Senior SEO Consultant

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A recent SmartInsights study has shown that 41 per cent of business travel and 60 per cent of leisure travel arrangements are made solely online, meaning that for the most part – the leisure travel industry and the classic high-street travel agent model has now been surpassed by the online market.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the high-street travel industry is dead, but means that the modern global user has changing and evolving needs and in order to remain relevant and viable, travel businesses need to rise to the new challenges and meet customer needs not only through direct interaction (face to face or on the telephone), but through digital interactions. Keeping abreast of changing consumer technologies is also important as these affect your customer’s journey. A journey that is anything but linear.

Nielsen research found that travelers spent an average of 53 days visiting 28 different websites over a period of 76 online sessions, with more than 50% of travelers checking social media for travel tips.

It’s also vital to stay ahead of competition and provide an online experience that not only meets the would-be customers many needs, but provides the experience they’re looking for in order to build the necessary trust to convert. This is were having a strategic travel marketing strategy comes into its own – and a part of this is being proactive and understanding how the digital travel landscape is evolving, and how you can stay ahead of competitors – and deliver the right content to users at the right time.

As consumers have access to more information than ever, the winners in travel will be those who deliver the right information, at the right point of the user journey, in the right way – when the user wants it.

Reviews Aren’t Optional Anymore

There is a growing distrust amongst consumers (across all verticals) of corporate websites that focus heavily on “their message” and not the message of the consumer – i.e. you read what we want to tell you. This is often seen as a sign of opaqueness by users, who prefer a more transparent journey.

Reviews are nothing new, TripAdvisor built a $1.4bn business off the back of reviews and user commentary, but a lot of businesses either don’t show reviews prominently, collect reviews, or have a strategy in which they actively acquire them.

HuffPost reports that over 95% of leisure travellers read at least seven reviews before booking their holidays.

HuffPost reported from a Tnooz study, that found that leisure travellers ready around seven reviews before booking, spending on average 30 minutes dedicated to this process, and TripAdvisor found in a similar survey that 92 per cent of UK leisure travellers agree with the statement: reviews are essential when booking a holiday.

So if you’re running a travel business without collecting reviews, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Essential Reviews Strategies & Processes

It would be extremely easy if I were to just say “go get reviews”, and end it there. In reality, reviews are a nightmare and create additional workloads and the need for more processes. Some of the processes and strategies you need to put in place are:

  • How do you approach previous customers for reviews and feedback?
    • How do you then process the responses?
    • How do you respond to the previous customer?
    • Do you incentivise the process?
  • How do you deal with ad hoc negative reviews volunteered on your Google My Business profile?
    • Do I need to develop boilerplate responses?
    • What’s a reasonable response time?
    • How do I deal with trolls and fake reviews?

And this is just the start. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for collecting reviews as it needs to fit around your business. I recommend reading the below articles to research and develop your own reviews strategy:

Information and content needs to be structured in a user friendly way, to add value – not funnel sales.

Information & Content Must Add Value

For a long time content has been touted as king, relevancy as queen, and there has been great emphasis on writing engaging content to improve your rankings.

This is to an extent true, but more often than not, the interpretation and implementation is just a travel blog. Whilst blog content (and adding to it frequently with quality pieces is important), writing a blog is not a content marketing strategy, it’s a basic.

Content is the domain as a whole, it’s a term that should encompass the complete ecosystem. The reason why? Artificial intelligence and Google RankBrain. Optimising for RankBrain isn’t possible, but you can make its life easier by producing a strong ecosystem of content and internal linking – but none of this is groundbreaking or revolutionary advice.

As consumers have access to more information than ever, the winners in travel will be those who deliver the right information, at the right point of the user journey, in the right way – when the user wants it.

Evergreen Content, Supporting Content, and Short Burst Content

Blogs are important, but as previously mentioned they don’t take into account the whole domain as an ecosystem and the varying intents and needs of a would-be customer.

This is why I break content down into three core classifications, there will always be some overlapping, these essentially are:

Content Type Overview Expected Lifetime Value
Evergreen Typically long form and in-depth content, examples of these are content hubs such as knowledge repositories and learning centres. One year (plus) with potential minor upkeep and updates to remain accurate and relevant.
Supporting Content Blog posts and more frequent content types designed to expanded on specific topics within evergreen content, these can also be FAQs or very focused niche guides. Lifetime value can vary, but typically around a year (potentially longer) depending on the vertical.
Short Burst Content Blog posts, Google Posts and other micro-content pieces designed to focus around a specific time sensitive event, such as a bar guide for Moscow (targeting World Cup 2018 travellers) The lifespan of this content can be hours, days, weeks, or at most months. It’s designed to fulfil a short-term user need and intent.

For more information on writing content for travel websites, I’d recommend reading chapter two of my SEO travel guide.

AR/VR is opening up new experiences for consumers, and this won’t always just be limited to entertainment

The Future: AR & VR Touchpoints

One of my favourite opportunities within travel marketing isn’t something new, in fact it’s been around a number of years and some travel companies have already adopted it – to an extent.

Augmented and virtual reality have been siloed by many to the realms of gaming, but they have huge potential within the travel sector, especially as a research aid.

ADI found that social mentions for travel and AR/VR-related experiences have increased 13% year over year (YoY).

What’s The Difference?

Virtual reality is something which does exist in reality, but with the help of a headset, it allows you to see pictures, hear the sound, feel sensations, that are all virtual and finally leads you to the virtual world. so, it basically replaces the real world.

Augmented reality technology is something which changes the person’s perception of the physical world, but does not replace the real world. In fact, adds extra useful information when viewed through a compatible device. It is a little expensive in comparison to Virtual reality enabled headsets. While Augmented reality is seen through smartphones, tablets etc.

Articles exploring AR/VR’s application in travel:

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Are you interested in generated more leads/sales for your travel business through organic search? Talk to me today about how we can make that happen.

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