Having been involved in a wide range of travel SEO projects during the last 12 months, I thought it would be a good time to write about the buying cycle of searches when purchasing a holiday online.
Image credit: Australia Photos
Richard recently took a look at the most important aspects of travel PPC and below I have listed how we interpret the typical search behaviour of online travel customers when looking to purchase a holiday online:
How does this affect your SEO strategy?
By now you should have a clearer understanding of a searchers needs and have a good idea of which stage of the buying cycle they are at for each specific search. But which type of users do you want to capture and at what stage?
Identify your audience and goals…
Firstly you must consider the market and type of users you are looking to attract to the site, Google provides the following travel search marketing tips to consider:
Research your keywords…
Google’s research showed that catching the user at an early stage of a buying cycle can still result in a sale 40% of the time. This is very interesting and creates a strong argument for capturing users early into their search for a holiday. However the main difference between targeting keywords for paid, as opposed to organic search, is the volume of keywords you can target. PPC allows you to have flexibility over the keywords which generate traffic and is very much about refining keyword selection and continually changing key targets based upon performance and seasonality.
With SEO you’re unlikely to get that luxury and have little margin for error when selecting keywords with high-conversion potential. I would highly recommend using the pay-per-click data you have collected to help identify the top converting keywords. After all if six months after optimising for “When to go on holiday to Cancun” you finally generate enough clickthrough data to realise this has a 0.1% conversion rate, it’s then very difficult to re-adjust and target “luxury holidays in Cancun Mexico” instead.
Test, test and test again…
Despite targeting the early stages of the buying cycle proving to be more successful than expected, I would still recommend targeting more specific queries as this is more likely to generate targeted visits from users who have a clearer idea about what they are looking for. For example, someone searching for a “long-weekend city break in New York” is more likely to complete a sale than a user performing an informational query such as “places to visit in New York”. At this stage the user is also likely to be narrowing down the number of websites they are looking to shortlist for completing a sale, so the competition should be fewer than a more generic search.
However, if you have a strong website which can rank highly for more competitive and popular search queries it may be worth targeting information keyword phrases, a lower conversion rate is likely but this may be outweighed by the increased search volume. You should also consider the search volumes and conversion rates of plural and singular versions of keywords before selecting which to target.
You must also remember all travel websites are different and will not have the same conversion rates, for example, “all-inclusive honeymoons” may be a high-converting keyword for a honeymoon specialist but not so successful for a general website offering the same package. While an average e-commerce transaction will take a few days, it can take 2-3 months in many cases for an online holiday sale to be completed and users will revisit the website by multiple channels and keyword searches, this means you need to test and track user activity over a longer period of time to ensure that you value the importance of a traffic source or keyword leading to a sale.
Now you are ready to begin your SEO campaign…
In summary, to find the best keywords you need to consider both the conversion rates and search volumes in order to estimate the overall value of referred converted sales. Search engine optimisation is a long-term process, so the effort put into evaluating the quality and cost-effectiveness of keywords via paid search is incredibly important to ensure you’re targeting the most valuable traffic sources as a business.
Once the top-keywords have been identified, then it’s time to optimise and push towards achieving the high search rankings. Then you can take a holiday of your own to sit back and relax, whilst enjoying the 56% clickthrough rates which are only possible via the top organic listings!