SEO for travel websites must appeal to Google’s algorithms and consumer preferences alike. This means crafting a travel website that is simultaneously comfortingly familiar yet unique enough to stand apart from your competitors.
Any business leader is acutely aware of the importance of SEO for marketplace growth. In the 21st Century, this is Google’s world, and we mere mortals are just living in it.
We are firmly established within the information age, and as far as consumers are concerned, Google is the font of all relevant knowledge.
This is both a blessing and a curse for CEOs and marketers seeking to bolster the business of a travel website. On the one hand, it gives something to strive for – impressing Google and soaring to the top of any search results page.
The downside is that, as we’ll discuss shortly, impressing our online overlords can be a delicate balancing act between quality content and SEO techniques. In addition, every rival travel website in your industry will have the same intention, so competition will be rife.
IMPORTANCE OF SEO FOR TRAVEL WEBSITES
The purpose of SEO for travel websites is to be listed as close as possible to the top of Google’s first page of search results.
If your travel website devises and embraces an SEO strategy, the sky is the limit in terms of growth. While the Covid-19 pandemic has undeniably impacted the travel industry, it has also opened the door to new opportunities.
More and more people are keen to escape their daily routine (when permitted!) and looking to online travel agents to do so. 80% of travel agents reported contact from first-time customers after the national lockdown of 2020 subsided. That is business that your website could be claiming.
Of course, every other travel agent – whether online or high street-based – has the same idea. This means that you’ll face a lot of competition. If we type “flights from London to New York” into Google, for example, 58,000,000 results are returned in less than a second.
Customers will never trawl through every one of these links and compare their findings. Most will not make it past halfway down the first page of results. Your website needs to rank highly to attract new business – and to rank highly, you need to embrace SEO.
Is TRAVEL SEO different to GOOGLE’s all-seeing search algorithms?
To understand SEO, we need to realise that Google is a business. Google trades in information; a reliable, accurate answer to any question in exchange for first-party user data that enables the building of a customer profile. As a result, Google is only interested in placing the best, most relevant websites at the top of their search results.
An effective SEO strategy will help your site meet these criteria and be rewarded accordingly. Every website listed on Google is assigned a Quality Score by the search engine. This score will become vital to your SEO endeavours.
SEO for travel websites could adopt two approaches to get to the top of the first page of Google. The first could be considered a shortcut, but it’s potentially expensive. We are referring to pay-per-click advertising or sponsored post advertising. The second is arguably the ‘true’ meaning of SEO – using your website copy, design and site architecture to climb the rankings organically.
Organic SEO is a more cost-effective approach, but it’s not as simple as packing your travel website with keywords and waiting for the hits to roll in.
The travel industry is far too competitive for such simplicity – and, as we’ll discuss shortly, excessive and unnatural use of keywords can do a website’s Quality Score more harm than good. SEO for travel websites will need to embrace all manner of search engine optimisation tactics, which include:
- Including backlinks to high-ranking, high-authority websites relevant to the travel industry. If you can convince these domains to link to your travel website, so much the better – but never pay for this
- Ensuring that your website loads quickly on all web browsers and is tailored for all forms of hardware. More consumers use mobile phones and tablets than desktop computers today
- Including images (ideally one image for every 300 words of prose) and maybe even videos, provided the latter will not slow down the performance of your travel website. Similarly, images should be compressed so as not to fill a smaller screen or delay page loading
- Keep the user experience, aka UX, in mind at all times. Ensure that your travel website is easy and intuitive to negotiate, and aesthetically pleasing. Keep an eye on your website analytics – if countless visitors bounce from one particular page without making a conversion, you may need to consider redesigning or rewriting
- Invest in high-quality spellcheck and grammar software and proofread all content for your travel website before posting, especially if you handle your copy in-house. Websites from all industries find their Quality Score slipping due to avoidable errors in spelling and punctuation
- Most importantly, your travel website needs to be packed with relevant and helpful information. If Google has reason to believe that you are stuffing your site with irrelevant information (known as “thin copy”), your Quality Score will suffer
That’s a lot to take in, but don’t worry – we’ll elaborate upon these approaches shortly! Just know that all are important to gaining a superior Quality Score. In turn, the higher your Quality Score, the likelier you are to enjoy success with organic SEO.
If you are taking an organic approach, an impressive Quality Score means appeasing Google’s algorithms. This suggests that you can expect a signal boost during the next update. A lower Quality Score signifies that Google thinks you have work to do.
The importance of Quality Scores really comes into play when considering a pay-per-click campaign. If you take this approach, your website can feature at the very top of page one – albeit clearly marked as an advertisement.
Every travel website undertaking a PPC campaign will covet this plum slot, though. To earn it, you will need to place bids on keywords.
This bid will decide how much Google will bill your website for every click the advertisement attracts (hence the name pay-per-click.)
The higher your Quality Score, the lower this cost will be. As we mentioned earlier, Google is only interested in featuring the crème de la crème at the top of their site. Unreasonable keyword costs should scare away webmasters with a substandard Quality Score.
TRAVEL SEO – ESSENTIALS
If your website is to enjoy a successful relationship with SEO, you’ll need to master a range of critical components of the search engine optimisation process.
The first of these is the use of keywords. Some people misunderstand keywords in SEO, assuming that quantity trumps quality. In reality, keywords should not take up more than 5% of your total copy. These should primarily feature in H2 subheadings, too.
Use keywords within a short, concise paragraph that answers a specific question. For example, if you were to say, “flights from London to New York spend around seven hours in the air, weather permitting”, Google may snip this paragraph and include it on their home page when somebody asks, “how long does it take to fly from London to New York.”
If you keep an eye on trending topics on Google, you are likelier to be featured. Google are not always as open with real-time trending topics as a traditional social media outlet but keep an eye on the industry press. Information will be released, whether in the form of collated data or predictions for the months and years to come.
As intimated, though, keywords alone are not an SEO strategy. You also need compelling, interesting, and unique prose. Perhaps more importantly, you need to always remember that you are writing for a human audience.
SEO rookies often make the mistake of attempting to appease Google, leading to robotic, even nonsensical text. Google updates its core algorithm, boosting or penalising websites based on differing priorities, at least twice a year.
Attempting to second-guess what Google will want six months from now is a fool’s errand. Instead, focus on building a travel website that meets the needs of your target audience.
Take the time to check your website copy, as poor spelling and grammar will be flagged and penalised by Google. Stay on topic, too. If your website hosts an article about tourist hotspots in New York, do not veer off on a tangent about Las Vegas or Chicago.
This will be deemed irrelevant, considered ‘thin copy’ designed to pad out a word count, and penalised appropriately.
Perhaps more importantly, though, users will grow weary of these diversions and bounce from your page. Google pays a great deal of attention to user metrics. In the mind of the algorithm, if users spend a prolonged period on a site, it is doing something right.
You will enjoy even more success if you can include internal hyperlinks – and, even better, backlinks from high authority sites.
Backlinks are external hyperlinks to websites with stellar reputations. If you can link to a respected travel website, you can bask in their reflected glory a little.
In an ideal world, you’ll even forge a mutual relationship with the site in question. If they are prepared to link to your website, you’ll start to reap significant benefits.
TRAVEL SEO MISTAKES TO AVOID!
SEO may seem comparatively simple to pull off based on the above information. In reality, it is complicated alchemy that requires very particular elements. Under no circumstances attempt any of the following shortcuts.
- Plagiarising content from other, more successful websites (using ‘spin’ software is just as dangerous)
- Spamming keywords in your prose, leading to poor quality copy that does not read well for humans
- Setting up a network of websites that continually link to drive traffic. This is known as link farming
Once spotted by Google’s algorithms, any of these practices will be considered black hat SEO. This is a term for shortcuts designed to trick Google into bolstering a website’s quality score and SEO performance without putting in the appropriate work.
Black hat SEO tactics may work in the very short term. Alas, as soon as such tactics are discovered, your travel website will be very harshly penalised. Your traffic will plummet, and it will be very difficult – even impossible – to regain it.
In addition, do not spend so much time on your SEO that you neglect the essential maintenance of your website. All the impressive use of keywords and backlinking in the world will mean nothing if pages load slowly or your website is not mobile-friendly.
The latter is essential, as mobile browsing on smartphones and tablets has overtaken desktop computer use in popularity. Somebody considering an impulse travel booking on their phone will likely lose interest and change their mind if made to wait for more than a couple of seconds for a page to load.
Ditch auto-playing videos, intrusive adverts, and anything else slowing down performance.
TRAVEL SEO – EXTERNAL AGENCY HIRE OR NOT?
As discussed, a well-implemented SEO policy can be worth its weight in gold to a travel website. The results may not always be immediate, but understanding – and implementing – an effective strategy will potentially lead to consistent, sustainable growth.
Unfortunately, successfully creating an SEO strategy is akin to walking a tightrope. Make one false move, and your traffic can plummet sharply – and Google is not interested in providing a safety net.
If your website is penalised for breaking Google’s rules, written or otherwise, the punishment can sometimes feel excessive to the crime.
To avoid this potential eventuality, consider enlisting the services of a third-party SEO expert. An agency is ideal, as this means that you’ll benefit from the perspectives of various voices, all of whom enjoy unique experiences in the digital marketing industry.
We’d be delighted to discuss your needs over a no-strings and obligation-free initial consultation.
Together, we can ensure that your business captures the imagination of travellers across the world.