Yes, that’s me climbing the Dolomites. I enjoy travelling and make it a point to travel at least thrice every year. Living in London has made it so easy to travel all over the world as it’s centrally located to the parts I normally travel to, especially Europe in the summers. And in winters, when I can’t deal with the cold anymore, I head to India for a 2-week break and soak up the sun :-). Enough about me. Before I get into the best practices for Travel SEO, I should tell you that each traveller is different.
So, what’s the objective of my Travel SEO guide?
- Improve your travel website’s rankings on search engines such as Google, Bing etc.
- To get more guests visiting and booking through your website. Ultimately, receive more bookings.
- Gain market share on search versus other travel competitors.
In this post, we’ll start by looking at the Google trends and technologies shaping the search landscape, before outlining the steps of good technical, off-page and on-page SEO.
According to a study by Google travellers (both leisure & business travellers) begin researching online on search engines before they decide where or how they want to travel. Search is part of the travel customer journey from the very start, to using it for trip inspiration and booking.
I am always headed to Google to conduct research for my next holiday before using an OTA to compare options and prices before booking. I perform searches like best places to stay, cheap flights, best things to do, figure out the range of travel options in the destination etc. Some travellers head to online travel marketplace or agencies such as Expedia, Booking.com, Lastminute, Hotels.com, Tripadvisor etc and metasearch sites such as Kayak, Skyscanner and Trivago. These are the most common ones in the UK.
The organic search results related to flights and hotels are mostly owned by the likes of Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Hotels.com etc. Below is the SEO visibility trend graph over the last 6 months at the time of writing this post.
Google Travel Search Landscape
The new features in the travel space by Google is having a big impact on the SEO in the travel industry. Travel SEO is not easy, especially with Google placing ads and the Google travel modules above the organic results. The Google Travel module shows up for searches related to flights, hotels, holiday packages etc. You can search and book hotels, book flights and holiday packages right from the Google SERP. This makes it harder for OTA’s such as Expedia, Booking etc to get traffic even if they rank in positions 1-3 which is currently a big concern for online travel sites.
In the GIF below, you can see what a typical search for a hotel or a flight looks like on the Google SERP. Note how much scroll is required on a Google SERP for the organic SERP for a hotel search.
With hotel and flight search modules now appearing at the top of Google search results pages when conducting travel searches, to make up for the lost organic traffic, online travel agencies don’t have a choice but to purchase top Google Ad placements and increase their overall marketing expenses.
Google has also been displaying “Destinations on Google” since 2016. These are travel guides displayed on the SERP based on the destination you are looking for. Again these results also compete with the likes of Trip Advisor and other OTAs which have lots of travel guide-related content.
Google is reporting strong ad business year after year, thanks to their ever-changing search landscape. While they are making profits, OTA’s such as Expedia, TripAdvisor profits are declining YOY.
So is Travel SEO still Important?
Despite challenging search landscape changes it is important because of the following reasons;
- More than 50% of travellers start their travel booking and planning on search. Among those, more than 75% click on organic listings when they search.
- SEO channel has the highest ROI because it’s free traffic.
How to SEO Your Travel Brand?
Now that you understand the importance of travel SEO, let’s look at the steps to optimize your travel website to improve SEO;
Step 1: Optimise for Local SEO
If you are optimised for Local SEO, your business listing will show up for searches on a knowledge graph and Google Maps. There has been a huge shift in recent years with Google listings increasingly appearing for almost all hotel searches. In order to get listed on the Google Local pack, you need to list your business on Google My Business. Of course, there are other SEO best practices to follow to compete on local search which I am not going to cover in this article. And don’t forget Bing.
Step 2: Have a Clear Site Structure
Start with a nice Homepage and include the most important information a visitor will need in order to make a booking. The page should also give a clear signal to Google about the nature of the travel brand and the areas of operation (location of properties). And for the users, your homepage should be inspirational. Some of the popular travel website homepages usually include the following;
- An easy way for visitors to search for Flights, Hotels, Package deals, Cruises, Transport and other properties.
- Link to the most important pages such as top destinations, most popular properties or top deals.
- Link to your most popular or latest blog content.
- and more…
In terms of structure for your other site pages;
- Have dedicated landing pages for each specific area (city/state).
- Have dedicated landing pages for various properties such as Villas, Resorts etc. Each property must be optimised.
- Your URLs must be SEO-friendly containing the destination/property name. An example of a proper structure URL could be: www.homepage.com/goa/south-goa/villas-in-baga-beach
- A breadcrumb at the top of the page helps search engines understand the structure of the site better. For the user, Breadcrumbs make the discovery of related information easy. For example, A breadcrumb for the above page could be the following;
Home >> Goa >> South Goa >> Villas in Baga Beach
A clean and intuitive site structure not only keeps the Googlebot’s happy but also helps your potential site visitors navigate around your site more easily, ultimately improving your conversion rate.
Step 3: On-page Optimisation
Optimise your title tags: Create unique titles and keep them to a maximum of 70 characters. Use the most important keywords at the beginning of the title. See an example of how the below sites incorporate local search terms in their titles.
Optimise your meta descriptions: Have a nice custom meta description for every page and keep the length to a maximum of 160 characters. Target keywords related to the page and use them naturally. Create unique and informative meta descriptions.
Headings: Have proper page headings on every page consisting of H1 tags. Ensure they are unique on every page.
Step 4: Page Content Optimisation
Don’t focus overly on keyword optimisation
There’s more to just keyword optimisation. Focus on topics and unique selling points. Let’s take the example of a hotel page. Apart from providing a good detailed description of the property, mention what’s unique about the property on the hotel inventory page such as;
- A detailed description of the property.
- Clear pricing information and showcasing availability.
- Hotel’s distance from popular attractions. A map showing the exact location of the property.
- If the hotel is pet-friendly, family-friendly etc, mention it.
- What specific amenities does the hotel cater to?
- Facilities and services offered.
- Showcase other fellow traveller reviews.
- A clear call to action – Enquiry / Live Chat or Book Now buttons.
- Rich image gallery with high-quality photos.
- and so on…
Optimise for Featured Snippets
Create content to address search intent and cover all areas of the customer journey including navigational, informational to transactional searches. For instance, planning landing pages and creating rich destination guides capture informational searches. The informational category has the largest potential and represents a great opportunity for a travel search.
Adding high-quality content to landing pages should, therefore, be a priority – as well as helping capture informational searches it can improve user metrics, which are correlated to positive ranking signals as well as strong conversion rates.
You should optimise for featured Snippets for travel search terms as these appear on position 0 and technically don’t compete with organic results, paid results or Google sponsored results. You can do this by structuring and optimising your site content to answer a user’s search query. Please see examples below of featured snippets that appear for searches for specific hotel questions such as check-in time or if you have queries related to flights etc.
Step 5: Create a Blog with Informational Content
A blog for a travel brand is a smart way to focus on providing value to the user by sharing experiences, interesting articles etc rather than just core commercial messaging. Good content is vital for Travel sites not only to help you rank for long-tail and relevant travel search terms but also to inspire travellers with some good holiday planning. Showcasing some good photos, videos, image galleries and guides of destinations and properties is a good way to convince users on why they should travel to that destination. The blog posts give you a nice opportunity to optimise your internal link structure by deep linking to your most important pages such as the property pages.
There are plenty of content possibilities to create good content to improve Travel SEO. I am going to throw a few examples below, but you can always look at the top sites in the travel space for inspiration. Keeping the blog updated regularly is a way of showing fresh content updates for Google bots. These blog posts also attract quality links from other travel bloggers/publications/websites and get shares on social media.
Some examples of what you could post on your travel blog;
- Local / Neighbourhood guides (where to eat, where to go at night etc.).
- Things to do in your destination.
- Things to do or special guides for families with kids, older couples or groups, slightly younger adventurous travellers etc.
- Practical travel information and travel trips.
- and so on…
If you don’t already have a content marketing strategy in place, start with a travel blog.
Step 6: Technical SEO-optimised website
Pay attention to the following Technical SEO best practices that you need to follow;
- Page speed: The website should load as fast as possible.
- Mobile-friendliness: Make sure that your website is mobile-friendly.
- Optimise your internal linking structure: A good site structure can help Google discover more pages from your website easily and understand them better. They are important for users as they can click on an internal link to find out more about a topic or visit another page from your website.
- Make sure that your website is secured (HTTPS).
- Correct use of canonical URLs.
- Correct implementation of multi-language / multi-country websites using proper International SEO targeting via hreflangs.
- Optimization of images and videos.
- Use of HTML & XML sitemaps.
- and more…
Step 7: Link Building
Often the hardest part of SEO because it is difficult and time-consuming, quality link building is necessary to achieve high rankings. See below some ways to build links to your travel website;
- Developing content-driven link-building campaigns is my number 1 go-to recommendation for the Travel niche. There is so much content you can create for Travel. Build a targeted content hub in order to attract visitors at the awareness and consideration stages of the customer journey. These hubs usually generate digital PR coverage and form a good piece of always-on content that can be updated regularly.
- Try and get mentions from travel blogs and travel review sites.
- Getting links from recognised and trusted local tourist authorities is very valuable.
- If you offer unique packages and guided tours or deals that you won’t find anywhere else, publish a press release with a link back to the unique offer/deal page.
FURTHER READING OR VIDEOS WITH THE BEST SEO FOR TRAVEL WEBSITE TIPS
I hope this gives you a good starting point to improve your Travel website visibility online. If you are a travel/hotel business looking for SEO services, Contact me today!