SEO Strategies for Travel Agencies

Search Engine Optimization is the process of improving the visibility of a website in search engine’s organic search results. The earlier a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search and local search. This offers a web presence, providing its services to a wider audience. SEO service can be highly effective when used in the travel industry. Because of the simple fact that there are so many competitors, and also because it is a highly competitive industry. It is no longer enough to rely on the name of your company, or word of mouth to bring in business. The importance of SEO in the travel industry is evidently seen through this. The travel industry is a 13 billion dollar industry, it is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. People are constantly using search engines to find out information about this industry, and the evidence of this would be the fact that there are millions of travel related searches on the internet each day. Now consider what SEO does. It can create more traffic for a website, it can make a website more user friendly by implementing better keywords, and it can increase the ROI for a company by bringing in more customers. With the travel industry being one of the largest industries in the world and the web being saturated with travel related searches, there is no question that SEO can be highly effective for travel related companies.

Importance of SEO in the Travel Industry

The second most important strategy is cost-effectiveness. Considering from a travel agency’s point of view, advertising on television or a local channel itself is a big cost, and it is not definitely sure whether it’s going to bring you customers. In contrast to that, giving out your schemes on social media or doing email marketing or maintaining a good reliable website is less expensive and more promising compared to the old advertising methods. Email marketing is the most inexpensive means of marketing where more than 75% of people who use the internet use email. Posting your ads on a high traffic website also costs you less compared to the old methods. SEO gives you the best-targeted audience, and due to this, the rate of conversion is high, which gives you more return on your investment.

If their search is on Google, Yahoo, or Bing, it doesn’t matter if you are not in the top 10; then your website will not be checked. They get what they want on the first page itself. But if your website has a good ranking, then there are chances that they might stumble upon your website, and you get yourself a customer. If you have higher visibility, then definitely you have more traffic, and more traffic means more money through the web. This way, SEO is very helpful for the travel industry.

SEO provides higher visibility, and this is the most important strategy for the travel industry. The higher the visibility, the higher the number of customers because when a customer plans a tour or holiday, the first thing they would do is research on the internet. It is said that 90% of web users click on the first page during their search, and the remaining on the subsequent pages.

Benefits of Implementing SEO Strategies

Cost effective marketing and increase in market share: Compared with any other marketing approach, SEO is more cost effective and adaptable to changing market conditions. As the travel industry is highly competitive, a cost effective marketing approach that brings high return on investment is needed so that profit margins are not reduced. With cost effective marketing combined with SEO, a travel agency can gain a better understanding of changing market conditions and how best to adapt its marketing strategy in the future. The adaptation of a SEO strategy is essential as there are constant changes in the online environment and search engine algorithms, this can be achieved through SEO consultancy that is also cost effective compared to hiring an internet marketing consultant.

Targeted traffic leads to higher sales and ROI: Travel companies that invest in SEO want to see an exceptional return on investment and this is relatively easy to measure through the tracking of website traffic and more importantly the increase in online sales. SEO not only helps to increase targeted traffic to a website but it can help to increase sales and/or leads. By increasing targeted traffic any other marketing activities that you are investing in are more likely to be more effective if more potential clients are viewing your offer. This in essence can save you money on other marketing activities. Higher sales through SEO in turn can help to justify a budget increase in the future and that is something that all travel companies should be aiming for with their online marketing.

Increase in brand visibility: Studies show that most search engine users do not go past the first 3 pages of search engine results. So if your site is listed on say page 5 then it is unlikely that your target market will find you. The purpose of SEO is to increase the volume of targeted traffic to your site. By targeting the right keywords that are more likely to bring the right leads and sales will ensure that your travel agency is raising brand visibility, this in itself is a major benefit that can place a travel agency or online travel company in a category above its competition.

Long term positioning of travel agency: Search engine optimization has a long term impact, one of the key benefits of SEO for travel agencies is in the long term positioning that can be achieved. It can take 6-12 months for search engine optimization to fully take effect and begin to increase targeted visitors from search engines. However, the investment and rewards can last a lot longer. Unlike many marketing tactics where you need to continue spending money to see results, SEO can be more cost effective in the long term and is often a good stepping stone for travel agencies who are looking to reduce their online marketing spend.

Keyword Research and Optimization

Once you have come up with a list of approximately 10-20 general keywords, head to the Google AdWords keyword tool. You can use this tool even if you do not intend on using AdWords. This tool is a great way to get an estimate of search volume on different keywords. It also offers suggestions on similar keywords that may be of higher relevance. For example, entering “discount airfare” could suggest that a more relevant phrase for your service offering could be “cheap flights”. This step is extremely important. A lot of the time, you may think you have a great keyword when in reality no one is searching for this phrase. Weigh the search volume and the relevance of the keywords. Try to aim for keywords that have a high search volume and low competition. This will be tough with a new site, so long-tail keyword strategies are often a good approach. An example of a long-tail keyword would be something like “Airfare from New York to Miami” as opposed to the general keyword “cheap domestic flights”. Step 3 will explain this strategy in more detail.

What would they be searching for when looking for what you offer? What are the most appealing features of your service? Do you cater to a certain group of people or age group? These are all questions to ask yourself when generating a list of possible keywords. As a travel agent, you know the industry inside and out. But it is difficult to assume what your clients are thinking when trying to find your service. Because of this, it is often useful to get the opinion of friends and family members.

Identifying relevant keywords for travel agencies Start by making a list of all the services and products that your agency offers. Try to put yourself in your potential clients’ shoes.

Identifying Relevant Keywords for Travel Agencies

Let us also consider the different types of travelers. A backpacker is unlikely to call a travel agent, discuss his needs, and then make a booking. He is more likely to go online and search for the best deals for his travels. On the other hand, an older couple looking to go on a holiday through Europe would be more inclined to seek advice from a travel agent. Each will seek different information. The backpacker is likely to search for cheap deals on flights to various destinations. The couple would be more specific, looking for guided tours and other specific vacation packages.

Think like your customer. In the past, travel agencies could get away with building their keyword list around industry terms and services. Today, the travel sector is a highly segmented market. With the availability of cheap air travel, the explosion of budget airlines, hotels, cities, and countries, it has become a minefield for the travel agent looking to improve their return on search engine marketing. The first step to successful keyword identification is putting yourself in the mind of the consumer. What are they thinking when looking for a holiday? What are the destinations they are considering? What is their budget, and what are the specifics of their holiday, i.e., airport parking for families, business travel insurance?

When identifying relevant keywords for their websites, whether it be developing a PPC campaign or simply for search engine optimization purposes, travel agencies face a unique set of challenges. The ultimate goal in keyword selection is to identify words and phrases that not only drive traffic to the site but also result in bookings. The following provides a guide to keyword selection for travel agencies using a mix of SEO and PPC methods.

Optimizing Website Content with Keywords

In summary, it is essential that keywords are included in the places where the search engine ‘spiders’ will be looking for them. Careful use of headers, tags, and links can improve a page’s search engine position. These changes should not just be made to the site’s home page but also to internal pages. This kind of search engine optimization is called ‘on-page’ optimization, and it only deals with the changes that are made to the actual pages of the site.

An internal page that is linked to the home page has a higher probability of being in a search engine’s index. So it is important that an internal page contains the keyword or possibly a variation of the keyword and is easily accessible from the home page. This may involve a redesign of the site’s hierarchy. It is also important that the URL contains the page’s keyword. For example, consider a search for “cheap flights” on Google, the following URLs are the top two search results. Which one would you be more likely to click on?

Research has shown that information that is nearer the top of a page is more highly valued than that which is lower down. Similarly, the H1, bold, and italics tags are given more weight than normal text. So it is important to include these keyword-related tags near the top of the page, ideally at the beginning of the first paragraph. This will improve the keyword ‘density’ of the page. Keyword density is the number of keywords found in a page compared to the total number of words. It is believed that a density of 2-8% is an effective ratio. Be careful not to exceed this ratio though as the search engines may view this as ‘keyword spamming’, which could lead to your site being banned.

This is the most effective thing a webmaster can do to improve the search engine position of his or her site. It also is the easiest and yet most overlooked aspect of search engine optimization. First, it is critical that you have the keyword or phrase you want indexed by search engines in the HTML header tag. Keep in mind that this is different than the visible page title. The header is not visible to the page viewer, but it is included in the code of the site, and the search engine ‘spiders’ will be looking for it. An example of a header is below:

Utilizing Long-Tail Keywords for Niche Targeting

Long-tail keywords are three to five word phrases. They are highly specific and draw fewer searchers, but usually have a higher conversion value. In fact, it has been shown that many searchers using long-tail keywords are more qualified with regard to their specific searches than individuals who search only using a general keyword. They are less competitive to rank for due to fewer websites trying to optimize for them. This means that it is easier for your site to achieve high rankings and therefore more targeted traffic. Since the specifics of the long-tail keyword are directly relevant to your site, when searchers do arrive via a long-tail term, they are more likely to be the kind of visitor you desire. This all means that visitors who use long-tail keywords are a highly valuable audience. These keywords can be utilized within articles or blog posts without having to chop up content or design the method that one would have to utilize in targeting general or competitive keywords. Long-tail keywords can also be employed to define and sub-categorize key elements and pages of your site.

On-Page SEO Techniques

Ideally, by creating a blog or an article section, a company can add in keywords and increase internal linking, which is good for SEO. An alternative way to get content on the website is for companies to contribute articles to other related websites and include a link to their website at the end of the article. This will greatly help in increasing the chance of the website being ranked higher.

Creating valuable and relevant content for the customers, companies can increase profitability, positioning the company as an authority, and increasing the chance of inquiries and sales. Companies should create content that provides valuable information, tips, and guides or top lists, travel trends, and latest promotions. Keywords that are used often by potential customers should be used in the content created. What’s most important for the content is that it should always be directed to the targeted customer segments. A content for a company that sells adventure travel deals for the youth must have a different style and topics compared to the one that sells spa and luxury travel packages for couples. A poorly thought-out content would only confuse search engines on which market segment to direct to the website.

Creating Engaging and SEO-Friendly Content

In today’s digital age, content is the key element to all your successful website. Without great fresh content, your website won’t get crawled often. According to Search Engine Ranking Factors Jan 2011, there is a strong correlation between content and search engine rankings. Heavily weighed content features aim to provide information architectures and assure there are clear, concise answers. After Google caffeine update, it is now easier to determine the importance of keywords to the website. Imagine Google as the biggest library in the world, information is well sorted and best of all, it’s right at your fingertips. Google aims to provide the right information to the right people, so the best tips in improving your travel website are to focus on content and call to action. Incentive promotion and an effective website are no good without a call to action. Google still cares about relevant content, thus you need to have a solid keyword research and strategy before writing a fitting content. The basic process is that you want to bring in targeted and convertible traffic to your site. Keyword research is the bottom line of your content quality; here you are researching and selecting the best words that are related to your website, which can help users find your site. It is relatively known as optimizing keyword, which means ensuring the selected keywords are likely to bring in traffic to the website. Keyword research and development require a significant amount of time and effort. It is important for you to understand your competition level and how likely you are going to compete with relative keywords. Using Google Adwords Keyword Tool can help you find out the level of traffic for a certain keyword and determine the keyword probability to jazz up visits to your travel website.

Optimizing Meta Tags and Descriptions

Descriptions serve as a selling point for potential visitors. Meta tags, on the other hand, are visible only within the HTML code and are used by search engines to display information about your website. Meta tags are vital because they are often used by search engines to display information about a website in the search results and are what visitors use to decide whether or not to visit your site. This means your meta tags and descriptions should be informative and enticing. By providing unique and relevant information, you will be able to effectively increase your visibility within the search engine and attract more visitors to your site. Always remember to reflect on your customer’s needs and the search terms they are likely to use. This will help you gain a better understanding of what should be highlighted in your descriptions. This may seem fairly trivial, but it is important that you ensure each page has a unique description. The same goes for meta tags; ensure they are unique and try to use keywords as close to the beginning as possible. Always bear in mind that meta tags and descriptions are essentially your sales pitch to a prospective visitor. If you were to provide incorrect or unappealing information, it is likely that this would deter your potential visitors.

Improving Website Loading Speed and Mobile Responsiveness

Getting back to the main topic, it’s a problem to suffice good page load time with rich content. One of the ways by which this can be achieved is using a CDN to host your website static files. A CDN replicates static content of a website and stores it at various data centers so that it is available to the user from a location near to him. jQuery and CSS libraries can also be replaced by their respective Google APIs. Jqueries from Google server have 80% higher chance to already being cached on the users browser when they visit your webpage. The browser wouldn’t need to download it again thus reducing the load time. For WordPress users, there are plugins such as W3 Total Cache which can highly increase the server performance and reduce the load time for static as well as dynamic pages. These steps should give you a good improvement in your sites page load time. A debatable topic is mobile friendliness of a site and its importance in mobile search. The argument arises from the fact that most of search queries from tablets are not so different from normal desktop PCs and it is also a known fact that Google crawls smartphone content. But the importance lies in the future of mobile search. The number of smartphones and tablets available with internet connectivity is rapidly increasing. These devices use a wireless or mobile network for connectivity which is often slower and has inconsistent coverage. This makes the page load time a critical factor for these devices. It will be safe enough to assume that with future advancements, people will prefer to access internet on the go with these devices. This will have a clear impact on the future of search.

Page load time is the time taken by a page to show up on a browser. It is often confused with the term “site speed” which is actually the page load time for a sample of page views on a site. It’s a clear indication that Google would always want to prefer a site which is more accessible and has higher load time because it provides a better user experience. If your site has a lower load time it will have higher chances of retaining visitors and making them return to the site. This will increase the user base of your site. A more clear impact of load time on the SERP’s can be seen by the recent move of Google in which it has included site speed as one of the factors in determining a websites Quality Score in AdWords. Last but not the least; it will save your crawl budget. Crawl budget is the number of URLs on your site that Googlebot will crawl on a particular day. This is quite beneficial if you have a new site. A higher crawl budget will get more number of your pages indexed. This is important for you, to get organic traffic on your site, which might be generating revenue for you.

Off-Page SEO and Link Building

One of the common issues between link building is that they are frequently abused. These steps can be something such as the trade is not relevant, or the article is very poor quality and auto published on many different websites so it can get results. Google has made many steps to try and reduce the effectiveness of search engine manipulation usually with its algorithms. With recent updates, many low quality article directories or mass content creation methods have become almost obsolete. In general, the most effective way of obtaining links will be with high quality and relevant content. This will be the safest method rather than manual inclusions on article exchanges or link exchanges on unrelated industries.

Guest blogging is when a blog post is published on a blog owned by another website. It is a great way to connect with new readers and get your name recognized. In addition, the ones linking back from your website is a great way to increase page rank as long as the content is relevant and high quality.

Link building is the process of getting other websites to link to our website. It is important because Google puts a lot of importance on the relationship between relevant websites. This is done because the website is more considerate if it is being linked to relevant content from other websites. Here are a few examples in which we can gain links.

Building High-Quality Backlinks for Travel Websites

Building quality backlinks is one of the most tricky SEO tasks to complete for travel websites. It represents a way to obtain increased credibility for a website by making it appear more popular, as well as establish a tangible semi-permanent web presence for a site. Not all backlinks are equal, and high-quality backlinks offer the best return in terms of increased search engine ranking. It’s important to search for high-quality backlinks, and this often means looking for links from high PR authority sites within the travel industry. One way to do this is by targeting traditional media output such as news articles, press releases, and interviews. By creating a piece of newsworthy content, there is a chance to secure a backlink from a news outlet or other media site. This can be achieved by traditional PR tactics or by submitting the content to the news source directly. Another popular method of securing high-quality backlinks is by guest posting on an authority travel blog. Many travel blogs are open to guest posters, and these usually qualify as great opportunities to secure a backlink in return for some well-written travel-themed content. Guest posts can be an effective method of link building; however, it’s important to ensure that the content provided is of high quality and relevance to that site, otherwise, it can do more harm than good.

Leveraging Social Media for SEO Purposes

First thing you will want to do is set up a Facebook page for your travel website. The name of the page should be your website name or something very similar that pertains to your brand. You can add your logo as a picture, and fill out your ‘about’ information with a brief description of what your travel website offers. Do not invite friends or ‘beg’ people to ‘like’ your page as this is generally perceived as spam. You want people to ‘like’ your page because it offers good content, so begin posting simple content to your wall. For example, if your travel website is based around a specific country, you can begin to post interesting facts or questions about that country to get a dialogue between people and increase interest in your brand. After you’ve established a base, you can begin to post links to your website with interesting anchor text, with the general page promotion and viral sharing via ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ of the content you created being able to generate traffic to your website. If you’re an experienced Facebook user, you can use the Facebook advertising platform in a cost-effective manner to advertise your page and/or specific website pages with compelling offers. Though highly effective, it is beyond the scope of this article.

With the explosive growth of social media, its importance as a tool for search engine optimization is undeniable. Millions of people engage with social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and others daily. With the number of internet users using search engines expected to rise significantly in the coming years, search engines are likely to integrate more social media features and posts in their search results. Social media is a perfect strategy to expose your travel website and get it indexed and ranked higher in search engines since it’s free, it can provide you with viral traffic, and you can manipulate your search results.

Guest Blogging and Influencer Outreach for SEO Boost

By contributing to the blog with a list of this nature, the agency can also work to collaborate on a post that is mutually beneficial. Since travel bloggers may already have a substantial amount of experience sharing personal anecdotes about particular destinations, the agency can request an interview style feature. This could be an interview with the blogger, or a question list style feature where both the blogger and brand can leverage their social networks to draw in a larger audience. Since interviews and question lists rely heavily on the opinion of another party, they are likely to share the post with their friends and followers, which results in increased exposure for the travel brand. And remember that even though your goal is to have the post shared through the influential party’s social networks, creating a shareable post is always beneficial so be sure to create an engaging piece of content. In line with the concept of creating engaging content, infographics and geo-guides are a great way to score quality links and visibility from a travel blogger. Since travel bloggers often provide their readers with detailed travel tips for a specific location, a geo-guide which provides a visual representation of these tips can be a very valuable resource. After brainstorming ideas for an engaging content and convincing the influential party to post it.

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