SEO for Travel Websites & Blogs

Back in the day, your customers walked into a travel agency, browsed a catalogue, settled on a destination, and the agency would do the rest. There was no need for travel SEO back then.

Today people sit down at a computer, tablet, or smartphone and find a holiday. But not before carrying out lots of research on their potential destination.

Is your company turning up in their search results?

(Check out this travel SEO Case Study to see how we work)

The State of the Travel Industry

Today, you can be your own travel agent. With websites like Booking and AirBnB getting larger by the day, small travel agencies have to fight an uphill battle to start ranking and, more importantly, to continue selling bookings.

With an online travel market share of around 40%, online travel agents have certainly stepped into the ring and are putting up quite a fight. If you consider the fact that the industry’s gross bookings amounted to $1.6 trillion in 2017, you can just about imagine the size of that ring, and the quality of the gloves you need to have to put up a decent show.

Before we dive into the actual ranking factors and SEO best practices, there are several key points to bear in mind about the niche itself:

  • Two types of websites compete for the top spots: those offering services (travel agencies, hotels, airlines, etc.) and those promoting content (personal blogs, travel blogs, review websites, etc.). You will be competing against both, to a certain extent.
  • Search engines have become a traveller’s preferred way of researching all things travel.
  • People will most often enter more general terms as a search query – they will rarely look for a specific agency or hotel – in other words, ranking for long-tail keywords is crucial.
  • A visitor will not convert on the first visit and will rarely visit just one travel website – they will do a fair amount of research, explore several options, and then make their choice. Your goal is to have them return rather than get that conversion as soon as possible.

To better illustrate that last point, and to better acquaint you with the journey a visitor is on when they land on a travel website, here is a very short overview of the different stages of their buyer cycle:

  1. Dreaming moments – the “looking for inspiration” stage, where people are still unsure where they want to travel next.
  2. Planning moments – once they have settled on a destination, people will start looking for accommodation, flights, and things to do while there.
  3. Booking moments – once they have done their research and found what they believe to be the best deal and option, they book their stay and transportation.
  4. Experiencing moments – while on holiday, people like to share their experiences or relive their happy memories once back home.

While you will certainly want to be a part of their “booking moment”, you should never underestimate the power and allure of others. After all, customer awareness is a step closer to a conversion than customer ignorance.

Now for the facts.

Top Ranking SEO Factors in the Travel Industry

The five most important ranking factors in the travel industry are:

  • Word count – pages that rank in the top 10 will often have more than 2500 words.
  • Content relevance – the information you present on the page should match user intent. In other words, don’t try to force a sale on every page.
  • Several images – pages that rank well will have a lot of images, but it’s more due to the quality of said images than their sheer number. You want to tell a story, help people imagine themselves, and illustrate the destination – not pile on random images of random beaches.
  • Bullets per list – pages that rank well will have more bullet points – because people want to find relevant, structured and useful information, the information they can easily skim through.
  • The number of internal links – top ranking pages boasts over 150 internal links (23% more than average). This is especially true for large websites with thousands of pages. In other words, make sure your visitors can seamlessly browse your website and that your internal linking structure is logical to crawlers and your potential customers.

While these factors are considered the most important ones, let us not forget that they are only one part of a larger puzzle. Here is how we do travel SEO – a shorter and sweeter version of our blueprint. Please bear in mind that we could have gone into much more detail on any of these points – but we do want you to give us a call, don’t we?

Website Audit

If you have been running a travel website for a while, you already have a lot of assets in place (both on and off your pages). The first step in any successful campaign is a website audit, which will tell you what to focus on to see the best results as soon as possible. This may unearth anything from duplicated content issues to crippling internal linking.

These are the two factors that most often cause ranking drops – large websites will often inadvertently have a lot of duplicate content, which is sometimes an easy fix but can also take a fair bit of work, depending on what else we find.

Another issue we often encounter is poor website structure, which makes it very hard for a user to find their way around. This will not only hurt your rankings but also lose customers. Which will lower your rankings.

Technical SEO

Page speeds, loading times, image sizes, server issues and everything that falls under the “technical” category is usually a one-time fix. In the age of the mobile-first index, making sure your pages are responsive is a given. Having an SSL certificate is just as important as ensuring you are GDPR compliant.

Competitor Analysis

Once we know what your assets are, we take a look at what your competition is doing. This will involve anything ranging from the keywords they are not ranking for, the destinations they are promoting and how, the images they are using, the stories they are telling, and the backlinks they have in place.

Keyword Research

Parallel to competitor scrutiny, we do keyword research specific to your website and offer. This will tell us two things: what you should be ranking for and what keywords you should stop chasing. You’d be surprised how driving traffic to a seemingly non-converting page can up bookings. Of course, if you have the right website structure and tell the right story.

It will also be easier, and often much better, to rank for more specific keywords (for example, “couple’s rock climbing holiday” instead of “adventure holiday”). It will target a visitor at a more specific stage of the buyer’s journey when they are much more clear on what they need to find. These keywords can often be less competitive, but their main advantage is that they drive better conversion rates.

Pay Per Click Advertising

Running an Adwords campaign in the travel niche can often be expensive. This is why we run yet another keyword research, PPC specific, and see your odds of outdoing the competition. While investing in paid ads can often drive some quick results, we would always give our other tactics a spin, too – they are more focused on the long term and will remain in place long after your PPC ads have stopped running.

Link Building

Building website links in the travel industry can be quite a challenge. Since there is certainly a slice of cake to be had, and since most people blogging in this industry are aware of it and have already started nibbling on it, you are often faced with a demand for a freebie in return for exposure. However, the fact that the industry is as large as it means that there is certainly someone out there looking for just the services you are trying to promote – the trick is only in finding them.

Email Marketing

Even though people believe it extinct for some unknown reason, email marketing is an excellent way to reach existing and interested parties, and perhaps inspire them to start planning their next trip. The main challenge here is to find that proper blend of promoting your latest deals and showcasing a destination you are putting together trips for.

Travel Content Marketing

We have touched on the importance of telling the right story several times, and now we finally get to explain why we keep going on and on about it. Storytelling is much more important in the travel industry than in any other niche online.

Even though we are discussing content marketing for travel companies, this step needs to be somewhere between the research and the marketing part of your SEO journey.

Crafting landing pages that are not hell-bent on selling – pages that will be detailed, informative, and captivating enough to capture a reader’s imagination and answer a certain query will have a much easier shot at ranking. While they will not convert, a clever internal linking structure and call to action will nudge your visitors in the right direction.

You may or may not have such landing pages in place. If you do and already rank somewhere for them, we can take it from there and work on them. If not, we can create these pages for you – but we would still prefer to have your input on the actual text. After all, you know much more about your destinations than we do.

Having original images in place is also a bonus – you can use them to draw in additional links, and having a unique style of photography will help you stand out and stay memorable.

Once we have a page, everyone is happy to work with – promoting it becomes our focus. Depending on the page’s purpose, we will attract links to it as if by magic, all the while secretly counting down the days until our holiday begins.

If you are ready to go on this SEO journey with us, pack your bags and give us a call. Or shoot us an email. We are always on the lookout for our next adventure.