Travel, tourism, and hospitality companies face increasing competition for limited rankings in the search engines and with Google constantly changing the rules of the game, creating an effective Internet marketing strategy is critical to success.
Our Travel Industry SEO Guide includes all the tips and hacks that will help you improve your search engine rankings, bring more hits to your website, and drive more sales.
Set clear and reasonable goals for your website, SEO, and Internet marketing efforts. Think of this Travel Industry SEO Guide as an SEO business plan that you can follow and update as you go to ensure you are reaching the goals that you set.
These goals can be simple such as “First page of Google for my main keyword phrase in 6 months” or “Increase website traffic from organic results by 50% in 6 months.”
Keep in mind that your results in the search engines can often take time and you shouldn’t expect to be on the first page of Google after a week of starting your SEO campaign.
After reviewing hundreds of travel and hospitality websites I find it surprising that very often even the most important aspects of onsite SEO are being ignored. For example, about 85% of the sites I reviewed had issues with their website titles (the MOST important on-page ranking factor) including lack of keywords and titles that were too long and being cut-off by Google.
Before moving to the other tips mentioned below you should ensure that the search engine optimization for your site is done correctly and you extract the most value you can from each page.
While I could write an entire article just dedicated to this, one of the best ways to start this process is with a professional website review that will look at issues across your website that can be fine-tuned to increase search engine rankings.
Expert Tip: Another major ranking factor is site speed. If your site is slow your rankings will suffer. To see how fast your site is and what you can do to improve use Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
Because of the large amount of competition in the travel and hospitality industry I always recommend that your USP (Unique Selling Point) is prominently displayed at the top of your homepage.
So for example, if you are a hotel, why should I stay at YOUR hotel vs your competition. If you are a tour operator, why should I choose your tours over your competition. If you are a travel agent, why do I need your services vs booking on Kayak for example.
Google loves brands and you should be showcasing your company as a brand wherever possible. Brands get better ranking results because they are more trustworthy in the eyes of Google.
Travel companies need to position themselves in their particular niche, create a strong brand message that articulates your brand, and then reach out to an ecosystem of influencers who will promote your brand.
Expert Tip: To monitor your brand use talkwalker to search for brand mentions across the Internet.
Not only do you need quality links aimed at your website to boost your search engine rankings, relevant links are ways to drive traffic straight to your website.
The goal is to look for places on the Internet where your target audience is located and reach out to them. This could be a well-written blog post on a prominent travel blogging website, a travel directory of tours or hotels, a Quora question, or adding your company in the relevant Wikitravel section.
Think about link building like networking before there was the Internet. Many travel professionals would visit a relevant trade show and hand out their business card to potential clients and partners. This is the way link building should be done on the Internet to really get the best results.
If you are a local tour operator, attraction, or accommodation, local SEO is critical to the success of your Internet marketing results. Often local results are displayed before organic results in a Google search.
The key here is getting citations (Company name, address, telephone number) is the first step to ranking locally. You can receive citations from local directories such as Yellow Pages, press releases, profile pages, forum signatures, and just about anywhere else on the Internet where you can place your company information.
Expert Tip: Make sure the address on your website and your Google+ account matchup EXACTLY otherwise your efforts will be wasted. Choose one format for your citation and use it everywhere including abbreviations, spaces, and formatting.
The second part is receiving reviews on your Google+ account and around the Internet. Reviews on your website can also be indexed by Google. Make sure to contact your customers and ask for a review and point them to your Google+ account.
Your content strategy is critical to reaching potential clients. Your website should have a blog where you can create relevant content that is actually interesting to your potential customers.
Quality is the key here so don’t write just to write. Content is still king but there is so much noise from the plethora of travel content on the Internet and your goal is to stand out from the masses and offer your market something really useful and interesting. So if your content is about a Travel Industry SEO Guide then make sure it is an Ultimate Travel Industry SEO Guide!
Show your expertise in your travel industry niche, be authentic, and try to create a call to action in your content that can lead to a sale.
Lastly, make sure you are consistent. Write once a week, once a month, or every day, but be consistent.
Expert TIp: Utilize BuzzSumo to find content in your industry that is performing well and write something even better.
Once you have great content you will want to share it with your audience on the social networks.
Make sure you connect with your target audience, partners, and influencers relevant to your travel industry niche. Even a few good influencers can amplify your content (even a good image) out to your target audience.
One of the biggest mistakes many travel and hospitality companies make with social networking is actually doing the networking. Networking is not a one-way street where you blast out your content and everyone “likes” or “shares” it for you.
My motto is “Like and be liked, share and be shared, follow and be followed.” If you abide by this motto you will grow your social following and get the most out of social networks.
Expert Tip: Join relevant groups related to your travel niche that create a direct connection to your target audience. If you offer tours in St Petersburg Russia then joining a Facebook group about St Petersburg Russia is ideal. Then make sure to post your relevant content there as well.
If you are a tour operator, hotel, or attraction then you know the importance of TripAdvisor and similar review based websites.
Your TripAdvisor ranking can be a major factor in driving clients to your website. While many of the factors and their actual importance are “trade secrets” of TripAdvisor my research has found several key components:
Expert Tip: Make sure you give a management response to EVERY review you receive both good and bad if possible. Even a thank you shows that you are real and a sorry shows that you care about your customers even when something went wrong. Your reply is also a factor in your TripAdvisor ranking.
There are numerous travel related forums around the Internet where your target audience is engaged in conversation. Get company involved in the conversations, help travelers with your expert advice, and be an active member in the discussions.
For example, Frommer’s has a quite large travel forum where you can join the discussions. Make sure you read the forum rules on all travel forums before you register and start posting.
Don’t come to the travel forums just for a link. Find forums related to your travel niche and engage the audience. If you offer interesting and relevant posts, people will find your website naturally, just the way Google likes it.
Expert Tip: Get a link to your website in your forum Signature so members can easily continue on to your site if they are interested. This is the best place to get a link to your website when you start posting to forums.
Mobile users continue to grow and Google has made it painfully clear that websites should be mobile-friendly for phones and tablets.
If you are not sure if your website is mobile-friendly you can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool to find out.
Google gives better mobile rankings to websites that are mobile-friendly and travelers.
Expert Tip: When developing your website to be mobile-friendly testing is paramount to ensuring your website can be viewed on all different devices of different sizes. Tools such as Screenfly will help you test your website on different devices to see how they look so you can make adjustments.
There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. Be a spy and look at what your competition is doing and either replicate it (links) or make it better (content). If your competition is ranking higher than you for selected keywords there is a good reason for it.
Very often if you look carefully at your competition you can find opportunities to gain new links, partnerships, clients, and content ideas.
Expert Tip: You can use the Moz Open Site Explorer to compare your website metrics with those of your competition and also see where they are receiving some of their links. Choose “Compare Link Metrics” from the left menu and enter the URL’s of your competition to see how you rate. Moz does a great job of explaining the various metrics so you can understand them.
More and more tourists are looking to utilize travel companies that offer ecotourism or sustainable tourism policies that help save the environment and local communities.
There are numerous benefits to making your travel or hospitality company environmentally friendly including:
It is really easy to get started with a green ecotourism policy for your travel company. Organizations such as Green Travel International offer guidelines for tour operators and accommodation providers to create policies that are easy to implement.
After all your efforts you will want to know if you are seeing any results. The first place you will want to look is Google Analytics. Here you can see if you are receiving more hits to your website.
Also make sure to watch your bounce rate. This is the percentage of people who left your homepage without interacting with the page.
The average bounce rate for most websites is about 40%. So if your bounce rate is higher than this you might want to consider adjusting your homepage to get people interacting with your page.
To track your search engine rankings I recommend a Moz Pro Subscription. They offer a 30-day free trial so you can try out the service first.
Compare your results with your goals and adjust as necessary.
Brian Schweitzer is the founder of Site Guru, a digital marketing agency and WordPress development company that focuses on the travel, tourism, and hospitality industries.