Businesses must evolve to stand out in the digital marketplace or risk irrelevance. The highly competitive travel industry is no exception. Well over 78% of Britons book their vacations online and this is indicative of an overwhelming global trend that is skewing almost completely digital. It’s imperative that your company implement smart SEO for travel industry and intelligent marketing for hospitality and tourism to retain existing customers and win new ones. We’ve put together a beginner’s guide to digital marketing for the travel industry to help you craft an effective travel marketing plan and stay one step ahead of the game in your sector!
WHAT IS SEO?
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization” and it determines what page you’ll land on when a potential client types in keywords (we’ll get into those later). As most people do not scroll past the first two pages, the higher you are in SERPs (search engine result pages) the more successful you’ll be in attracting new customers. In order to be competitive and have good placement, your web presence must be optimized. With a little strategic planning, you will be able to maximize travel SEO services to maintain a good position. Imagine if hundreds more potential customers were clicking on your website. Your business could grow exponentially, by simply employing good and smart SEO strategies.
ORGANIC SEO VS. PPC
PPC stands for “Pay Per Click”. When you purchase a PPC campaign, you’re renting a spot at the top of the page in exchange for a certain amount of money per click through. More sought-after keywords will have a higher PPC cost and these positions are generally gobbled up by big name players in the sector. You’ll see Skyscanner, Travelocity, and others in coveted PPC spots and also high up in the organic rankings. PPC offers the instant gratification of being right at the top of the page, but when you stop paying you will lose your spot completely. Also, studies show that “70-80% of users ignore the paid ads, focusing on organic results.”
PPC might be good to grab a boost when you’re first starting off, but it lacks long-term sustainability. For better results, combine a PPC campaign with organic SEO.
Organic SEO must be part of your travel marketing plan, because the more you build, the more staying power you have in Google search engine results. Unlike PPC, the credit you get by cultivating organic SEO sticks with you and keeps you up top.
Types of SEO to Employ
Getting your business noticed in local SEO is an easy and effective way to reach people who are looking for geo-targeted content. The first thing you should do is create a Google My Business account with your location. Make sure your information is as accurate as possible and consistent across all social platforms. Create headlines that reference your location and add schema, or structured data, information.
2. HomePage SEO
Your homepage is your company’s first impression and it’s important that it be slick, engaging and user-friendly. Make sure you include lots of visually attractive pictures, including images of people on holiday enjoying themselves. Make it very clear what you offer. For example, if your company specializes in diving expeditions, use a slider of images accompanied by SEO friendly text, such as “Highest Rated Diving Expeditions in Bermuda”. That way, both Google and your customers know exactly what they’re getting. Also, make sure there’s a specific call to action on your homepage such as a “book now” button or a place where people can see your offerings or properties that’s instantly accessible. Make sure you fill out all descriptions on the back-end (place where you insert your content) as accurately and clearly as possible. Make it easy for Google to find and understand what your website is about.
3.Destination and Property Pages
Look at your website like an organizational chart. Up at the top is your homepage, which gives an overall understanding of what you do and draws people in. Branching off from the homepage are your destination and property pages which give specific details about the location of your facilities and what amenities they provide. Think of each landing page (page attached to the homepage or a subpage with a specific purpose) as a more specific explanation of what you offer in a specific area. For example, a single property page for a hotel chain would not give details about properties in Miami, Brooklyn, and Chicago. It’s much more effective to have individual pages for each, optimized to tell Google that you are specifically giving information about properties in that location. Pay attention to your URLs and include a site map. URLs should always be as specific as possible and when crafting a destination or property page you want to include some geo-targeted information.
Property pages, which branch off Destination Pages, should contain visuals and information related specifically to that property, as well as contact information and a booking option. Make the titles as informative as possible. What makes that property unique? If it as a private balcony, say “Deluxe Suite with Private Balcony”. It’s a good idea to include an easy way to get back to the Destination Page, using a link at the top of the page, commonly referred to as a “breadcrumb”. This enhances the user experience by allowing them to simply click back to check out other properties in the destination of their choice.
Both property and destination pages must contain unique content. Strategies for content development are covered in this article. Remember to keep the end user’s experience in mind at all times. What information would you want to read? What would make you want to book or purchase?
Organic SEO takes a lot longer to build, but it’s completely worth it and something you need to do to stay competitive. Building Organic SEO entails:
- Building a Responsive and Visually Engaging Website with Unique Content
- Understanding Different Types of SEO
- Building Links to Show Credibility
- A Robust Social Media Presence
4. Building a Responsive and Visually Engaging Website
After purchasing your domain and selecting hosting, the first thing you need to focus on is design. It’s important to have a dynamic design that reflects what you uniquely offer. It’s also critical that the design is responsive or corresponds accordingly with any device. We’ve all visited websites where you have to pinch and squint to see content and it’s off-putting. In 2017, with a plethora of responsive templates available, there is no excuse not to have a responsive website. Also, Google will punish you if your website is not multi-platform friendly, so in addition to creating a negative experience for your end consumer, you’ll also suffer in SEO.
If you don’t feel comfortable designing your website yourself, you can always hire a professional. There are a number of platforms where freelance designers offer services for any price range. It’s really worth the investment because a badly designed website lacks credibility. In a world of nearly unlimited options for travel and hospitality, image and first impressions play an integral role in getting you noticed. Make sure your design is clean, responsive and visually attractive. A slider full of engaging pictures is a nice start. Make sure to highlight what makes your business unique. More than half of people who browse the web spend only 15 seconds on your website. The importance of clean, responsive and dynamic design cannot be overstated. You are literally losing revenue for each day that your website isn’t looking its best. You can have the best company in the world, but without proper marketing for hospitality and tourism and an engaging website, you will lose out to your competitors, guaranteed.
Other elements of catchy website design include:
- Minimal text- keep it thought provoking and short
- Clearly defined brand voice- all visual and written elements must reflect your brand and give a clear picture of what you have to offer
- Fast load time
5. Creating Unique and Appealing Content
As we’ve already established, it’s not enough to simply have a website. You need to build your website with a purpose, an eye for beauty and valuable content. You must know what your business does, why it does what it does and why people should patronize you.
Your starting point is to establish what makes you unique and appealing. Think about what differentiates you from your competitors and what kind of demographic would be attracted to your offerings. Say you’re a bed and breakfast that works with local farmers to produce seasonal, artisanal foods using regional ingredients. You’ll want to show pictures of your beautifully appointed rooms and pretty gardens, but the jewel in your crown needs to be what makes you unique. Highlight your community work with farmers and appeal to the right demographic. Foodies, people interested in the environment and those who like to support small businesses will all flock to your bed and breakfast because what you do aligns with either their core values or passions. In the 15 seconds, you have to capture interest you must hit hard with your strengths. People are not going to dig around to determine what makes you special. You need to tell them right away and establish engagement.
- Who do you want to target?
- Establish your demographic and start to think about how best to communicate and energize them.
- Don’t fall into the trap of creating content ‘for everyone’. It’s far better to have a smaller focus that you can really hone in on.
- Pick your keywords. Keywords are what you type into your search engine to find the services or products you’re looking for. For example “best pizza New York City”, or “boutique hotels Bangkok”. They are generally geo-targeted (include the name of a location) and fairly specific, which is why you need to define your demographic.
- Google provides you with some free tools to choose keywords wisely. Check out Google AdWords and Google Trends for a good jumping off place. If you’re looking for additional tools and software, this list from FitSmallBusiness is a good comparison of what you get when you pay for premium software.
- Build your content with these keywords in mind. Remember, great marketing and SEO is not accidental! Make sure your approach is strategic in order to ensure the best return on your investment.
- Create Some Content! Content is key to organic SEO. Make sure your content is unique, relevant and well-written. You need to include keywords but do it in a way that it flows naturally. Keyword stuffing is frowned upon by Google and won’t win you any loyal customers. Be smart, creative and overall think of your end user. Some ideas for content could include:
- Offering descriptions– talk about what makes you unique. Is your on-site spa renowned for its deep tissue massage? Do a piece on the benefits of massage and promote your services as well.
- Area guides– show and explain what makes your area cool and fun. If you are a small bed and breakfast in Siem Reap you can write a piece about the best temples to see, when to visit Angkor Wat, best places for authentic Cambodian food, etc.
- Interviews– is your chef well renowned for her visionary take on French cuisine? Talk to her about her influences and use of ingredients.
- Special offers– do you have a low season? Why not create a promotion and highlight some fun things to do around your area during that time period? For example, if you’re a Colorado ski lodge you can suggest that visitors come during the summer to experience festivals and food culture. Thinking outside the box will win you points and could change commonly held perspectives on when and where to travel seasonally.
- Blog regularly. Put your weekly blog posts on the top of your to-do list. It’s critical that you keep generating fresh and engaging content. Google’s bots (what it uses to scan websites for rankings) will regularly look at your blogs and give you a boost for putting up new content. Additionally, continual blogging builds a lot of goodwill. It shows your potential customers that you care about their experience and want them to be happy.
- Make your website easily searchable. Have an easily accessible listing of what you have available, be it rooms, services, spa treatments, dining options or anything else. Have your blog updated and front and center. Make it simple for people to find anything they’re looking for.
- Social Proof: Get testimonials and reviews
- Post testimonials and reviews on your website. People like to see the ‘social proof’ that others have had a great experience. It’s much more credible when your customers rave about how great you are! Do not put your reviews in tabs and make sure you add the appropriate schema information so that Google recognizes them.
- Ask for reviews! Don’t be afraid to ask happy customers to give you a good review. If they’ve had a great experience, most of them will be happy to do it.
- Make sure you include a call to action. Calls to action prompt your customers to make a decision. Include several of these on your website in the form of “contact us” or “book now”. It’s not pushy, it’s merely adding to the user experience by directing potential buyers to how they can move forward.
6. Building Links to Show Credibility
In order to stay competitive, you must build links. Quality content is the absolute best way to get other bloggers or websites linking to your website. Link building does three critical things; it establishes more end-user credibility, it directs traffic to your website and it lets Google know that you are legitimate and interesting, thereby giving you a boost in rankings. Make sure the websites you link to are trustworthy and provide valuable information. Over time, link building will help grow your business exponentially.
7. A Robust Social Media Presence
Creating Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram pages is an easy way to build links to and from your website and engage potential clients on a number of different platforms. Be sure to update and maintain your pages on a regular basis! It’s better to have no social media presence than a Facebook page that hasn’t been updated in six months! Include relevant information from your blog and promote the work of others. As with everything else, keep in mind that the user experience is ultimately what is going to drive business. What do they want to read about? Also, social media is an excellent tool to allow you to communicate directly with customers, manage expectations and work through any problems that might arise.
You can also buy ad space on Facebook to boost important posts or hot properties. Make sure a paid social media campaign is part of your budget.
Typical Travel SEO Mistakes
- Having an unresponsive website or website
- Not updating Social Media
- Mediocre or duplicated content
- Not engaging with customers
In the fiercely competitive travel and hospitality industries where your potential customers have an overabundance of options, smart brand strategy, excellent content, visually stunning design and user-friendly website are critical for success. Maximizing digital marketing for travel industry is doable even for beginners. Start with a targeted plan, respect your customer’s needs and build your web and social media presence. You’ll watch your company move up in the rankings and reap the rewards of increased business.