Tourism boards are home to a wealth of information for travellers looking to visit a particular area, but travel review websites and offer sites can stand in the way of this information being seen in the right places.

Planning a travel SEO campaign is a different process for tourism boards than airlines or travel agents. In part, a tourism board is purely used for research and the final conversion (or sale) might not take place until a would-be traveller physically decides to visit the location in question.

So what are tourism boards’ key points in understanding the current market and online presence of a website, and how can their marketing managers utilise data to tempt users to visit the targeted travel location?

Current Performance Analysis

The first stage of understanding current standing within the market comes from keyword research and user data based on that research.

For example, ‘things to do in Edinburgh’ is a potential target keyword but the Official Local Guide to Edinburgh and Visit Scotland rank 4th and 5th respectively, behind Trip Advisor, Time Out and The Telegraph.

These also fall below ‘Points of Interest’ pages created by Google’s Knowledge Graph.

With statistics suggesting the top 3 rankings receive in excess of 60% of all traffic for any given search term, the need for a website to be ranking in prime equity space is essential.

Tourism boards are in a unique position, as website performance may not necessarily be directly linked to footfall in the area (a potential conversion). Competing with Trip Advisor or Time Out listings can seem daunting, but understanding if the prime positions are taken is the first step to start the race for rankings.

Further understanding of website user data, impression data and paid search data will provide an insight to important keywords for the location in particular.

Travel, more than any other industry, is required to understand the psychology behind searching and how often it changes. Most notably, the Hummingbird update has had a major impact on the travel industry, as have apps such as AirBnB – where users might not even need to search online (or to the tourist board) to make a final decision on where they will holiday in any given year.

Attribution Modelling

Of course, whilst the previous point creates a foundation for how users may find the website of a tourism board organically, building up a full analysis of website details serves to add further depth to understanding conversions from offline (or offpage) users.

Simply put the internet allows users to interact with businesses from all angles, and for marketers this means an organic marketing campaign needs to match an email campaign and vice versa. Pairing all elements together is the basis of attribution modelling.

Conversion rates such as open rates need to be considered as users may gain information or voucher codes, without even reaching the website. Using attribution modelling makes it possible to determine how offline users (and offline conversions) impact the final conversion.

Beyond this, different elements should be considered within a campaign away from the website, such as studying click points and tracking them through campaign URLs using the Google URL builder.

The URL builder allows for segregation of mini-campaigns within each area of an organic campaign. If Visit Scotland wanted to focus on the Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Highlands markets within one email or magazine campaign, subsequent URLs can be set up for the tourism board in order to begin to gauge the impact of each digital marketing campaign and the interest potential visitors have in each location.

URLs should be used separately across social media as well.

The attribution model setup in Google Analytics will allow web owners to determine the success of any given campaign across multiple channels.

Measurement Protocol Overview

Getting final conversion data for tourism boards at the end of the season comes through footfall and any statistics on economy boosts in the local area. Finding this data can be costly, particularly where independent research is needed.

Measurement Protocol Overview (MPO) from Google Analytics is the final step in both understanding current market standing and pushing this market standing forward as the new season approaches.

Using MPO, with the help of a development team to effectively implement the system, marketing managers can track a number of offline conversions including the use of voucher codes, entries for attractions, social media shares through photo booths and even the amount of users who visit tourism centres (tracked) for further information once in a particular city.

Development work is highly needed for such level of tracking, which is time wisely invested as it allows website owners to fully utilise the Universal Analytics platform.

Broadly tourism boards can see the number of offline sales as a result of a campaign and as such determine its overall success – targeted on any given city or country- over the course of a travel sales season, and analyse both the data and created targets over the following months.


Polaris provides travel SEO to a range of clients across the globe, including tourism boards and independent hotels.

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