Search engine optimisation (SEO) within the travel and tourism sector is brutal. Not only are travel websites up against mammoth travel brands, but they also have direct competitors, review websites and travel aggregators to contend with.
This makes for an immensely competitive search space and some serious barriers to entry for any new kids on the block.
The first step to cracking this tough old nut is to understand the marketplace. On the one hand, content and SEO principles remain the same as within any other sector; traditional link building and content marketing strategies are still just as apt.
However, when it comes to travel and tourism, it’s important to remember that the buying cycle takes place over a much longer period of time, or at the very least with a greater number of digital touch-points (I’ll caveat that by saying that obviously some brands specialise in last-minute deals for spontaneous buyers, but for the purposes of SEO & content marketing we’ll focus on building value over time).
This means that rather than focusing on rankings, a practice which is very quickly falling from grace, we should focus on generating relevant traffic which converts into leads or sales. To generate this traffic we first have to understand the buying cycle.
Let’s explore how the user-journey differs between traditional Ecommerce and travel / tourism.
The modern consumer is switched on and connected, in more ways than one. As of 2014, approximately 88% of online shoppers check review websites before making a purchase, and most compare prices at a number of websites before committing to buy. So for end consumer products at least, the buying cycle may look something like this:
- Research and refine (check reviews for the best product)
- Shop around (compare prices from various retailers)
- Share – how else will your second-uncle’s friend’s daughter know that you’ve just bought a new phone?
If we apply the same principles to booking a holiday or major excursion, the buying cycle becomes a little more complex. It may look more like this:
Do you see a complicated buying cycle? I see a pile of potential touch points, opportunities through which we can connect with prospective clients and customers. As SEOs, or content marketing professionals, we can create content which adds value at any of these touch points.
During the early stages of the buying cycle we can begin to generate some brand awareness by creating content on industry trends, 101 education, how-to’s etc. To translate this into relevant content for the travel and tourism industry, we might want to think about guides such as “How to Choose a Holiday Location”, location travel guides and so on. Here’s a great example of content marketing for SEO from The Guardian:
Resources such as this are fantastic for generating links and generally building awareness of a brand. This content also helps to nurture the potential customer from being aware that they want a holiday (aren’t we all!?), to expressing an interest and developing a desire to actually book.
The next stage in our extended travel buying cycle is often research and refinement. This is where things get really interesting, as we could consider these users qualified leads.
Before committing to buy, the consumer needs to be confident that this is the right type of trip / location / time of year for them. As such, content like the temperature guide below can be a useful tool for generating traffic from users at the research & refine stage of the buying cycle.
At this point, we would consider our potential customer to be in the late stages of the buying cycle, the narrow-end of the conversion funnel where the value of our campaign contributes directly to the bottom line. Your product must be competitive to get this far, so well done you! Due to the competitiveness of the travel marketplace, it’s important to employ conversion rate optimisation to maximise the number of relevant visitors who convert into sales and bookings.
Let’s look at some of the ways travel brands can maximise conversions. Here is a fairly standard-looking holiday listings page, in this instance from thomson.co.uk:
If we start to analyse the elements within the listing, it becomes apparent that everything has a purpose, with the end-goal of driving consumers towards the booking.
1. Including a special offer or highlighting a saving has been shown to increase customer satisfaction and increase conversions:
2. Adding a sense of urgency increases conversions in two ways; the user feels as though they should act quickly to avoid missing out. And beyond that, if the product appears to be in high demand, this increases the perceived value of the product or service:
4. Not all users are ready to convert right away, so including the option to ‘add to a wish list’ or ‘save for later’ can help to ensure that users who aren’t ready to purchase don’t drop out of the conversion funnel:
As CRO goes, this really is the only tip of the iceberg (items like behavioural targeting, personalised content and dynamic pricing are just a few of the ways to utilise tracking technology to increase conversions, for example). Likewise, the number of digital touch points a travel brand can exploit for content marketing stretches well beyond the items mentioned above.
If you’d like to discuss the ways in which digital marketing could enhance your travel or tourism brand, feel free to get in touch for a chat!