Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is one of those words that make the majority of travel marketers cringe. 

It’s not surprising that SEO causes so much panic. Almost every individual SEO expert and company has a different approach to implementing SEO, often through a seemingly blind or over-complicated mish mash of different elements from keywords, descriptions, backlinks, titles, structure, site code, alt text, anchor text, etc. To make it even more maddening, these concepts continue to get more complicated as Google continues to change its algorithm to help deliver stronger search results. 

So what do you do if you can’t hire SEO experts or you don’t understand these complex Google algorithms, not to mention the updates that we so frequently hear about?

The answer is simple: go back to basics by understanding the premise of SEO.

The biggest downfall of most travel marketers is that they get so caught up in SEO jargon and technicalities that they end up optimizing their travel site for search engines and NOT people! Therefore the quality of their brand, products, and expertise are often muffled by their attempt to over-optimize their website to gain the attention of search engines. 

Remember: SEO is not really about search engines- it’s about the searchers, in this case, the travelers. Providing them with the information they are looking for at every stage of the travel planning process is the most important factor. The updates search engines constantly undergo are not to make the lives of marketers more difficult, instead, they are intended to benefit both the traveler and business (or destination) as they try to pair travelers with the highest quality search results.

Search engines update their algorithms on a constant basis to try and provide more authentic results. Google, for instance, tends to favor sites with fresh, high-quality content, strong design, a lot of inbound links (people linking to your website content from their own sites), a heavy social media presence, and clear branding. They try to determine a site’s legitimacy the same way a searcher would.  

So focus less on the nitty-gritty and more on the bigger picture. Now that you understand the basic rational for SEO and SEO updates, here are five steps to make sure that you have your travel site optimized to obtain the maximum targeted traffic through search engines. 

Do you have a nice blend of quality content and keywords? 

Great content is the ultimate key to any inbound strategy. It’s how you establish a connection with future customers and drive them towards your site to be captured in your your sales funnel. Content creation is two-fold: determine what your travel audience is looking for at every stage of the travel panning process and couple this with a few keywords that your audience will be searching for. Avoiding stuffing keywords on your site – Google will see right through that. Finally, make sure that you have enough quality content to keep a traveler engaged and coming back to your website for more. 

Grupos Rosario’s newly-launched website is a fabulous example of a site that has carefully optimized content, ranging from a strong blog to informative trip planning and down loadable guides, geared towards travelers in different stages of the travel planning process. Check out their site for ideas on how to optimize your own content!

Do you have key backend elements optimized?  

This does not just mean keyword research and content optimization, but also that the title tags and meta-tags on the backend of your website are properly optimized. Other important SEO precautions that must be taken into account include an XML site map and 301 redirect codes. So just take care in filling out the following articles. Make sure you are not simply entering strings and strings of non-sensible keywords in your tags and page descriptions. Everything has to make sense and resemble what you searchers will be looking for. 

Is your site consistently branded and are you raising brand awareness? 

The infamous panda updates (a series of recent Google search engine algorithms improvements) had one huge takeaway: Google now cares heavily about branding. Remember, to a traveler, a strong brand is usually synonymous with a strong product or travel experience. Therefore, a business or destination must make sure that they have a clear online brand promotion strategy and that their website contains enough branding elements.   Branding is the pinnacle of any destination and/or business marketing strategy and now, it’s also an important party of any SEO strategy.

Do you have a blog and is it constantly updated? 

Search engines obviously want to give travelers the most up-to-date information possible so they tend to rank travel sites with fresh content higher than sites that are not frequently updated. This is why having a blog is so crucial to getting your business or destination noticed.  Aside from the fact that it allows you to speak directly to your consumer and showcase your brand personality, blogging on a regular basis is the best SEO trick to keeping your content up-to-date. 

Is your website content shareable?

Social media is one of the biggest traffic attractors to websites, and thus Google updated its algorithms to reflect this. Today, social media channels are carefully factored by Google and other major search engine algorithms. In turn, you need to make sure that all your website content is shareable by inserting calls to action that prompt visitors to “like” your blog posts and pages or by simply adding share buttons at the end of interesting content. The more your travel content is shared online the more pull you get in Google results.

Think about what social media sites are most fitting for your content to be spread across and be sure to add in the corresponding “share button” icons to your site.  

This blog post is re-posted with permission from www.solimarinternational.com/resources-page/blog/itemlist/tag/Tourism%20Branding?start=10

Posted by Jordi Pera

Jordi Pera is an economist passionate about tourism, strategy, marketing, sustainability, business modelling and open innovation. He has international experience in marketing, intelligence research, strategy planning, business model innovation and lecturing, having developed most of his career in the tourism industry. Jordi is keen on tackling innovation and strategy challenges that require imagination, entail thoughtful analysis and are to be solved with creative solutions.

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