There’s no getting around it - the world has changed. As we embrace technology and learn to adapt to new ways of discovering information, our expectations and online behaviour also change.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the fiercely competitive travel market, where travel brands are continually evolving their marketing strategies to meet customer expectations. Search engines play a crucial part in the holiday booking journey with one report highlighting that 90% of people do all their holiday research online. This means that your travel brand needs to be part of the consumer online journey. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the importance of SEO for travel websites and how it can boost your brand in a constantly evolving industry.

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The importance of SEO in travel marketing

The role of SEO in the travel industry is to aid promotion, provide value and increase brand visibility. However, the online journey of consumers will vary and so will their paths to conversion. It is at these different stages and touchpoints that SEO can help your travel brand appear and increase brand awareness, assist with the lead nurturing process and improve conversions.

The leisure travel-buying cycle

One of the most obvious changes in the travel industry in recent years is the elongation of the leisure travel-buying cycle. Consumers are no longer content with a couple of photographs in a brochure or a handwritten package deal posted in a high street travel agent's window. They have the desire, and the means, to undertake research themselves, meaning their journey down the conversion funnel takes longer. Take for example, a search for ‘holiday in Lanzarote’. What will the user see on the first page of Google?

  • Paid Ads
  • Popular Destinations SERP feature.
  • Knowledge panel (general information, reviews, images, weather, FAQs)
  • Top nine organic search results with image extensions
  • People Also Ask section
  • Related searches

Google wants to provide the best possible user experience and they do this by offering high quality, relevant content on its SERPs, specifically on page one. But it’s this page that gives us all the inside knowledge as to what will elevate our rankings. The People Also Ask section in particular is a goldmine for tapping into the mindset of the consumer:

  • What part of Lanzarote is best?
  • Is Lanzarote good for a holiday?
  • Is Lanzarote a cheap holiday?
  • Are holidays to Lanzarote Cancelled?

These are a perfect example of the kind of questions travel consumers are asking along the way in the decision-making process. Effective use of SEO can ensure your travel brand is the one that answers these questions and therefore meets the specific search intent of your customer.

'Micro moments'

To ensure user search intent is identified effectively, travel marketers need to understand the different stages of the decision-making process, which Google refers to as Micro Moments. This is when people turn to search engines to find an answer to a query, discover something new or buy a new product. These moments are important because it is then that people form opinions and make decisions. Let’s explore Google’s moments and see how they can align with the traveller’s online journey:

Moments image

Travel brands should build their strategy around targeting each stage along the sales funnel, focussing on brand awareness, lead nurturing and successful conversion. Personally, I would add a fifth stage, where engagement continues beyond the holiday with a view to building customer loyalty for years to come. After all, just because a holiday has come to an end, doesn’t mean your relationship with the customer should fade quicker than their sun tan!

Let’s take a look at each of these moments and explore how SEO can be implemented.

  • Dreaming moments: The start of the buyer journey. Travellers are not yet leaning towards a particular travel brand at this point so this is a perfect opportunity to make a lasting impression. They’re starting to explore ideas and destinations and are eager for inspiration. In the ‘dreaming moment’, consumers are still in their research and discovery phase, they know they want to go away, they just don’t know where yet. SEO strategies at this point should centre around targeting broader keywords, e.g., ‘best summer holidays’, ‘best winter destination’, ‘best countries to visit in the spring’ in order to increase brand awareness.

  • Planning moments: This is the how/what/where/when stage where the buyer has narrowed down their destination choices and are looking at prices, reviews, flights, etc. At this point, travel marketers should be ramping up the lead nurturing and focus on aspects such as local search by optimising content for keywords like ‘best place to eat in Lanzarote’, ‘What to do in Lanzarote in December’. At this stage, the consumer has decided on a destination and they are looking for more information to help them plan their journey. Be there in those special moments in order to build trust and nurture consumers that require more detail before they convert.

  • Booking moments: The buyer has found their perfect destination, done the necessary research and now they’re ready to make a booking, meaning the lead has successfully been converted.

  • Experience moments: The lead may now be converted, but implementing SEO shouldn’t end there. This is the opportunity to optimise content around restaurants in the vicinity, local tours and attractions, etc. as a way to stay connected with the traveller.

Now we’ve looked at the different stages of the buyer journey, let’s explore why the effective use of SEO is more important than ever in today’s saturated market.

Where to start when optimising a travel website

If you’re unsure how to implement SEO into your brand strategy, you should consider the following points prior to commencing your campaign:

Keyword research for travel companies

Keyword research is one of the first steps you should take when considering your SEO strategy. Take the time to research which keywords are most relevant to your business, and look closely at their ranking difficulty level. It’s really important to map your keywords and understand the part of the journey the user is on when searching for these terms. Don’t make the mistake of stuffing your content with keywords in the misguided belief this will push you up the rankings - on the contrary, Google may identify this as low quality or ‘SEO-first’ content and punish you accordingly.

Understand the user’s search intent

In order for your brand to play a key role in the user’s decision-making process, you need to understand their search intent and identify where they are along the sales journey. If someone is searching for ‘best winter holiday destinations’, you know they are still in the dreaming and discovery phase. However, from this keyword you can also deduct that they want to go on a winter holiday and if this is what you offer then you can tailor your content accordingly and provide more information to aid their decision making process.

On-page optimisation for travel brands

Whether you’re a small tour company offering trips to the Isle of Wight, or a large scale operator with flights and hotels across the globe, each individual page should be optimised to ensure the best user experience. This could include boosting existing content with more effective keywords or (and this is a big favourite of Google’s) adding a FAQ section (ensure to use FAQ schema to enhance your chances of a much-coveted Featured Snippet appearance.

Link building for travel companies

Gaining relevant links is an important part of any SEO campaign. The more reputable and relevant backlinks you acquire, the more visible you become. Make no mistake - it can be a laborious process and, while it may be tempting to buy links (known as black hat SEO), this is frowned upon by Google could see your site being penalised further down the line. Go about it the right way, and you may find this is what drives the most traffic to your site. Take Hays Travel, for instance. They are currently ranking at number two behind Which? for ‘travel tour operator uk’. Competitor Prestige Travel are ranking on page ten. There are numerous reasons why Hays Travel is much higher up the SERPs, one of which is their substantial number of backlinks. As demonstrated below, Hays currently has nearly ten times the amount of referring domains (i.e. other sites linking back to Hays) than Prestige Travel:

Referring Domains image

Guest posting, writing great content, reaching out to contacts, creating infographics and working with a PR agency are just some ways you can build links. For a more comprehensive guide, check out our article how to build links for SEO.

Keyword seasonality

Remember a few years back when all the TV holidays ads would start popping up on Boxing Day? This was because travel companies knew that the post Christmas period was when many consumers would start looking ahead to warmer months and consider their annual summer holiday. The platforms may have changed, but the seasonality strategy remains the same. Google Trends is one way of identifying when consumers are starting their decision-making journey.

To capitalise on seasonality trends, brands need to have a detailed, data-driven understanding of when consumers not only want to take a trip, but start thinking about taking a trip. They also need to factor in the time it takes for content to be indexed and ranked. This is why, when it comes to SEO for travel brands, seasonality and content creation must be considered at the start of an SEO campaign. Misjudge the timeframes and this could mean your page or site is not visible at a critical point in the buying journey.

Making the most of your blog

Travel blogging has been around for years. When we refer to blogging, we’re not talking about ‘Tarquin’s Gap Year Wanderlust Travels in Thailand’, rather a marketing tool which allows brands to potentially reach untapped potential customers and drive more traffic to your site. According to Hubspot, sites featuring a blog posts see 55% more visitors,

97% more inbound links and 434% more indexed pages than sites that don’t have blogs.

If that wasn’t enough, blogs are a great way to update your site with new content and weave in more keywords, boosting your chances of moving up the SERPs.

3 Reasons why SEO for travel websites is different from other industries

1. Seasonality has a greater impact

Understanding the specific seasonality of your travel site may help you to make more educated decisions when updating your travel website. Knowing the right time to update a site can help you to reach new customers at key periods.

Now imagine this, you have invested a large sum in improving your site. But search engines can take weeks, if not months to understand any changes. So potentially you do not see any return on your investment until the following year. This would feel very stressful.

To capitalise on seasonality trends, brands need to have a detailed, data-driven understanding of when consumers not only want to take a trip, but start thinking about taking a trip. They also need to factor in the time it takes for content to be indexed and ranked. This is why, when it comes to SEO for travel brands, seasonality and content creation must be considered at the start of an SEO campaign. Misjudge the timeframes and this could mean your page or site is not visible at a critical point in the buying journey.

2. Reviews are extremely powerful

With the power of the internet, it is no surprise that we as a society research everything. With limited time off and in a time where the cost of living is extremely high, it is no wonder that consumers want to be one-hundred and ten percent sure before committing to a holiday or experience.

Search engines want to make the journey easier for consumers and aim to show the most relevant results. So where possible search engines such as Google will take reviews into account when displaying results on the search engine.

Verified reviews will not only help you rank on search engines in the first place, but can help you to convert users once they’ve found your site.

3. The market is constantly changing

If the last ten years has proven anything, it’s that nothing is for certain. While recessions and shifting consumer trends have always posed challenges for travel, the Covid-19 pandemic dealt the industry a blow unlike anything it had ever seen.

To stay relevant, a successful travel site must be aware of all emerging trends. Once a new trend has emerged, swift actions must be taken for the best results.

For example, successful travel sites impacted by Covid-19 were able to reach new customers by diverting efforts to focus on the increasing UK holiday park trend. This change in focus during a turbulent period enabled impacted sites to reach new customers and set them apart from others in the industry.

Final thoughts

According to the Office for National Statistics, UK residents made 5.6 million visits overseas in April 2022 and spent £4.1 billion while they were there. Travel is a lucrative business and it’s little wonder many businesses want a piece of that pie. By embedding SEO into your travel marketing strategy, you’re putting yourself in the best possible position to rank above your competitors. It can lead to increased brand awareness, help to nurture leads, build trust and puts you at the front of the queue for booking conversions.

Want to explore how your travel brand can be improved with SEO?

The Adido team has years of experience working with clients in the travel and tourism industry to help boost their site visibility and rankings by implementing effective SEO strategies. If you’d like to find out how we could help you, please get in touch.

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Meet the author ...

Anna Heathcote

SEO Content Writer

Based way up on the Northumbrian coast, Anna uses her creative copywriting expertise and SEO skills to ensure clients have the best content possible on their sites. With 20 ...