A short course on SEO and marketing your travel agency website | TravelResearchOnline

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A short course on SEO and marketing your travel agency website

We sometimes exhibit auto-magical thinking about websites much like Field of Dreams. We believe if we build a travel agency site, then people will just come to it and “Sales” will happen.  I hate to break it to you but that is not the way it works. Your website has to be marketed. Ironic that one of your key marketing tools has to be marketed, but it does and that is what this section of our course is all about.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Optimization (SEO)

Everyone treats these topics like some type of black art, but in essence, they are really very simple.  Let me provide a word of warning about SEO – it can be for many a discouraging topic because it seems so mysterious and so expensive. I will tell you, however, it is not the end-all, be-all, of website marketing. There are other tactics you can use to increase traffic to your site. One of the best aspects of SEO, however, is if you are doing a good job at SEO you are creating great, useful content that will serve you well on your website. In addition, it is not really mysterious and it need not be expensive. It does, however, require the efforts we discuss below.

The basics of SEM and SEO  are absolutely essential and important for your travel agency website. Beyond the basics, however, you can start to spend a great deal of time and money for quickly diminishing returns. My advice is to focus on the basics and take advantage of as much solid, natural traffic as you can generate. Then, based on your results and your particular niche and marketing plan, delve more deeply into fine-tuning results if you can cost-justify the effort. Herein, we will cover the basics.

Naturally occurring traffic is generated by the content on your site and is called ORGANIC. There is also PAID SEM where you essentially pay Google or other Search Engines for search result traffic, you bid for the results,  and there are some markets, particularly if you are in a niche market, where you will want to do so. Paid SEM is a topic all to itself, and we will be covering it in a later session.  Here we are going to focus mostly on organic SEO.

Let’s begin by searching the word “vacations” on Google. We will obtain a result much like the image to the right below:
Using a term like “Vacations” will not get either you or the consumer very far. That is obviously a very broad and not specific search term and brings in an unbelievable 1.15 Billion results. Naturally, making it to the first page of that search is going to be very difficult! But most serious consumers are going to be a bit more specific in their searches. Rather than searching just the word “vacations”, they are more likely to look for “vacations in Iceland”, “Northern lights in Iceland” or, better yet, “Nashville travel agents”.
The goal  is to be as close as possible to the top of the first page of results in a Google, Bing, or Yahoo Search.

The key to good SEO is:
  1. good quality, original content;
  2. written in a manner that mirrors the way people search.

 

To be effective as content per se and for purposes of SEO, your content must be useful to your audience. Your content must be authoritative and meet the needs of your readers as those needs are expressed in their search efforts. You want your site to be well structured, using good HTML and you want to make sure it is mobile responsive as Google, in particular, gives priority to mobile responsive sites. 

The idea of structuring your writing and SEO efforts to mimic the way people search is sometimes referred to as “long-tail searches” – they will typically get less traffic than the more general searches like “vacations” but the conversion ratio is higher because the match with the searcher’s intent is greater.

Take a look at this example:  Let’s say we want to go to Ireland. If we google “Ireland vacations” we obtain approximately 2.8 million results. However, search the term “Ireland off-season“.  Look at the top result. That is an article from the Travelhoppers site I wrote.  Now, it is no coincidence the title is the same as the search inquiry, and it demonstrates a great tactic: name articles the same as you would expect people to search for your topic. Gracefully lace all of your content with the same terms consumers are likely to be searching. By choosing a “long-tail” search term, that admittedly fewer people use, my article comes up first and is likely to be read by someone interested in traveling off-season to Ireland.

Think about it for a moment. If someone searches for “Ireland Off Season” does it not make sense the top search result would be an article about traveling to Ireland off-season? Remember to not sacrifice the quality of your writing for SEO, don’t “spam” your audience (or the search engines) with search terms, but use the language of search terms in close proximity to each other and you will see results.

Finally, make sure your page names reflect your content.  Don’t randomly name your pages, but consider using page names like: abcagency.com/hawaii-destination-weddings

Original content written
​with language mimicking the way people search = great organic SEO.
We will talk a great deal about original content when we discuss writing and blogging in a later lesson.
Next week: Back-links, Site Maps, Local SEO and Key Word Analysis

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