As a travel marketer, you’re well aware that the majority of consumers are using digital channels and platforms to plan travel. According to Social Media Today, in 2018 more than 140 million U.S. adults will research a trip online; 71% will use the internet to plan, 79% to shop and 83% to book their travel. And at some point in their booking journey, 63% will use a search engine, a trend that will only rise as major search engines add travel tools — like Google’s newly launched Your Trips — specifically to help consumers with their travel decisions.
That means a great SEO strategy is essential for travel marketing. Ever-changing technology, however, can make it a real challenge to stay abreast of best practices. What’s more, travel websites have unique needs that don’t follow conventional SEO wisdom. So how does yours keep up?
Enter the SEO audit. An SEO audit can help you not only optimize your travel website for today’s search engine and smart speaker algorithms but be ready for tomorrow’s. And as a new year approaches, there’s no better time than now to assess where your SEO stands and where you have room to improve.
Read these SEO tips as a starting point:
1. How is the browsing experience?
Consumers put a great deal of research into travel planning, making a good browsing experience essential. Is your site organized with the user in mind for easy navigation? Travel websites can have great content, but if people can’t find it, what’s the point? Offer plenty of internal links that allow viewers to learn more about topics relevant to your offerings in greater depth.
2. Is your content relevant?
To compete at the top of the search results, you need great content. Expedia reports that 78% of travelers say their decisions are influenced by informative content from destinations and travel-oriented brands. Travel marketers can become a resource for searchers and increase their trustworthiness by continuously updating content to keep it fresh, relevant and informative. Take a storytelling approach to your content and think depth — 2,000 words is better than 200, particularly on travel websites.
Content should answer the questions users are asking. If people come to your site but quickly leave, it sends negative signs to Google about your site’s relevancy to user queries. And keep your content unique to each page. Duplicate copy on multiple pages of your site (or copied from other sites) will negatively impact your Google position.
3. Are your visuals engaging and optimized?
Visuals play a big role in consumers’ travel decisions, so strong visual content — both images and videos — is essential for a travel-related website. And with online platforms becoming more visually focused, quality images and videos are more effective than ever. Travelers want to see the breadth of facilities and amenities at a hotel or resort they’re booking, and all the cool things to do in a destination they’re considering. Using alt text to tag images lets Google know what the images on your page are about, and that they are relevant and important to the content presented to the user. Compress images to make sure they don’t slow down your website’s load speed — an SEO audit can help make sure your videos and images are optimized.
4. Can users and Google find your website easily?
Googlebot is Google’s search bot that crawls the web collecting documents to add to its searchable index. Bing and all the other search engines have search bots, too. You want the search bots to be able to crawl your travel website and read what each page is about so you can be a resource to your potential customers. And to do that you need relevant, quality links. An SEO audit can check for errors like broken links, duplicate content and issues with title tags and meta descriptions that affect your site’s crawlability.
5. Is your schema markup up to date?
Schema markup is code that tells search engines like Google what the content on your page means, not just what it says. It’s the secret behind the hotel deals, travel packages, enhanced imagery and destination information that sometimes appear in Google’s Knowledge Graph (which appears as an infobox to the right and top of Google results and drives more search traffic to your website). Additionally, you can add review markup and star ratings to your pages to help the click-through rate to your website. Travel marketers can find a whole library of schema markup tags available for website owners on www.schema.org. An SEO audit will show you which ones are worth implementing on your website.
6. How’s your site speed?
The longer your page takes to load, the less likely the viewer is to stick around, and that impacts your Google ranking. An SEO audit can tell you what factors are slowing down your site and how to fix them. Large images are a common offender, particularly in the travel marketing arena. But as noted above, travel is one industry in which quality images — and plenty of them — are critical to a positive user experience. Just be sure to compress the images before uploading them to your website.
7. Is your content optimized for mobile?
With more and more transactions happening via cell phones, making sure your site is both secure and responsive to the different types of devices people use is imperative. Security while booking high-value items like hotel stays, flights and excursions creates ease of use on your travel website. Additionally, streamlining your website’s search box, form fill-outs and check-out processes increase the likelihood of conversion from visitors to your site.
8. Do you speak your customers’ languages?
Your customers come from multiple countries and speak multiple languages. Your site should be translated to enable customers to view it in their native language — and be sure to let the search engines know that you have done so with hreflang attributes.
9. Is your site voice search-friendly?
As more consumers use voice search, sites need to adapt to think like a person speaks. You want to rank for terms that are more conversational. People using voice search are more likely to phrase a query as a question, for example, “What are some things to do in Chicago this weekend?” versus “Things to do in Chicago” and “What is the best place to buy gelato in New York City?” versus “Gelato place NYC.” Creating a better connection with your audience will allow you to come up in search more often.
Could your travel website benefit from an SEO audit? To learn more about what’s involved and the results you can expect, contact Mary Owusu, our VP, Director of Digital Strategy and Analytics.