as we couldn’t re-write the URL paths on this website. But with the help of canonicalisation (marking content as duplicate) and internal linking, we could partially fix the issues. 

Step #5 – Content Strategy

With the keyword research, market intel and good site structure, it was time to plan the content strategy!

I’ve studied 1000’s escape room websites, and it’s a shame that only a handful have a content strategy.

97% of the independently owned mom-and-pop escape room businesses don’t even have a blog section.

Blogging is a highly underused marketing instrument. There are many reasons why people tend to avoid blogging, and some common misconceptions and problems are:

I don't know what to write / how to write

My audience doesn't read blogs

ER blogs are only for enthusiasts

Blogging is a waste of time

There are a lot of benefits to blogging (even for escape rooms). Here are a few that make blogging a non-negotiable activity in your marketing stack:

Blogging creates more entry points to your business and removes the pressure from your homepage as the only way to get customers.

Actively blogging demonstrates to Google that you are a serious business and care about your visitors.

Blogging grows your topical relevance by allowing you to create content clusters around other topics like "things of interest in your city", "things to do", "birthday ideas", "team-building", etc...

Strong topical clusters tell Google that your business is an expert on these topics, pushing your core landing pages to the top of the Search Engine Results Pages.

Sometimes the purpose of the blog could be just to make your visitors laugh or spend more time on your website, which leads to better brand recall and retention.

It allows you to create point-of-interaction for all stages of your customer’s sales cycle.

Blogging even allows you to create a meaningful conversation with your best fans.

And these are just a few of the benefits to start with. Blogging is one of the primary reasons we were able to rank this client for a lot of indirect searches like “escape rooms for teens”, “escape rooms for families”, “things to do in Chicago”, etc. 

And that’s not all. Blogging is also why we were able to overtake many prominent companies in Chicago and rank for the most competitive terms like “Escape rooms”…

Rank#1 for “escape rooms”

Here’s what our Editorial Calendar looked like…
We created topics based on our keyword and topics list that we had identified in Step #1. We researched Google to determine the top-ranking articles for doing for each of the blogs, and we created a plan to build a better, more high-quality piece of content on that topic than what was already covered on Google.

Sometimes, we just wrote a blog because we thought it would make our readers laugh. For example, we wrote an article on this weird Illinois phenomenon that only happens every 17 years

We started with two articles a month but eventually started writing 4x high-quality articles a month as there was a significant jump in site traffic from the blog section.

The blog section alone is responsible for at least 30-35% of traffic.

Step #6 – Acquiring Links & Mentions

It would be no understatement to say that link acquisition is by far the most critical activity vs all the others that we talked about so far combined. 

But the results from your link building are powered-up and accelerated if you have done all the above steps.

Having a quality website architecture, solid internal linking and good content in place will allow you to get 10x benefits from your link building campaigns.

We created an acquisition strategy based on how the other competitors were acquiring their links.

How many links are you going to build?

This is the most common question that ER owners ask us during discovery calls. 

And they are wrong in their approach. 

There are no magical links that you can build to get better positions in the search engines. It varies from market to market. 

Proper link acquisition speed should always be based on the averages of what the Top 3 competitors in your location are doing. 

We took their backlink from 47 to 527 Referring Domains
And that is all that we did. 

As the campaign kept maturing, we tweaked our acquisition and content game to fit the feedback loop we were getting from our reports. 

Pro tip: We’ve detailed our complete SEO Strategy in a manner that even a newbie can understand in our Definitive Guide To SEO for Escape Rooms.

The Outcome

Traffic has grown from 3700 visitors/month to 9600 visitors/month.
2.5x Traffic In 3 Years
50% growth in revenue Y-O-Y, since 2019!
We were able to increase their search visibility from 1400 keywords to 5500 keywords. 
We were able to increase the search traffic by 1.5X in a year, and despite being hit by covid, we not only recovered but were able to 2.5x the traffic. 
We were able to reduce the CPA in Google Ads from $14.09 to $5.76, which means the brand is now able to acquire three bookings instead of one for the same cost to Google.

Word From The Client

Take a look at what some other clients are saying..

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