Travel Agency SEO Guide: How to Promote Your Travel Website on Search Engines
Whether you’re a travel startup or an established travel agency, there’s no denying the fact that competition in the tourism industry is at an all time high. There are hundreds and thousands of travel businesses across the world trying everything they can to get people to book with them.
And it all starts with getting people’s attention.
Unless you’re a Global OTA like Expedia, Booking.com or MakeMyTrip, the biggest challenge majority travel businesses face today is getting found, more so than even acquiring inventory and competitive rates. You can have the best rates in the world, but if people can’t find your business at the right time, it’s no good.
As more and more people use the internet to research and book travel, it’s essential for your business to have a strong online presence, particularly on social media and search engines.
We have already discussed how travel agencies can leverage social media in one of our earlier ebooks - Guide to Social Media Marketing for Travel Agencies
According to studies, Search accounts for nearly 40% of traffic generated by travel firms and despite the dominance of large OTAs, it remains a key marketing channel for travel agencies.
In this blog post we’ll share some expert tips on how you can improve your presence on search engines.
Conduct Keyword Research
It’s crucial for you to know what queries your target customers are typing into search engines to research or buy the kind of services you provide and then target those keywords.
For this exercise we recommend using Google Keyword Planner. It’s a free tool you can use to search for specific keywords and find out the search volume and competition for those keywords. If you want more advanced data, you can use paid tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs.
Start by targeting keywords that have a high search volume but relatively low competition, as they would be easier to rank for. Go beyond common keywords and start focusing more on long tail keywords people may use to find specific options, eg Croatia Vacation Packages with 4 Star Hotels.
Long tail keywords make up for 70% of searches and are likely to yield better conversion rates as they catch people later in the purchase cycle. Once you’ve done your research and shortlisted top keywords, smartly incorporate those in your website, blog and social media content to drive traffic.
Optimize Page Titles & Descriptions
Page titles and descriptions are one of the most underestimated aspects of SEO. Search Engines consider both of these important while assessing page relevance, so make sure you optimize them. They also have a huge impact on your click through rates, as the title and description is all users see on the search results and they make a quick decision on whether to click on a link or keep scrolling based on how relevant and attractive the title and description are in terms of what they are looking for.
Remember that more relevant the title and description, the higher will be the click-through rates, which is a positive ranking signal for Google!
So make sure you use relevant keywords in your Title and Description and try to keep them under 70 & 160 characters respectively. If you want to highlight 2–3 of your main services in your title, use separators to make it user-friendly.
Another aspect a lot of people ignore is URLs. They may not be as important as your title and description, but the use of search engine-friendly URLs with relevant keywords and a consistent structure across the site can definitely help your SEO efforts.
Here are 5 pro tips for URL Optimization:
- Add target keywords in the URL
- Upload a favicon to build trust with search engines and visitors alike
- Avoid using capital letters in your URLs
- Always use hyphens in your URLS (Google does not read underscores)
- Put top content in your root folder to signal its importance to search engines
Use Alt tags for Images
Okay, so you filled your website with tons of great looking images to entice visitors, but can Google see those images? NO. Search engine crawlers can’t understand images (not yet anyway!) so you must use image tags with relevant keywords to help them understand what an image is about.
Tagging the images on your site is particularly useful for image search. If your image tags match the user query, there’s a good chance your site would show up in image search and inspire the user to click through to your site. This way you can drive a lot of additional traffic through images. Just remember to use the right keywords!
Optimize Site Content for Users first, then Search Engines
The quality of the content on your website is the most important determinant. However, don’t make the mistake of stuffing your website with keywords with the aim of improving your rank. It just won’t work. Focus on your audience and their needs. Have content that would appeal to users, particularly first-time visitors.
Your homepage is the most important page in that regard and its content should tell both users and search engines about the nature of your business and services you provide. Include your top products and with striking photos (make sure you use image tags for all the photos) along with brief descriptions with your targeted keywords.
Also, publish as many user reviews on your site as you can — More reviews mean more relevant content, particularly if they are frequent & fresh, which search engines love.
The more attractive and relevant the content on your site, the lower will be your bounce rate & higher the engagement, both of which are positive ranking signals for search engines.
Minimize Page Load Time
The page load time (time it takes to fully display the content on a page) is now an extremely important ranking signal for Google, which means that if your website takes too long to load, it is likely to be penalized by Google.
The load time not only affects rankings but also bounce rates. If your site takes too long to load, visitors are likely to drop off and go elsewhere, and like we explained earlier, a high bounce rate negatively affects your ranking.
Here are some things you can do to improve your website’s load speed:
- Minimize http calls by using sprites and browser caching
- Compress the images on your site or use a CDN(Content Delivery Network)
- Minify your CSS and HTML to make their size smaller
- Improve your server response time(aim for under 200ms)
- Use a compression plugins or page speed service
Optimize for Mobile Devices
Five years ago, businesses could have gotten away without having a mobile-friendly website. Not anymore. Mobile-friendliness is a major ranking factor now and not optimizing your site for mobile devices can hurt you big time.
Moreover, a large number of people now use mobile for their travel needs and a mobile-responsive design ensures a great user experience on phones & tablets and improves engagement.
Optimize for Local Searches
Local SEO helps you rank for searches relating to travel providers in your area. Make sure you have a verified Google My Business account with accurate contact details, descriptions, photos and any other relevant information.
Also ensure you have your full address on your homepage and contact us pages.
Another way you can improve your local search rankings is by submitting your website into local business directories. This not only gives you quality backlinks but also drives direct traffic via people searching for your kind of services in their area.
Also, make sure your address and contact details are up-to-date on your Facebook page. The engagement you get on your Facebook page also affects your search rankings so try to maximize user engagement on your page. You can do so by running contests and posting interesting content about destinations and events that users are likely to share with their friends.
Maintain a Quality Blog
Blogging is one of the best ways to boost your SEO — It keeps your content fresh (which search engines love), builds authority in your domain and offers your users useful content that they are likely to share.
Travel is a very visual topic, and a blog is a great way to tell your brand’s story through a combination of beautiful visuals and text. You can blog about a wide range of topics, such Travel Guides, Tips and Tricks, Activities and experiences, Upcoming Events etc. Blogging is a fantastic inbound marketing tool that can help you capture readers’ attention during the research and planning phase and help you generate quality leads.
Eg. If you have published a quality blog post titled ‘Top destinations for beach lovers in Europe’ and a user researching destinations in Europe makes a Google search for the same topic, there’s a good chance your blog might show up in the results. If the user likes your article, they might get in touch with you for more information which could ultimately lead to a sale. To drive more leads through your blog, make sure you include a contextual call-to-action with every post.
A smart use of popular keywords in your posts helps you create a good match between user queries and your services. You can plan the topics for your blog using the aforementioned keyword planner tool, along with sites like Buzzsumo and Ubersuggest to research topics and titles for your posts. You can also look up topics on Google to see what articles have already been published on those topics and then look to improve on the content using your own experience and know-how.
Keep promotional articles about your own products services to the minimum. The blog’s focus should be on sharing your expertise and adding value to your audience and not to blatantly promote your business. Once your readers see you as an expert, they will naturally be inclined to buy from you.
There’s no one golden formula as far as SEO is concerned and this is by no means an exhaustive list of things you can do. Search algorithms are always changing and the competition for ranks is getting more and more intense. You need to be patient with your SEO efforts and not expect overnight success.
A lot of people make the mistake of focusing solely on search engines and ignore their users. Focus more on improving the experience for your users — search engine success will automatically follow.