When it comes to travel SEO, competition is often fierce. Huge authority travel sites, luxury hotels and millions of apartments all fight for attention. Both SEOptimise in the UK and myself in Germany have been working with many SEO clients from the travel sector. Kevin Gibbons has already provided a must read resource on travel SEO back in 2008.
I’d like to list here 10 travel SEO strategies for those who have to compete in this tough niche.
Due to the high competitiveness of this market, travel SEO should be approached in manifold ways.
You can’t always compete with the big guys and age-old leaders in the good old organic results of Google. Thanks to universal search we have plenty of ways to get found. Also travel is about car rentals and flights. You have specialized “vertical” search engines for those.
1) Local SEO + map SEO
This is obvious, travel SEO is location based like no other. Even people from across the pond look for local results in your area on Google and beyond. Google local search results show up in most cases in searches like hotel london or apartment oxford. To appear there you need a lot of reviews on travel oriented sites like Tripadvisor. This is a strategy all travel related businesses should consider but especially those with new domains (1 year old or below).
You may consider map SEO part of local SEO but I’m talking here also about map providers other than Google. We had maps on the web long before Google. Many of them survived and still draw large traffic. I look in most cases for maps made in the country or place I go to. These are more accurate. Being on such maps is a major advantage for hotels, restaurants and other tourism related sites.
2) Multilingual SEO
This might seem obvious as well but how many hotels have websites in Russian, Chinese or Arabic? There are hundreds of languages and while you may assume that everybody speaks English most people search the Web in their native tongue. So while it may be near impossible to outmatch your competition in English you may be able to do so in other languages and local Google versions. Some nations also have important other search engines. China and Russia for instance have.
3) Image SEO
When searching for a destination to go to or a place to stay what do you look for? A keyword rich description? hardly. Rather you’re after beautiful images of nature, buildings and interiors. So image SEO should be a key component of a travel SEO campaign. Also it’s often far easier to get ranked in Google Image Search. Last but not least images show up in the regular Google search via Google Universal search results. In most cases image results are displaced on top of the page or above the fold.
4) Video SEO
Recently a study has shown that video’s are far more likely to rank on top of search results these days. In other words it’s much easier to optimize your YouTube videos to get on top of Google search with blended in video search results, as opposed to hoping to get there via regular text and link based ranking. YouTube is of course your friend here but SEO is much more than just optimization for YouTube.
5) Social media marketing
People don’t rely solely on Google these days. That’s not really news. Social Media is the elephant in the room. You can’t ignore social media marketing. Image and video is just part of it. The real social media is Facebook and Twitter but also first wave sites like Delicious or StumbleUpon. Of course travel oriented social sites abound. Sites like Foursquare and Gowalla are booming at the intersection of local SEO and social networking.
6) News SEO
When it comes to travel plans we often decide in the last minute. We may view a television program, find out about an event abroad or simply search for the random inspiration. A news event or a even a piece on the news which is not really a news item can provide such inspiration. For instance you can publish something on a group blog in the wake of a major event and draw visitors to your site. Our blog at SEOptimise can be found in Google News search results and I’ve used that technique more than once.
Competing for generic phrases or keywords can be murderous. So making people search for a brand is a good alternative. Also in case you can compete for the generic terms you should do more for your branding, not only in order to get branded searches via Google. Search results are volatile, Google might even change the algorithm in a way that you get downranked. With a strong brand you can survive even when your rankings don’t supply enough traffic anymore.
8) Content creation
Travel sites still tend be largely descriptive. Look at our apartments here, see how luxurious our hotel is, our flights are the cheapest etc. This is not really content in the sense I refer to here. I mean content that can appeal to web users who do not necessarily plan to visit you or your city. People who don’t even think of travelling but love the images, videos or blog posts. You see, I mentioned some of these above but it’s important to offer content for so called long tail searches. People searching for “london design hotel near airport” won’t find you unless your site mentions these words somewhere in an article. Here you can compete with the big guys from day one. You might start a blog for your business but that’s just one option. User Generated Contect (UGC) is another.
9) Authority sites
Some sites are still too young to rank for competitive travel relates searches. They can indirectly though when they place advertorials on already esatblsihed sites. This is a widely used technique by main stream media. Newspaper sites for instance offer such spots on their sites where they actually borrow you their rankings. When you can’t beat them, join them!
10) Travel search engines
Don’t forget travel search engines like Kayak, Sidestep or Travelocity to name just a few. What shopping search engines are for e-commerce sites, travel search engines mean for travel SEO; good additional traffic sources. Most of them have been around for years and have many users. Both Yahoo and Bing have also a say in the travel search market where otherwise you would ignore them in many cases.
So you see all roads lead to Rome, or in our case rather London or Oxford. You can’t solely focus on good old conventional SEO tactics when it comes to optimisation for the travel industry. Unless you can afford it either by being there for 10 years already or having a domain as strong as Wikipedia. You should employ at least a few strategies at the same time.