Tourism is a massive, multifaceted industry with scores of competing businesses, markets, and service-providers. In addition to marketing a location and destination you are marketing an experience only you can provide. Whether that is a cozy bed-and-breakfast, a restaurant with both scenic views and sumptuous foods, or a banana-boat across sparkling waters, each destination is packed with competition.
It is not enough to stand out by providing excellent service or unforgettable memories. In order to provide those things potential customers have to know that you are offering. This is not just where marketing comes in but SEO particularly.
What is SEO exactly? Expanded the letters translate to Search Engine Optimization. It is navigating and interacting with the complex algorithms behind ubiquitous but pervasive search engines most particularly Google. The purpose behind SEO is to optimize your brand and the services you provide to appear as high and soon as possible in search engine results when people use said search engines.
The higher (first page is best) and closer to the top (closer to the search bar and first placing) you and your brand place in the search results, then the higher and better the chances a searcher has of clicking on your brand. More clicks translate into higher future search result placements hopefully creating a digital snowball effect. Each click in turn represents someone looking for or researching something in the ballpark of what you are offering so they are already somewhat receptive of what you have to say.
In this article we will get you started on what you need to know about SEO. How it can be vital to your tourism business. How to make best use of it and your online presence for you and your brand.
To get a better understanding of why SEO is so important here are some numbers for you to look at:
- 60% of leisure travellers use search engines when planning a trip online. This makes search engines the most popular method for planning vacations. AT 55% search engines are the second most popular for business travellers.
- 57% of leisure travellers always rely on search engines and thus search engine results as a starting point for at least travel package purchasing and booking.
- Every year more trips are being planned online through search engines. This means the importance of digital marketing and search engine optimization can increase as time passes.
Another vital number you need to remember is ‘1.’ Specifically Page 1.
- Approximately 23% of the time the first few listings (1-4) are paid advertisements as are the last 3 result placements.
- Between the paid placements are approximately 10 organic listings. It is for these 10 spots that businesses spend time, work, and money to be seen on the first page.
- The importance of Page 1 placing cannot be stressed enough. The amount of click-throughs on page 1 has been measured at 89.68% for desktop devices and a whopping 92.11% for searches on mobile devices. For both desktop and mobile devices the click-throughs for results that place in the top 4 listings is about 70%.
- Compare the above numbers to the click-through rates generated by the travel industry’s paid listings. About 2.18%.
Research & Analysis
A vital step when developing any marketing strategy is research and analysis. This includes SEO. If you already have a digital presence with websites and online marketing it would be important to find out what works and what doesn’t.
Tools like Google Analytics and others can be used to optimize what you already have. There are also tools and services that can perform audits which will provide information on page speed, broken links, duplicate content (Google does not like that), and other things that can affect your search ranking. Find out what keywords people usually type when searching for online for your brand or related items in the same service area. More on keywords later.
Content is vital to all forms of marketing including SEO and for tourism. Your websites and marketing need quality and informative content. This content should be able to answer end user questions and solve problems for customer concerns. The information you provide needs to be useful, relevant, and at times inspiring so as to be more engaging. The more engaging your content the more Google will take notice of your content’s relevance to search queries.
Tailor your content to your locale, the services you provide, and ways to enhance customer experiences such as ways to prepare for the destination (like mosquito repellent for a tropical destination) or fun activities that can be done in the local area. Consider using positive feedback provided by past customers. Also make sure your headlines are clear and succinct. They should range between 4 and 9 words in length. Value quality over quantity. This also goes into website layout and design.
Keywords Do’s & Don’ts
When you do have your keywords be careful not to overuse them.
- The old practice of keyword stuffing and overloading your web content with keywords will actually hurt your rankings.
- You no longer even need to use exact keywords or phrases. The Google algorithms have advanced to the point they will focus on a searcher’s intent rather than just the exact match of what they type. You can and should use synonyms of your keywords throughout your online content.
- When researching keywords it can be helpful to think like one of your customers. Think like someone looking for the services you offer and look at what others in the same line of service use. The words that will pop up often across different businesses and providers will be a good basis for the keywords you will use.
Website Design & Navigation
Convenience and website design together are vital for your SEO ranking. The more easily searchers can navigate between your website’s pages the more clicks and traffic that get generated. These in turn help translate into SEO placing.
- Ensure that your web pages load quickly, that they do not have broken links, or that there are no error pages.
- It can also be helpful for your URLs to be ‘search friendly’ in that they contain the queries tied to those specific pages.
- Have a sitemap with a URL that can be uploaded and then indexed by search engines.
- When designing your website remember to think critically from the users’ point of view. Consider what they might see and think and click at while looking at your website.
- Use images and when you do be sure to include ‘alt text.’ This and descriptive image file names can also boost a page’s relevance.
- Meta descriptions and meta titles can encourage in-site search traffic which translates to a higher click-through rate.
Make sure your website is secure. Search engines tend to prefer websites with better security against cyber threats.
- A prime example is any website that offers HTTPS security. SSL certification means protecting transmissions of personal data that take place on your website.
- Customers are far more likely to trust and thus click on something that is marked as ‘secure’ compared to something not secure.
Mobile Device Optimization
Designing and optimizing your website to work on mobile devices is incredibly important. It cannot be stressed enough.
- Search engines currently prioritize mobile versions of websites and content. Use web design tools that are mobile-friendly when creating or redesigning your websites.
- A knock-on effect of search engines becoming mobile-friendly is that excessive pop-up ads have become more penalized. Some such ads are still permitted but too much use of ‘Intrusive Interstitials’ will affect a website’s rankings. This applies to both pop-up ads and email capture light boxes.
- A major benefit of making your website and marketing mobile-friendly is through social media. People often and frequently share using Facebook, Twitter, or other such applications including many messenger ones. Sharing your websites via such applications can also lead to more traffic.
The tourism industry is a complex interconnected web of multiple businesses and services.
- Provide backlinks to other quality sites. These sites could be related to the service or product you offer without being in competition. While you may not be linking to another hotel you could be providing links to tours, restaurants, and boat charters to name just one example.
- These should not be paid links. Build relationships with these adjacent service providers so that while you are backlinking to them they are also backlinking to you. Google’s search algorithms also look fondly on traffic between quality websites.
- The key though is quality. Make very certain the sites you are linking and are linking to you are not in any way suspicious. There are tools to monitor what sites are linking to yours. Use these tools to monitor if any suspicious sites are linking to you so that you can quickly disavow them.
- About 43% of Google search queries are local.
- 78% of mobile searches that lead to an offline purchase.
- Taken together both statistics emphasize the importance of pages that have relevance to the local physical area.
- Make sure that your web content clearly talks about your geographic location. This can increase your business’s visibility when people do searches for the area, localised services, and local products.
SEO can seem daunting. Especially as you are trying to navigate something as vast and seemingly unknowable as the algorithms behind search-engines. But as with so many other skill-sets it is about having a frame of mind. One that keeps things in consideration and guides you away from missteps thanks to long practice and not being afraid to ask others for help.