Seo strategy

Modern Travel Marketing Part 1: SEO Strategy

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism generated a direct contribution of $ 2.3 trillion to global GDP in 2016 and supported one in 10 jobs in the global economy.

More than three-quarters of this spending – 76.8% – is attributed to leisure travel. This is a huge market, often starting with a blank slate: many consumers begin the travel planning process with a simple desire to get away from it all, without having a clear idea of ​​where, when and the way.

For most travelers, the answers to these questions come from self-directed online research. Search parameters, an SEO and content performance platform, reports that 60% of leisure travelers create their own itineraries, using the web, apps and social media to find and book flights, accommodations and activities.

So it’s no surprise that travel brands are spending big – very big – on digital marketing as they aim to reach and inspire this receptive audience.

In 2017, Expedia spent more than $ 5.3 billion on marketing, a figure that was equivalent to more than half of the group’s revenue that year and a 21% increase from marketing spend in 2016. Rival Reserve assets the published figures are only slightly lower – a spend of $ 4.1 billion in 2017 on performance advertising, a 19% increase from 2016.

Throughout the month of June, we’re looking at a variety of topics under the digital marketing umbrella.

We start with an analysis of the current state of search engine optimization, which today could be renamed Google optimization.

As the terrain evolves as voice search gains in importance – and brings with it a whole new set of strategies – for now, a brand’s position in Google’s web and mobile search is still the dominant driver. customer acquisition.

Mobile first

As consumers spend more time on mobile devices and less on desktops, Google is focusing on mobile content.

At the end of March, Google announced the implementation of a new system for crawling, indexing and ranking sites.

Mobile-first indexing means that Google will primarily use the mobile version of the content whereas in the past it has primarily used the desktop version of a page’s content to gauge a page’s relevance to the search query. an user.

While Google claims that content collected through mobile indexing first “has no ranking advantage over mobile content that is not yet collected in this way or over desktop content,” it is clear a sign that search strategies must prioritize mobile interfaces.

“Most of our customers have more mobile traffic than desktop,” says Kevin Gibbons, CEO of BlueGlass, an SEO and content marketing agency.

“If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, you need it. “

Organic research

Gibbons works with several travel brands, including Expedia and Orbitz. For most of its traveling customers, organic search is their main referrer not only for traffic, but also for new customers.

But the strategies for generating this search traffic have changed.

While years ago he says the focus was on analyzing ranking factors and “trying to make them feel like they should be number one on Google, now it’s about to know how to build the reputation of a brand so that it deserves to be number one ”.

The solution is a mix of public relations and content marketing – creating interesting and engaging content that includes data-driven research “because people want something interesting and believable,” and presents it in a way that that it is visually appealing and shareable.

“If people want to access it from national media, publisher sites, bloggers, influencers, etc., the stronger signal you send to Google in terms of content deserves number one,” Gibbons says.

Big OTAs like and Expedia dominate search engine results pages, he says, because they offer a huge range of services and can rank in Google for a wide range of terms.

Rather than trying to fight them face to face, Gibbons suggests that smaller vendors use a narrower strategy focused on leveraging their unique services and location.

“For example, very often searches that include a destination or location keyword will give you a list of Google Maps. So hotels may rank higher than an OTA for the reason that they have a physical location, ”he says.

“That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do SEO. It’s just at the store level you’re targeting more, at a broader level you’re trying to capture volume in the market. “

And he says the good news for brands that don’t have the multi-million dollar marketing budgets of the big players is that “the majority of traffic, around 50-70% of clicks, will go to an organic list. Typically only 3-5% clicks on a paid ad. So if you are number one organically, you are going to generate a lot more traffic than if you were only listed in the paid search results.

Best practices

Searchmetrics recently released its first search engine analysis ranking factors for the travel industry, based on 5,000 travel related keywords in its database.

The results paint a picture of best practices for search engine optimization in travel, with information on image count, word count, keyword usage and more.

  • Lists on travel industry websites have more bullet points than the average for all industries.

“Lists are a form of structured content that makes it easier for users to absorb information from the page. When you just have a lot of text, it’s harder, ”says Stephen Bench-Capon, Content Marketing Manager at Searchmetrics.

“What the data is showing is that in the travel industry the list tends to be longer and provide a lot of information. People want a lot of details and descriptions because they often compare options. . “

  • Top-ranked travel landing pages use the searched keyword in the page body much less frequently than the overall average.

“In the past, an SEO tactic called keyword stuffing would fill in text, for example, trying to write ‘Mallorca’ as many times as possible so that the search engine algorithms would pick it up and know that this is Mallorca, ”Bench said. -Capon said.

“Now it’s more about really relevant content. This keyword stuffing tactic is generally on the way out, but while traveling we found it not even slightly relevant. So the idea is to write appropriate content that addresses the topic normally and not to do any sort of keyword tricks.

  • Travel industry landing pages on the first page of Google search results use 38% more images of at least 200 x 200 pixels than pages in other industries.

“An image can be used to inspire, elicit an emotion, or capture attention,” he says.

“In other industries, they can avoid the pictures because they don’t want to overload the page, but in travel we have found that the pictures are popular. Images should be carefully selected to be relevant, but you shouldn’t hesitate to use them if they add to the content.

If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, you need it.

Kevin Gibbons – BlueGlass

  • Google first page travel pages use 23% more internal links than the overall average.

“It is always important to have a good internal link structure to help the user find his way around the page, but also for the Google crawler, and we have found that when traveling there is a link much stronger between higher ranked pages with more links and lower ranked pages. -classified pages have relatively few links, ”explains Bench-Capon.

“The more you can keep people in your universe, the better. We found that the top-level travel pages seemed to do this very well.”

  • The relevance of travel URL content on the first page of Google search results is higher than for average pages, when all industries are analyzed.

“Google has been saying for a few years that relevance of content is the most important thing that matters,” says Bench-Capon.

“We see this in the travel industry more strongly than overall. It means travel SEOs are doing something right.

  • The top ranked URLs in the travel industry contain 57% more words than the overall average measured across all industries.

“We have found that in travel more words are better, but only if they remain relevant. You can’t just fill it with words for words’ sake, ”he says.

“One word we use a lot is holistic: trying to provide a page that answers a series of questions the user may have. This is what we call holistic, comprehensive content that will appeal to a variety of users, and Google should like you too.

As Google has become more active in travel, Bench-Capon says it will likely become even more difficult for brands to win the game of organic search.

“If you google for a destination, you get a whole google travel section where they’ll give you flights and hotels and so on. Anyone who lands there is sort of part of the world of Google. And at the same time, it takes up space on the physical screen, which reduces the chances of seeing normal websites, ”he says.

“Google seems to think it can get a big slice of the pie, which is worrying. This means that real competition and organic search becomes all the more difficult.

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