Industry Focus: SEO For Safari Tour Operators

In my career I’ve worked with more than 50 travel companies, ranging from global airlines to boutique turnkey trip operators. All of these experiences have given me great insight into the travel industry as a whole.

Understanding the industry, and consumer behaviour within the travel industry is key in putting together a strategic travel SEO plan to bring success in short, medium and long term.

One niche I’ve worked with within the travel industry is safari tour operators. Whether it’s safaris of the big 5, trips across the Okavango Delta, or a more luxurious experience in the Seychelles – I’ve helped optimise safari holiday agencies for them.

How SEO for Safari Companies differs from normal travel SEO

The safari niche is very different to the average travel niche; whilst the safari-goer blends luxury hotels, fine food and cultural experiences into the trip, they only tend to care about one thing. Animals.

Unlike holidaymakers looking for beach breaks or city breaks, the typical safari goer is influenced by the migration patterns of the animals they want to see, and where they can see them.

This means as an SEO, campaigns need to be hyper-relevant and not only focused around the commercial money phrases as a lot of research goes into booking an African safari holiday – so it’s important that various stages of the safari-holidaymaker booking cycle are targeted through various areas of the website to generate brand awareness, trust, and leads.

My past experience in Safari SEO

Below is an example of safari tour operator I worked with from September 2015 to January 2017.

When I took over the campaign, they were ranking for ~284 keywords in the Google UK database, but by the time I left stopped working with them as they moved SEO in-house, they were ranking for ~2,276 in the Google UK database.

SEMrush graph of a safari tour operator I used to work with at the end of 2015, through to the start of 2017.

This was achieved through:

  • Undertaking an initial technical audit of the website and working with their developers to improve site architecture, internal linking and improving site speed.
  • A lot of their content was duplicated from other websites, this was identified before we began the campaign, so we coupled this with in-depth keyword research and keyword/user-intent matching to produce in-depth guides to a safari holiday in their target countries, as well as tourist hot spots such as the Okavango Delta and the Maasai Mara.
  • I identified that they had previously migrated their URL structure (to the one I had inherited) but not put in place redirects – so I mapped these from an old XML sitemap that was cached in WayBack and recovered a lot of lost backlink equity pointing to the site.

As it was deemed a quiet period, the new content and URL structures were pushed live in the two weeks covering Christmas and New Years’, and we were reward almost instantaneously – I also think we benefitted from the Algorithm update on December 15th 2016 (as the search landscape had changed within that vertical), as well as the proceeding update on January 24th 2017.

safari-zebras
Safari holidays and tours vary greatly, so it’s important that any SEO really understands the product, the brand, and the end consumer.

How you can achieve these results yourself

For a lot of independent travel companies, the costs of employing an external SEO vendor can be a significant monthly outgoing – and in a lot of niche’s and verticals you can do the basics of good SEO and achieve results yourself.

Technical SEO remains the same

The best practices for technical SEO remain the same, your website needs to have:

  • Good information architecture and URL structures, with reasonable click-depths
  • Internal linking that makes sense for users, so that associated content can be easily discovered
  • Acknowledging the “reasonable-surfer” model and that users click about, and follow non-linear paths, so don’t try and funnel them.

If you’re just starting off in SEO, I’d recommend that you read this blog post here on the basics and fundamentals of what SEO is.

Content marketing and adding value

User value is one of the keystones of great content. There is no disputing this and content is now no longer about 500 words on a page with X links with Y mentions of keyword Z.

Companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those that don’t.

Hubspot

It’s also no longer about focusing only on the sell. You need to provide a lot of value and supporting content to back-up the main content (commercial content) to create “clusters” and areas of the site that hold authority.

For example, if you’re optimising for safari holidays in Tanzania, your core keyword base will probably look something like this:

Keyword/Search PhrasesUK Search Volume
Tanzania safari2,400
Tanzania safari holidays320
Tanzania safari tours170
Tanzania tours and safaris20
Tailor made safaris Tanzania10

Which is great, but users need to know and want to know more – this is your chance to establish yourself as an expert in the field (and saying we are experts in Tanzanian safari holidays blah blah blah isn’t enough). Also don’t get too focused on search volume, as this is a PPC metric and is a representative number of the number of average monthly searches that contained a paid ad, not searches in total.

If I was writing this resource for Tanzania, I would include:

Where to go in Tanzania

  • Serengeti National Park
  • Selous Game Reserve
  • Ngorongoro Crater
  • Katavi National Park/Lake Victoria
  • Ruaha National Park
  • Pemba Island
  • Mnemba Island
  • Lake Manyara National Park

And then with these, go even further and expand into:

  • What can I do there?
  • What animals will I see?
  • When’s the best time of year to go?
  • Is suitable for families?
  • Should I do this in conjunction with something else?
  • Is there a certain order I should do these in?

Answer these questions, also known as interrogative searches, and you can create a really powerful resource – and subtly introduce commercial CTAs. You can discover these through free tools such as Answer The Public.

Answer The Public – Tanzania Safari Prepositions & Interrogative Search Phrases

DIY keyword research for safari tour operators

Or through using tools such as Serpstat, who have a very non-offensive starter package priced at $19 a month, as well as a free account with limits of 30 queries per day – which if you’re focused in your research, you should be fine with this limit.

It’s also important to look at search results and see what kind of results Google is bringing back for certain terms, and the quality of those results – as those are your benchmarks that you need to mark.

Get in touch

If you’d like to talk about taking the organic search performance of your safari holiday agency, or your travel company in general, please get in touch.

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Dan Taylor

I'm Dan, and I'm an award winning SEO consultant and technical lead based in the United Kingdom. I work with brands around the world, ranging from SaaS, fintech and retail, to travel brokers, agencies and airlines.

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