As a tour operator, having a solid digital marketing strategy should be a fundamental part of your business, taking into account channels such as organic search, paid, social (organic and paid, and email.
Digital marketing however has become so blended with traditional marketing strategies that it is almost impossible for one to coexist without the other in the modern landscape.
So how do we do this?
Travel SEO isn’t overly complex, but it does have it’s differences to traditional SEO. Designing, building and launching a slick website with great imagery is only half the battle, especially in a competitive vertical like travel and tourism.
It’s also important to note that building a brand isn’t cheap, and takes time, and it comes from a blend of all channels – as well as activities that don’t directly have an ROI (return on investment). To build a brand you have to get your name out there.
Whilst the travel sector is competitive, and a lot of the big aggregators dominate a lot of the first page for the bigger, marquee search phrases, as a tour operator you can make a lot of gains focusing on your niche and providing value. This is how you do that, and enhance your visibility through SEO.
#1 Keyword Research
A lot of people when they do keyword research focus on search volumes, without realising that the search volumes provided by tools such as Google Keyword Planner are not meant for SEO.
This is because the search volume data provided by here is the average number of searches performed monthly, where a paid Google ad appears. Now because a lot of PPC is driven by bidding on “big search volume terms”, it’s a cycle of self-fulfilment.
The only tool that gives pure organic search volume data is Bing Webmaster Tools.
This means that a lot of super relevant keywords are dismissed based on a search volume figure being used incorrectly. You need to focus on intent and relevancy, and target keywords that you can provides answers and user value to.
Rather than go on about how to do this here, I wrote these two articles for Search Engine Journal:
- How to Get Your SEO Keyword Strategy Right: Basic & Advanced Tips
- How People Search: Understanding User Intent
#2 Strategically Map Your Keywords, Content & Value Areas
I’ve worked with more than 80 travel companies, ranging from big international household names listed on the NASDAQ, to smaller outfits based all around the world. One thing they all have had in common, at some point they had been given crappy SEO advice around content, and as a result, generated a ton of individual landing pages.
There is a process that travellers go through before they purchase a holiday, a funnel of sorts. Now the time that it takes for the would be traveller to pass through the funnel varies, and some don’t complete it at all, but from experience it goes like.
Research & Discovery Content
This phase is where people are literally looking around on Pinterest, Instagram and performing searches like “where is sunny in September in Europe”, or “cheap European city breaks winter 2018”. They will be bouncing around a lot of websites and destinations.
Your content at this point needs to provide value to the user and not immediately try and sell. The more value you provide at this stage the more you will be seen as an authority for that particular query, and the more likely you will be referred back to further down the funnel.
Planning & Scoping
This is the stage before the would be traveller makes the purchase. They’re no longer looking for the high resolution images and sales patter, they want the cold hard facts.
- How much does it cost?
- Where can I fly from?
- Where do I fly to?
- What days can I fly on?
- What are the hotel options?
- Whats local transport like?
All important things. These can be included on the same page as the research and discovery information, and in my opinion you should – as this would create a very comprehensive resource on a particular destination that provides a lot of user value (and Google will recognise this too).
Your travel content marketing efforts don’t stop once the sale has been made. Your content now is customer service focused, and needs to be designed to be easily accessible and answer further user queries.
As mentioned in the intro, reviews are extremely important to online travel bookers, and once they’ve booked with you, this is effectively were their experience with your brand begins.
#3 Collaborate With Travel Bloggers & Influencers
This one is easier said than done, but collaborating with other businesses related to your niche, travel bloggers and travel influencers to publish guest blogs, social content pieces, and cross-promote each other’s content will not only help increase the reach of your content, but it will also provide you with an excellent opportunity to increase the number of backlinks your website has.
Backlinks are still an important part of Google’s algorithm, but they shouldn’t be measured in terms of DA (Domain Authority), or PageRank – because a) Google has publicly acknowledged that it doesn’t use domain authority and b) PageRank scores haven’t been publicly available for years.