Category Archives: SEO

SEO for TRAVEL WEBSITES – A Definitive Guide

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.

If you would like to know how Digitalhound can aid your business with our award-winning Travel SEO Services and SEO for travel websites, please do not hesitate to get in touch for a chat.

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.   

Page Experience Update Algorithm Demystified – What You Need To Know

Page Experience Update June 2021…

Discover everything you need to know about Google’s page experience update right here in this post!

Over the years, Google have developed and released numerous algorithm updates, each geared towards pointing users to the most relevant and useful websites.

Including ranking factor updates on; mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS, and the Core Web Vital metrics, all designed to measure speed and user experience.

The Google search ranking algorithm update is set to roll out in June 2021 with new factors to be incorporated.

This new Page Experience update is believed to have a meaningful impact on search rankings.

Here, we will closely examine what this update will mean for your business and how best to prepare.

What is the Page Experience update?

The Page Experience update is Google’s new search ranking algorithm set to be released in mid-June of this year and completed by the end of August 2021.

Google suggests that websites displaying valuable information clearly are likely to offer the best page experiences, enabling site visitors to engage more deeply and get more done.

The new algorithm update will incorporate a variety of new and updated metrics known as Core Web Vitals, all focused upon user experience factors.

Google will closely monitor every aspect of how visitors interact with a web page with the new Page Experience algorithm update.

What are the current ranking factors?

The existing ranking factors, which will continue to be key metrics include:

  • Mobile responsiveness – A measure of how well a web page performs when viewed on a mobile device. Click here to check whether your website page is mobile-friendly.
  • HTTPS – A primary authentication protocol for sending data between a web browser and website. Check the secureness of your website’s connection here.
  • Safe browsing – Check the safety of your web page to see if it contains any deceptive or malicious content. To check whether your website has any issues relating to safe browsing click here.
  • Intrusive interstitial guidelines – These pop-ups are disruptive to user experience as they make a page difficult to access. Check here whether you are using interstitials in an accessible way.
Google-page-experience-seo

In an ideal world, a website visitor would click on a link from a search engine and be presented with a quick loading website and easy to navigate web pages.

But web pages can often be often complex things however, with many taking seemingly forever to load despite ever increasing internet connection speeds.

Since the new update combines existing metrics together with a new set of signals, any recent improvements that you have made to your page load speed and overall design may unfortunately not be quite enough.

Google’s June page experience update – New Metrics

Google’s June update will involve the roll out of new Core Web Vital components, which will include:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – LCP is an accurate measure of the length of time the largest image or text block takes to appear on a web page.

The current LCP load time is set at less than 2.5 seconds so, any page that takes longer than 4 seconds will be considered as having poor LCP by Google.

  • First Input Delay (FID) – FID is the measure of time taken between a first interaction with your web page and the web browser that is processing that interaction.

Google stipulates that the FID should be less than 100 milliseconds. So, anything longer than 300 milliseconds will therefore be classed as poor FID.

  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – CLS will measure the unexpected layout shifts and visual stability of any web page.

Web page elements should be stable, and not move around when they are clicked on by the user in order to comply with the latest page experience update.

A poor CLS score is classed as anything over 0.25. A web page will need to score between 0.1 to 0.24 to pass the CLS test.

page-experience-ranking-signal

What’s Google really looking to achieve?

Google’s new page experience algorithm is set to focus on the stability of each individual element of a web page together with page upload speed.

The ultimate goal being to point users to websites that deliver the best user experience.

Google is able to create a holistic picture of how a website is likely to perform by combining existing ranking factors with the new metrics update.

New additional metrics will be added to the Page Experience algorithm gradually.

No announcement surrounding a timeline for the release of these new metrics have been made by Google.

The importance of the Google Page Experience update

Did you know that 75% of people searching on Google will never click beyond the first result page?

Ranking well on Google is absolutely critical to boosting your website traffic and staying ahead of your competitors.

In the past, Google has often been accused of not releasing details of core algorithm updates.

With this particular update, website owners, developers and SEO specialists have all been given 6-months advance notice.

As Google very rarely provides advance notice of algorithm changes, this new page experience update is projected to have a significant ranking impact.

Google is currently considering introducing a Page Experience Badge to highlight websites that offer the best user experiences. This has yet to be officially confirmed.

If the Page Experience Badge does come into effect, it will become increasingly vital for your websites to rank well.

Avoid a potentially significant drop in site visitor traffic with this upcoming algorithm update by optimising your website NOW.

page-experience-algo-update

Optimise your website for Page Experience…

Thanks to the early announcement from Google, it is possible to utilise new tools to ensure your website is ready for the new roll out.

Tools to help you measure, monitor and optimise your website ahead of the update are already readily available.

Your Google Search Console account will have a Core Web Vitals report, which will highlight key areas of your website that needs improving.

Each website page will be given a ranking of a). ‘Good’, b). ‘Needs Improvement’ or c). ‘Poor’.

Your attention must focus therefore on optimising your website to improve user experience, by following the steps listed below:

Your Ranking Checklist For The New Update…

1). Improve Page Load Speed – Page load speed is one of the key factors which contributes to high bounce rates.

Lowering your bounce rates and improving page load speed is an absolute must to rank well in Google.

To rank well for mobile and desktop, site visitors should have improved page load speeds and better site user experience.

3 seconds or less is the optimum page load time set by Google. With pages that take less than 1 second to load, set to receive a ranking boost.

2). Reduce ‘400’ website errors – Broken links and inaccessible web page errors must be reduced to avoid higher bounce rates, poor conversions and lower search rankings.

Audit your website thoroughly and correct any issues that stop it from performing well.

3). Mobile Usability – For a URL to achieve a ‘Good’ status within the Core Web Vitals report it should not have any mobile usability errors.

4). Research Competitors – Research how your competitors are performing, how does their content compare and what are they doing differently?

Make sure that your websites are easy to navigate, with great content and give your visitors quick access to the information that they came looking for.

5). Ensure HTTPS – Your rankings are likely to suffer if your site pages are not served over the HTTPS protocol.

6). Consider Your Advertising – Google is likely to class your website as providing a ‘bad’ user experience, if you utilise advertising techniques that potentially distracts or interrupts the page experience of your site visitor.

Websites that perform best are ones that are designed to be informative, educational and entertaining rather than salesy and promotional.

There are plenty of potential variables that contribute to your websites search engine optimisation performance metrics.

Naturally, the fastest, most relevant websites, which deliver the best user experience will continue to rank well.

A well-designed website, which loads quickly will never rank well if it does not offer visitors quality, relevant content.

Is your website ready for Google’s page experience update and core web vitals?

Is your website ready to meet the new Google page experience algorithm set to launch in just a few weeks?

Improving technical aspects to meet the new Page Experience metrics may well require external support, skills and resources.

To find out which steps you need to take, CLICK HERE for your FREE page experience analysis report.

We can help your business recover from the Page Experience update in June by flagging and correcting potential issues.

We help businesses grow their online brands through data-driven marketing, technical SEO support and ROI focused marketing campaigns.

Find out more about how our digital marketing services can maximise your online performance, by contacting our experienced team today.

3 SEO Terms that you will need to master in 2021…

3 SEO terms that you should become closely familiar with over the course of the next few months are:

1. LCP or Largest Contentful Paint

LCP is the amount of time taken to display your largest content element from when a user first requests your URL.

The content element is most likely to be an image, video or perhaps even a large block of text.

2. FID or First Input Delay

FID, is the amount of time measured from when a user first interacts with your page by clicking on a link or button – to the time taken for the browser to respond.

In order to provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.

3. CLS or Cumulative Layout Shift

CLS is a measurement based upon the amount that a page layout shifts while it is loading in the browser.

This is most likely to be caused when using images, iframes or video embeds without specifying their dimensions.

In order to provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have a CLS score of less than 0.1.

3-important-SEO-terms

So, why are these 3 SEO terms important?

Because these 3 terms are essentially what ‘Core Web Vitals’ are all about.

And ‘core web vitals’ are a real-time measure of loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability of your web pages.

Which are the fundamental building blocks that Google will use to determine the search ranking worthiness of your web pages in the near future.

Latest Developments…

Importantly, Google have just announced that page experience signals will be added to their search ranking algorithm from May 2021.

These signals measure how a site visitor interacts with your pages to ascertain whether the experience is helpful and enjoyable.

The new page experience signals are said to combine Core Web Vitals with existing search ranking signals such as mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines too.

Image: courtesy of Google Webmasters blog

Google also intend to highlight pages that have great page experience in search results with a visual indicator.

Crucially, this is bound to influence the choice of users in clicking the search result that they want to visit.

The knock on effect is likely to impact clickthrough rates, bounce rates and inevitably search rankings too!

What to do next…

Start by conducting a thorough website audit to determine where there is room for improvement.

Google’s search console tool provides an overview of how your site is performing, detailing any issues that may need addressing.

Page Speed Insights and Lighthouse are 2 of the tools that are commonly used to iterate any necessary page improvements.

Additionally, these core web vital tools provide further help on improving user page experience.

Incidentally, AMP continues to be touted as the easiest and most cost-effective way to deliver a great page experience.

It is understood that, Google will link to a cache-optimized AMP version if you publish an AMP content version.

In Conclusion…

Google’s primary aim is to rank pages with the best information overall.

And even though great page experience does not override great page content.

The two combined, present an extremely powerful ranking signal that Google will find hard to ignore.

The overall message is loud and clear!

Get to grips with this impending algorithm update and begin the process of improving your user page experience.

Make sure that your web pages are mobile friendly and offer safe browsing.

Employ the HTTPS safety protocol and avoid the use of intrusive popups whenever possible.

Or else…risk being shunted down the search rankings pecking order indefinitely.

The good news however, is that we have ample time to address these issues.

As the new changes will only come into effect in May 2021.

So, it’s time to get really comfy with these 3 SEO terms and begin your process of iteration soon.

Do let us know how you get on in the comments section below. Contact our London SEO agency team for further help and advice.