How We Started Our $35K/Month Tourism-Focused Marketing Agency With Just A Basic Wordpress Site

Published: May 26th, 2023
Matt G Davison
Founder, Travel Tractions
Travel Tractions
from Cape Town, South Africa
started April 2018
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi, I’m Matthew Davison, and I run and own Travel Tractions a tourism-focused marketing agency, which does around $35k/mo, and a couple of other small travel websites. Our primary focus is SEO services for tourism, with our main products being strategy and content marketing services.

We currently produce and optimize almost half a million words of content a month for a wide range of travel publications and businesses all over the world. 2 years ago, we lost 95% of our business due to COVID and many of the team but have built back up to be a formidable business today.


What's your backstory, and how did you come up with the idea?

Before starting Travel Tractions I had been doing tourism marketing for almost a decade, my last business was a travel startup that I scaled to more than 500,000 page views a month in less than a year. Its growth was a big factor in getting into accelerator programs run by Google and Y-combinator. This gave me the confidence to start an agency helping other travel businesses to achieve similar results.

I had always loved travel but didn't want to be in front of a camera or replace my vacations by “working” and creating content, so running an agency made the most sense for me where I could help people achieve their goals and not be in the spotlight or having to film every part of my life.

It was slow going as we had to build our customers from the ground up with a budget of around $10,000. I invested heavily in building a team and also some tiny internal projects that would make a passive income and offset our slow periods.

A business can be started with less than $100 or $500 nowadays, and not enough people try an MVP or test the market before taking months to get started.

Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.

While building this business, I read the E-myth Revisited, a great book for building good systems and processes while gamifying your company. With this in mind, we made a productized service agency, we started with SEO content and audits and then launched new products that could be standardized for the tourism industry like social media, SEO strategy and topics mining, PPC, and web builds.

Once we got the product market fit, we systemized our products so they could be easily productized and duplicated for our clients, we would improve the SOPs until very little back and forth was needed.

One of my first hires came from an e-learning background and helped us build courses on writing SEO content and optimizing websites, this allowed us to hire inexperienced people and build their experience and skills. To this day we are always improving the courses and trying to release one every year.


Describe the process of launching the business.

We launched with a basic website on WordPress directed to travel and tourism businesses in general, as we didn't have an ideal client yet. I told my 4 interns that we were going to a conference to acquire clients.

Going to a conference has been one of the best decisions we have made as a business and building partnerships.

It didn't go so well; after trawling the stalls, we managed to land 1 client, but it was enough to give us the retainer we needed and continue our growth.


We were working month to month with very little money and a lot of hope.

I remember not being able to make payroll because clients had not paid us after tax season and I didn't have easy access to capital and had to ask the team who didn't mind not getting paid at the end of the month and could wait. It was not a great thing to ask, but I had some great people that were there to help.

We managed to grow 10 - 25% a month the first year, and the outlook of the business was looking very positive, however scaling people was not easy so investing in courses and training was becoming key to the business.


I had to get a bigger home office that could accommodate more than 3, and we moved into a massive house where we could have more than 15 at one time. Some of my employees moved in with me, and I think this was also a massive part of our growth and growing the business.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Since SEO is a long game of creating content, guides, and backlinks, we were not ranking yet, we relied on word of mouth a lot. I had friends in the industry who referred me clients, and once we had success with other clients we got more referrals.

I then flew to a conference to meet some of our clients and went to a conference with them, and this helped us meet a lot more clients and got us good exposure. We were lucky enough to work with one or two of the speakers, and after success with them, they opened the floodgates later that year, and we no longer needed to do marketing or try to get clients.

We gave them an affiliate program which worked well too, but this amounted to only about 5 or 10% of our clients.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Today we are comfortably profitable but had to increase salaries massively since COVID as now the global workforce was activated, and we were no longer competing with South African salaries but international ones of first-world countries.

We believe that quality comes first, and more than 80% of clients who try us out order something again within the year. We rely on SEO now to bring in leads and our mailing list to remind clients we exist; we have put a big focus on getting retainers the last year and have grown this part from 6k/mo to 20k/mo in the last year.


Our social media is a good hiring tool for attracting employees by posting team updates and success stories, actually which I found quite interesting and we grew at a decent rate (33%) last year.

Right now, the tourism industry is not thinking about marketing but more about rebuilding its infrastructure and teams, so we expect double-digit growth this year again and hope for triple-digit growth in 2024.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I was slow to increase salaries after COVID, but we just didn't have the money, and we lost a lot of great people due to this; probably my biggest mistake, but now we are highly competitive internationally.

Going to a conference has been one of the best decisions we have made as a business and building partnerships. We had 3 months of runway in the bank when Covid hit which was OK but helped us quite a lot. Covif was devastating for our business, and we are still recovering. It did help us build great systems and processes and also know the people who will stick it out in the bad times.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

My favorite business tool would have to be Google Sheets as it runs our business and speeds up an incredible amount of our processes.

Ahrefs is the backbone of our SEO systems and processes, it is a great tool that seems to keep up with trends.

Asana is also key to making our business run smoothly putting our productized services into Asana templated really helps the back and forth with managers and the workforce.

We are also big fans of Woocommere and then use Zapier to connect a lot of these products altogether.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The E-myth was instrumental in our growth when we started, I have yet to find a better business book. Right now, I like Hormozi's content about building and scaling businesses and having them on all platforms.

I think it's important to optimize your feeds, like Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook so that when you do visit a feed to get distracted you can have some Gavy Vee shouting at you to Hustle or Simen Sinek telling you how to manage people and relationships better.

I also like My First Million podcasts but don't get enough time to watch them as much as I would like to.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Starting, so many entrepreneurs talk about business plans and strategizing launches and all this other bullshit that is not needed. I think one of the best entrepreneurs of our time is Pieter Levels, a solopreneur who launched 12 companies/websites in 12 months and then focussed on the most profitable and enjoyable ones.

A business can be started with less than $100 or $500 nowadays, and not enough people try an MVP or test the market before taking months to get started. This is the biggest mistake. Often your business revenue or clients will tell you what you need to do or work on.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are ALWAYS hiring. Right now, I'm looking for a social media strategist and a PR strategist; we are also always looking for young graduates to go through our courses and training to find their feet and grow in the company.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!