As strange as it may seem, SEO and the tourism industry have one thing in common – both deal with pointing customers in the right direction.
If you’re in the tourism, travel and hospitality industry, you’ve most certainly noticed that the market is pretty saturated and that your competition is fierce. Nothing strange, given that it’s one of the fastest growing sectors, with bookings reaching almost $1.6 trillion in 2017.
The big guys of the industry, such as TripAdvisor, Booking.com and Airbnb take up a great portion of the market share, thanks to the fact that they run their businesses online, and if you want to compete with them, it’s clear that you have to boost your digital presence and show up in Google searches.
And for that, you need to put your business on the map and help your potential customers find you. That’s where SEO comes in, to place the signposts that lead to your website.
Here’s what you should bear in mind when you’re optimising your travel website for search engines.
Find Out What You’re Up Against
Know thyself, know thy enemy, is a wise, ancient saying that can be applied to numerous spheres of life.
Your competitors aren’t as dangerous as war enemies, but they’re fierce in terms of trying to outperform you.
So, the first thing to do if you want to boost your online presence and get both Google and your target audience to notice your business, is to spy on your competition and try to get to the bottom of what tactics and tricks they’re using in order to improve their search engine visibility.
Start by establishing who your direct competitors are, that is by identify websites that rank best for the keywords you use. Type any phrase that fits your offer, things like “trips to London” or “London weekend getaways”, into Google search, and check out the top results.
Visit the top websites from the first page, analyse them, and determine what is it they do so well, and try to implement these findings into your digital marketing strategy. For example, you might notice that their title tags, meta descriptions and URLs contain the main keyword, or that these pages load significantly faster than yours, all of which plays an important role when it comes to attracting customers and making it to the top of the search engine results pages.
As for the keywords themselves, what you should bear in mind about the popular ones is that your competitors, including these big brands we mentioned earlier, all try to rank for them, which means that it will be hard for you to position yourself.
Instead of chasing after pie in the sky, opt for the so-called long-tail keywords, which have a significantly lower search volume, but are at the same time more specific. In a nutshell, they will bring you less traffic, but it will be more qualified.
User Experience Matters Big Time
So, you’ve managed to attract visitors to your website?
Great, but it’s not time to rest on laurels just yet, because that traffic won’t convert itself.
An equally important task is to make all these hard-earned visitors stick around and explore your offer. But if your website doesn’t provide valuable content, and if it’s hard to navigate, you can be sure that your visitors won’t stay.
So, first of all, make sure that every title and meta description is aligned with the corresponding blog post or a service page. If this is not the case, your visitors will feel disappointed and mislead, because they haven’t found what they expected to find, based on the title or description.
The same goes for your website navigation, and if it’s not intuitive and user-friendly, it will leave your visitors roaming around your website without a clue as to where they are and how to find what they need.
Naturally, they’ll quickly bounce, and a large number of people who leave your website so abruptly without spending much time on it will raise a red flag and signal Google that your content isn’t relevant enough.
And before you know it, your rankings will plummet.
This important metric is called dwell time, and it’s a good indicator of the relevance of your content and the effectiveness of your SEO strategy.
Another important factor to take into consideration is the goal of every particular web page. In other words, you have to determine what you want your visitors to do and communicate that clearly through your call to action.
A user-friendly website doesn’t have a tediously long and complex booking process, as that creates friction and makes your prospects reluctant to complete it. Including only fields that are absolutely necessary will improve your customer experience and boost your conversions.
Even More Mobile Friendliness
An increasing number of people browse the internet and even book hotels or flights via their mobile devices.
Google has also acknowledged this trend with its mobile-first indexing, that is the practice of mainly using the mobile version of a website for indexing and ranking.
So, if your website isn’t mobile responsive, you can expect that it won’t be shown among the top results, and you’ll miss out on numerous opportunities to convert your visitors.
Namely, if they can’t use your website to explore your offer and book accommodation via their smartphones and tablets, they’ll go to your mobile-friendly competitors.
Invest in Technical SEO
Yes, content still rules, but it won’t do much for your business if your website is sluggish, full of bugs and plagued with other technical issues.
The more time your website takes to load, the fewer conversions and customers you’ll get. But, it’s essential to define what a fast website is.
A survey has shown that 53% of mobile site visitors leave if a page takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Similarly, a one-second delay could reduce conversions by 7%, while 10 years ago Amazon estimated that with every 100 milliseconds of latency, they would lose 1% of sales.
These stats speak volumes about why you absolutely need to speed up your website.
Audit your website and see what has to be tweaked for better performance.
This niche, in particular, can greatly benefit from high-quality, well-optimised images.
As most people want to see the accommodation before they book it or nearby beaches before they pick their destination, there’s great search potential for images.
But, in order to make use of this potential, your images have to be fully optimised.
This means that every single one needs an alt tag – a description which tells both your visitors and Google what that particular image depicts. By using keywords in alt tags, you’re additionally boosting your website’s visibility and attracting visitors.
Another good idea is to name your image files so that they’re similar to their corresponding alt tags.
Think Globally, Act Locally
Every business needs a Google My Business page, especially in the tourist and hospitality industry.
This way your establishment, be it a restaurant or a hotel, will be featured on Google Maps, which means that your potential customers will get all the necessary information in one place.
Besides that, most people perform a locally-targeted search when they go somewhere, and if your website is optimised for local SEO, your business will show up in these search results.
For example, if you run a pub in Dublin, you can significantly expand your reach with this strategy. You’ll be listed in SERPs every time a tourist who wants to enjoy “the best craft beer in Dublin” googles the phrase and your are shown on the map.
SEO takes time to get results, so instead of giving up after a month or two, you should be persistent and carry on.