The Hitchhiker's Guide to Travel SEO: Humanising Travel Content
The travel industry, along with E-commerce, is seen as at the forefront of innovation in search and its ability to adapt quickly to changes to algorithms and search trends has resulted in many regarding travel as the prime example for forward-thinking SEO. Travel SEO specialists work tirelessly to stay ahead of search trends and maintain a deep understanding of the evolving nature of search trends towards a more ‘human’ market.
The Competitive History of Travel
Travel is a well-populated market online with smaller agencies able to create a niche within the market and offer bespoke services and compete with bigger brands which typically held a monopoly on the high street market.
The online revolution initially brought with it a wave of travel directories which then evolved into travel blog networks and personal travel blogs with sponsored opportunities – both of which increased competitiveness and funded digital savvy explorers on their trips around the world.
The introduction of Google’s Penguin put a plane-sized spanner in the works and SEO services saw a spike in demand for Google Penalty Removal requests. From here travel companies again evolved to lead by example in content marketing as a primary source link acquisition and brand awareness.
Although this approach does slightly favour bigger brands with bigger connections, smaller brands are also being noticed with original research and content in the battle for the top 3 rankings for relevant target destinations or products.
As search engines have become more sophisticated, so have travel SEO companies, searchers and of course, travel businesses themselves.
Fundamental SEO Practice for Travel
Although quick to adapt to human changes, as well as continual sparring with search engine algorithms, the travel industry maintains its foundation for solid SEO strategy and website strategy.
Without this, a site risks being left behind by natural selection.
This isn’t to say the foundation of travel SEO is the same as it was five years ago. Now there is more of an emphasis on mobile responsiveness, touch points in the sales funnel, website structure and user experience. Whereas five years ago, keywords (and potentially keyword stuff), multiple pages per location and huge directory submissions would be at the heart of a successful SEO campaign.
With the core of our SEO service based in London, we often attend industry events where discussions on getting fundamentals are rife, with the distribution of tech vs. Content the main sticking point in each discussion.
The different types of searchers Then vs. Now
The way people search has become more sophisticated over time as users take advantage of the technology at hand.
Whether it is vocal searches on mobile or very specific search terms about a destination, travel searchers now understand that a more detailed search will give them a much clearer answer than a shorter term.
This isn’t to say the short-term search is non-existent at all, it is very much alive but as we mentioned earlier travel is evolving to different parts of the sales funnel and a much shorter term sits further away from the final conversion.
This again highlights a difference between ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ – travel SEO campaigns should include sub-campaigns to capture an audience in varying mindsets, most notably the difference between a researcher and a buyer.
How Search Terms Fit Into This Change
Historically SEO agencies would have targeted short tail keywords (Rome Holidays for example), but now these terms sit firmly within a very early sub-campaign targeted at initial researchers and perhaps even given time only on a paid, display or remarketing campaign.
‘Holiday packages to Rome for couples’ for example presents a much more targeted search term, you already know who the audience is and where they want to go. Based on search terms and historic data it is even possible to know what this searcher will want to do on their holiday.
This is the element of a search where travel companies humanise their websites and talk directly to the searcher. As search engines develop, this is where the website will also tell the search engine exactly what it wants resulting in an improvement in rankings.
Humanised SEO moves beyond this further as review searches (Lazio hotel rome review), with a place and attraction searches (cheap tickets for Colosseum Rome) becoming apparent.
Again, a well structured SEO campaign that takes into account previous search statistics following initial contact with a brand allows for another sub-campaign to be built.
Based on this, travel websites are able to offer both guide services and a booking portal, another unique trait to travel since the birth of structured SEO.
Ten years ago travellers would have a guidebook or map, use it to find out bits of information and arrive at an attraction later in the day. In 2015, it is possible to access a library of information, impartial reviews and exclusive ticket prices as well.
A diversifying of search trends brings with it a couple of challenges, firstly an understanding of each variation and secondly, with so many options, which ones are the best to target?
Finding the keywords to target should start with both paid search data and impression data. This allows for highlighting of the key terms which are already beneficial to a business.
Next up is to consider variations around these and use Google data to determine the extent to which these are being searched. As the human element of search becomes more apparent, so should the researched terms.
Determining where to target an SEO campaign becomes much clearer after the data gathering project is complete.
Splitting campaigns into short, medium and long-term goals is the initial task at hand with the full sales cycle also included.
Understanding your market and what your market wants, or markets want, is a key step to segregating your work and campaigns.
Different markets may react differently to different organic approaches.
More recently there has been a focus on content and the travel industry is humanising its content with seemingly positive results.
However, if campaign management suggests email marketing or remarketing is having the best impact on KPIs then there is no reason to suggest that spending large amounts of budget on content campaigns will drive sales.
This choice and difference in the way different subsections of travel users engage with brands and websites is a prime example of the humanisation of the travel industry online, a far cry from a list of holidays and hotels – but not too distant from spending an afternoon with a travel agent going through different options and guides, then taking these home to family to sit around the lounge and go through different options as a family.
Why is travel so successful?
The comparisons, the ever human nature, of the travel industry are at the heart of travel industry success.
Paired with a constant demand for services, the online travel market has flourished.
The very successful travel agents, those who score return business and a long-term customer relationship are those with a forward-thinking marketing approach that covers all bases, including that of the human reaction to different types of marketing.
It could be the case that SEO in the travel industry has the boarding pass to an all in one SEO world, where tech, content and humans mix as one.
Polaris provides SEO services in London on an international level within the travel industry. Contact us to find out more about how we can help you.