The inevitable need for individuals to travel from one place to another has increased the pre-eminence of travel SEO now more than ever. While making travel plans, the first thing a person tends to do today is to run an online search that lists out various travel options. Based on the results, the traveller gauges each option against the other and decides on the travel option which will yield him/her the highest ROI. What does this tell us? It tells us that local travel agents and agencies must up their game to compete in the online marketplace. If not, the major chunk of the travel business will continue to lie in the hands of the big travel giants who exercise optimization to establish business visibility leading to higher conversion rates.

If you are a travel agency aiming to expand and maximize your earnings, answer the following questions –

  • Do you have a website for your travel business?
    (If your answer is ‘No’, you should know that you are missing out on numerous opportunities in the online space).
  • Is your website visible on the first page of search results when the search query involves travel options?
  • Is your website generating leads for you to pursue?
  • If your answer to the above-listed questions is that you have a website that is unable to generate convertible leads, then this post can turn the tables for you. Let’s start at the very beginning and thereafter go on to unravel the numerous nuances to travel SEO.

    If your answer to the above-listed questions is that you have a website that is unable to generate convertible leads, then this post can turn the tables for you. Let’s start at the very beginning and thereafter go on to unravel the numerous nuances to travel SEO.

What is travel SEO?

SEO is the practice that businesses follow to increase the quantity and quality of traffic that visit their websites. Successful SEO efforts can help you rank higher in the Google SERP which paves the way to gain increased conversion rates and subsequently, increased revenue. The application of the SEO practices to optimize a travel agency’s site with an intention to drive traffic and enhance conversion rates is known as travel SEO.

Why is travel SEO important?

The increase in the usage of mobile devices has created a surge of businesses entering the online marketplace. The travel industry’s gross booking in the year 2017 amounted to $1.6 trillion listing it as one of the rapidly growing industries. The online market share of this humungous industry booking estimates to be a whopping 41%. In this backdrop, players in the travel industry are also endeavouring to establish themselves in the online marketplace to gain the first dibs advantage.
Here are a few reasons that can compel you to optimize your travel site:
Successful execution of a travel SEO strategy can help your travel business gain convertible traffic.
It can help create brand awareness and enhance brand personalization thereby setting you apart from the clutter of competitors in the travel industry.
It is a cost-effective marketing tactic that can yield numerous benefits for your travel business.

Travel SEO can help your business to gain a wider market outreach by leveraging the power of the world wide web.

How to leverage travel SEO to promote your travel website?

Here are a few steps that can help you promote your travel website thereby attracting higher convertible traffic.

  1. Conduct comprehensive customer research:
    It is important for you to know the segment that you are catering to. Although each customer is different from the other, it helps to have a preferred list of travel destinations that your audience runs through before planning their travel. This will help you plan your offerings and position your agency as the best service provider in the eyes of your target audience. Optimization efforts that are in alignment with your customers’ search intent will find you a place on the high rankers’ page on the SERP.
  2. Conduct a competitor analysis:
    The travel industry is one of the most competitive verticals that has numerous players vying to make it to the top players’ list. In order to outrank your competition, you will have to watch their online space and offerings closely. You can begin your competitive analysis by following the below-listed steps –
    Identifying your competitors: You can make a list of 3-5 competitors that you are seeking to surpass. The list will serve as a benchmark that you can strive to emulate or even outdo.
    Analyse your competitors’ content: Some of the points you can note while assessing your competitors content include
    – Content assessment: Look through your competitor’s webpages (home page, landing page, product page) and make note of their content layout and CTA positioning.
    – Type of content: Make note of the different types of content that your competitors carry. This will help you decide on whether you should consider publishing more written or visual content (images and videos).
    – Keywords used: Make note of the keywords they are using in their optimization process. This can help you update the ones missing in your keyword’s repertoire.
    – Assess their link building strategy: Make note of the external as well as internal links that your competitors’ websites carry. This can help create and modify your link building exercise to improve your website’s authority.

    Conduct a SWOT analysis: Thereafter, conduct a comprehensive SWOT analysis that will reveal your competitors’ areas of strengths and weaknesses. This will help you formulate a content strategy that can ensure that you outdo your immediate competitors in the virtual space.

  3. Conduct comprehensive customer research:
    Before you begin developing content for your website, conduct a comprehensive, objective survey of your target market. Identifying their pain points will help you determine the search query that they will enter in the search bar. This will aid in finalizing the keywords around which you can weave content to gain maximum traffic inflow. Comprehensive keyword research must form the base of your travel SEO efforts. The inability to identify and include relevant power words will result in missing out on possible opportunities.
  4. Optimize your blog and web content with relevant keywords:

    The importance of using relevant keywords in your web content cannot be more emphasised. Ensure that you arrive at the seed keywords by running a market survey and thereafter, add modifiers to get variants that can be plugged-in to your webpages. Creating content that is in alignment with the search intent of your potential customers will inevitably help your business scale up. In addition to driving traffic to your website, the use of relevant keywords and associated variants can help you climb the ranking order in the SERP. Hence, ensure that you leave no leaf unturned while identifying and applying keywords to your website.

  5. Create a travel blog that feeds your audiences’ appetite:
    One of the best website traffic enhancers of a travel site is a blog that carries posts that entice a traveller’s mind to book a ticket. Include a blog page on your website that acts as a lead magnet that drives traffic in exchange for travel takeaways.
  6. List your business in online directories:
    List your business in online directories that are relevant to your industry. Doing so will help you advertise your offerings in a space where customers are known to visit while seeking solutions. However, you must ensure that these directories are legit and administered appropriately. Online directories that demand you to engage in reciprocal linking will yield you no tangible results and hence, it is best to keep them at bay.
  7. Harness the power of social media:
    Travellers’ flaunt the plethora of vacation pictures on social media platforms that they are active on. This makes social media one of the best channels to interact and engage with your potential customers. To leverage this space to your advantage, you will first have to identify the platforms in which your prospects are active on. Thereafter, you can set up your business account on these platforms and use them effectively to promote the deals that you are offering to your customers. You can also choose to collaborate with hotels and inns to promote a packaged deal in tandem with each other.
  8. Make your website device compatible:
    Most individuals browse the web before making decisions in general, more so when they are having to pay hard-earned money in the process. Browsing with an intent to make sound travel decisions usually happens when the decision-maker is on the go. Hence, making your website compatible across devices becomes one of your top business priorities. While designing a site that is compatible across devices you can keep in mind the following points:
    – Ensure that the font size and the tone of the website are clear and easy on the eyes.
    – Make the mobile site responsive.
    – Accommodate fat-finger touch.
    – Compress the images you carry on the site.
    – Ensure that your mobile site is both visually and functionally similar to its desktop version.
  9. Leverage local SEO:
    It is discreet for you to tap into your local market before deciding to stretch forth to establish your reach in the extended markets. Hence, ensure that you saturate your presence in your immediate vicinity before formulating expansion plans. The idea behind the local SEO concept is that a prospect will visit a store in his/her locality to resolve an issue or suffice a need before exploring stores in other areas. This is true for the travel industry as well. Hence, ensuring that the potential prospects in your terrain reach out to you to solidify their travel plans will help in achieving your business targets. Some techniques that can help you leverage the local SEO to its fullest potential are
    – Ensure that your web content carries sufficient keywords indicating your local presence.
    – Get a business listing on Google My Business by creating an account for your business. This will gain you a featured spot towards the right in the SERP when a prospect runs a local search.
    – Encourage your satisfied/delighted customers to leave behind reviews and ratings.
    – Ensure that you list your business in the local business directories making it easy for your prospects to locate you.
  10. Enhance your website authority with link building:
    The best way to find your site among the first few results in the SERP is running a link building campaign for your site. You can gain backlinks to your website in numerous ways –
    Inbound links: These are links that you garner when other websites with considerable authority link back to a page on your website. You can increase the count of your inbound links by using the following methods –

    Cold-emailing: You can send out cold-emails to websites with substantial authority to carry a backlink that will redirect referral traffic to your site. This link building exercise needs relentless practice to yield results.

    Guest blogging: You can reach out to sites/blogs that are relevant to the industry you operate in and offer to write a guest blog for them. In exchange, they can link your guest post back to your website.
    Blog comments: Another way of garnering backlinks to your site is to read through posts published by authoritative sites and leave behind valuable insights as takeaways. Your comment when combined with a link to a related post on your site will increase referral traffic.
    Links earning: Earning links will follow superior business performance that surpasses the expectation of your target audience. Overdelivering gains you recognition that compels prominent authoritative sites to carry your backlink without you having to prompt them.
    Outbound links: In the initial stages of your link building campaign, you can carry links to other websites that publish content that is relevant to your prospects. Although these links do nothing in terms of ranking or traffic increase, it is a better option as opposed to carrying no links.

Tips to optimize your travel website:

Following the above-listed travel SEO steps will definitely yield results in terms of aiding in the attainment of your expansion goals. To further help you leverage travel SEO tactics to advance your business, here a few tips –
Resolve to deliver excellent user experience: When a visitor clicks-through to reach your landing page, the website experience he/she derives must leave a positive impact of his/her mind. Search engines like Google observe your visitors’ online behaviour and gauge your site’s ranking capability based on your click-through rates and the visitors’ dwell time. Hence, endeavouring to gain your prospects’ attention and striving to hold the attention thus gained is critical for the success of your online travel business.
Carry unique content on your site: The content that your site publishes must be unique and must have riveting elements that can serve as hooks to increase your visitors’ dwell time. Also, ensure that the posts you publish carry at least 1500 words as search engines prefer more content.
Serve fresh content: Google crawlers are averse to stale content and hence, ensure that you publish/update content at a rapid frequency to stay in the SERP ranking race. The content you serve regularly must be easy to read and conversational in style to grip the reader in a matter of seconds.
Leverage keywords to gain online: Effortlessly infuse focus keyword/phrase into your title, sub-title, sub-headings, meta description, as well as your content body to drive increased traffic to your site.
Optimize in moderation: Overdoing can send any practice on a downward spiral, the same is applicable for travel SEO also. In an attempt to attract more traffic, you may tend to stuff your web content with keywords that may give an irregular feel to your site. Hence, optimization in the right moderation is the way to go.
Pay attention to changes in Google algorithms: Google updates its search algorithm and also releases new ones over time. Hence, it is important to keep tabs on these changes and gear for the impact this can have on your online business.
Now that we have looked at the various tips and steps you can follow to optimize your travel site, let’s conclude by looking at two scenarios that travel businesses have encountered in which travel SEO has played a pivotal role –

Scenario 1: Before 2019
During this period the top online travel agencies that ruled the roost in the said space are Tripadvisor, Expedia, and eDreams. These giants made the most of the digital marketing mix to enjoy high traffic inflow that totals over 100 million visits combined. Online records cite that they have leveraged a marketing mix that includes SEO, PPC, and referrals, in addition to focusing on the content and display facets of their sites. As a result, they enjoyed all the benefits that staying ahead in the travel leader board entails.

Scenario 2: Post-2019
The rollout of Google’s BERT algorithm update has hit the online travel agencies hard. The players who were soaring the ranking list before this update are now witnessing a lowered appearance in the SERP. This has affected these businesses to the extent that they witnessed a sharp dip in their stocks recording an all-time low on a single given day. Expedia voiced out that due to weak SEO volumes their revenue has suffered. In order to cope with these challenges, travel businesses have had to rely on paid advertisements to regain the visibility they once enjoyed.

The bottom line to this entire matter is that travel SEO is critical to the success of online travel businesses. You must update yourself on the best practices of travel SEO that are currently trending in the market and thereafter, apply measures that suit your business best. Above all, it is important to conduct a holistic review of your competitive landscape and the search engine scene to make the most of the opportunities available at your disposal.
Rightly utilizing travel SEO practices can gain you paramount benefits that you would otherwise not witness in the physical marketplace. Hence, empowering your travel business with optimization tactics is the right route to achieve your growth and expansion plans.