You’ve scoured the internet and scrolled through pages and pages of the one true guide on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) that’s truly relevant to your travel business. In all honesty, this holy grail of an article doesn’t really exist. What does exist are some guiding principles that are relevant to every business. Ultimately, we’ll aim to make it relevant to the travel industry and how by following some simple steps, you can elevate your website’s exposure to the audience looking for you, and make sure the search engines little spiders can crawl with a smile on its face.
The bots and crawlers scraping away
Let’s start at the beginning. All websites are being crawled, indexed and ranked by sophisticated technology that can read and pull out information that will be relevant to someone searching through Google or Bing or any other search engine. They are simply little answering machines for people to find what they are looking for.
This primary process of crawling, indexing and ranking is then listed based on a search query, from most relevant to least relevant, in your favourite search engine. Optimising this process, by telling the crawlers what your site contains, means you can position yourself somewhere on this list of results based on your content.
The content of course can vary from being a webpage, a video, an image, a PDF, etc. The underlying discovery method used is by links on your site, regardless of the formats of content used. Links are the oil that keeps these internet cogs turning.
Googlebot on Caffeine
Google is the number one search engine on the internet. The web indexing system used by Google is called Caffeine and when the Googlebot has done crawling your site, it scuttles away with all that link juice it’s found on your site. It then adds the links to a vast database that then gets displayed when a user submits a search request.
When you search for something using Google, you’re not actually searching the live web, it’s the database it’s created that you’re trawling through. Googlebot will fetch a few web pages at a time. It will follow the links you create and over time, the more links it hops along will be found, collected and sent back to Caffeine.
Getting your site indexed
Making sure your site gets crawled and ranked is a must and will improve your chances of showing up in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Like all things, it’s best to start with a clear understanding of where you are before performing optimisations. The best way to do this is by using one of Google’s advanced search operators.
Head over to Google and type in “site:yoursitename.com” into the search bar. This will give you a list of the index relevant to your site and how many links Google has indexed for it.
A more detailed and accurate result can be found using Google Search Console. Sign up for a free account and you’ll be able to get information about your Index Coverage report. You’ll also be able to submit sitemaps manually which can speed up the time it takes for Googlebot to crawl your site.
SEO Tip: always submit your sitemaps when you launch a new site or have made major changes to your site like a redesign or rebuild. Better to be listed quickly then wait.
There could be a few reasons why your site isn’t listed and these could be:
- Your site is brand new and hasn’t been crawled yet.
- Your site isn’t linked to any external websites.
- Your site’s navigation makes it hard for a robot to crawl it effectively.
- Your site contains some basic code called crawler directives that is blocking search engines.
- Your site has been penalised by Google for spammy tactics.
Why is SEO important in all this?
There is a simple answer to this question and it’s because people are looking for you. Specifically, you want to be found in people’s searches, your customers need to find you. You want as many leads from search as possible so you can position yourself over your competitors. You don’t need to buy ads immediately if you can get organic traffic coming to you first through Google searches.
You can pump a lot of money into Google Adwords and start your efforts there but at what cost? Once you stop spending money your traffic will reduce and over time, your links and website content however, will be producing organic traffic that is more valuable. It works for you while you sleep. SEO will be less expensive and be a better investment of your time and money.
By ranking high for your business keywords, you won’t be losing a percentage of travellers who’d go somewhere else. Big brand sites like Booking.com, TripAdvisor and Hotels.com will always have more pull yes but despite this, the traveller will always start their search by jumping onto a computer and checking out what Caffeine has in store for them. The search engine will always come first before the traveller starts their planning and heads over to a brand site.
The best guarantee you have of securing your travel business with a flow of traffic is to generate content. Not lots of it but regularly. Google loves content that changes and for a travel business, having a simple blog that details customer stories, or your services, events and practical advice using images or video, can have a massive impact. Travellers like to be informed. This can develop goodwill for a travel brand, not to mention a good review once they have experienced what you have to offer. All fuelling somebody else’s search into becoming your customer.
So where do you start?
There are two points of entry here. If you have a website already, you need to know where you are in terms of current benchmarks and what Google has on you already, so make sure you’ve carried out some basic site index search. If you don’t have a website, then the following points will get you building from scratch, a site that’s primed to elevate your travel brand. Having at least some content planned out would be best at this point. As most of what you’d be optimising for, is for regular content being published at your site.
Essentially there are three types of SEO. On-Page SEO, Off-Page SEO and Technical SEO. Let’s get into what each method means and how you can implement them for your travel business.
- Write great quality content
- Having a blog on your website is like having free ad space that is going to consistently market your travel business or brand. Make each post relevant to your audience based on what services or products you want to push out. Get it spell checked and written without plagiarised text. Search engines use highly sophisticated algorithms so even misspells will go against you.
- Make it engaging for the traveller by giving practical advice on your local region or tips on other places they could visit. This would be perfect for partnerships you may have with other travel related businesses you also support.
- Create and publish posts regularly
- A constantly changing website means a constantly returning spider. Which will also mean affecting your status in the SERPs. The more content you produce, the more Google will influence your positioning. Every time an update takes place on your site it will get noticed and the repositioning takes place.
- Always create a list of keywords you would like to rank for. You can check out this invaluable resource using Google’s own results, from Neil Patel called Ubersuggest.
- Make sure you use keywords that are not just stuffed in the post but are naturally placed in your content. Use them in title tags and meta descriptions.
- A proper URL should be readable by a human and not just loaded with tags and difficult to remember URL parameters.
- Create URLS that are readable
- Optimise your images
- Here’s an example of a badly titled image, IMG1290.jpg. That doesn’t tell the search engine anything about the content of the image. So make sure you title each image informatively.
- For accessibility it’s also best practice to add ALT text to all images. In WordPress this can be done quite easily through the Media Library but any good CMS (content management system) based website would have options to add this vital text. Google places a high value on accessibility so people of disabilities are also catered for.
- Make sure you’re using optimised Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
- The Title Tag describes the title of the post or page that will be displayed on search results and the Meta Description is your snippet or short synopsis of the page. The title is around 60 characters in length and your Meta Description should not be more than 150 characters.
- Check you have proper formatted text
- The hierarchy of the page content is essential in showing how your page is structured. Using H1, H2, H3 and paragraph formatting describes your content as readable and aids the experience of the visitor. User experience being another ranking factor.
- So what about user-experience?
- By designing and building your travel website in a manner that promotes organic sharing and distribution, you will have earmarked yourself well in the eyes of Google. Making your website easy to read, making it easy to navigate through, placing your special offers and any pop-ups you may have that don’t annoy the user, all play a massive part in how your customer experiences your travel brand. Invest in good design and user experience. The search engine will thank you for it organically.
- Link internally and externally
- Once you get into writing a few articles or have someone write them for you, your travel site should have enough content to relate to each other. It’s best to link from specific words, or Anchor Texts as they are called, in the post to other posts you have already written. This not only keeps the traveller compelled to your content but also keeps them on your site. The longer they stay the better chance you have of converting that person into a valued customer. What do the crawlers love? Hopping from link to link. Connecting all the dots and telling Google all about you.
- Keeping people on site is important, but so is making sure you send your visitor elsewhere if it will inform, engage and educate. Even if it means sending them to a competitor. This can sometimes open new opportunities for partnering your travel site to theirs, building out your offering. Remember, they will see you linking to them in their analytics if they are any good. So far this article alone has linked to Google, Neil Patel, Moz.com, Search Engine Land, WordPress.org and ahrefs.com because it’s useful for you and it creates a semantic connection from one domain to another.
- Let’s get social shall we?
- By far the most important and best method for getting your travel brand out there is by connecting with people outside of your domain. Your brand can sit on another platform engaging your potential travellers and leveraging another algorithm, pulling them back to your site. Push your content, your posts, your offers and your destination to distribute far and wide.
- Google My Business.
- Yes you want people to Google your business but not if they can’t find you using Local SEO methods. Getting a business listing setup using Google My Business, commonly known as a GMB Listing, is vital to making sure your site is linked to maps and local search results.
- Your visitors will leave reviews and upload images on your behalf further increasing your chances of being found. The information you provide and get verified, the more content your Knowledge Panel will show your customers.
- Bring back those links
- Off page SEO is essentially telling Google what others are thinking about your site. Having or establishing relationships with other sites that can link back to your travel site will do wonders for your online profile. The backlinks can be from guest posts, using influencer marketing and allowing others to post about your business. All the while Google will keep track of thread you lay across the web.
- Stop The Press!!
- Submitting a press release to news desks and newswires will also bring that essential link juice back to you. It allows you to promote your latest travel products, seasonal offers or even that new hiking route you’ve been planning when the snow has melted.
- Videos can captivate.
- Do you know which search engine is number two below Google? YouTube. Again owned by Google so it makes sense to include videos you can upload under your travel brand channel. Subscribers to channels sends a huge signal to Google about the authority provided by the backlink.
- Videos can be embedded into your site further increasing the retention value created by your travel business. Again another big signal back.
- Keyword your video content by adding them to the Title, the video file itself, and in the YouTube video description.
- Don’t forget those infamous #hashtags. Synonymous with anything related to social now, hashtags play a masterful role in being searchable on the platform.
- Use eye-catching customised thumbnails for your videos. It adds a sense of production value to what you have to offer.
- There is a need…for Speed!!
- This goes hand in hand with the user experience we mentioned above. Site speed is one of the biggest ranking factors in search optimisation, as it’s all about making sure the visitor gets what they want as quickly as possible. A slow loading site will reduce your conversions and ultimately impact your positioning. Monitor your site speed using Google’s Page speed Insights or GTMetrix and gain valuable insights on where you should improve your site’s load time.
- Another image optimisation one.
- Serving JPEG’s, PNGs or WebP all have an impact on the speed as well. There are WordPress plugins that can optimise your Media Library so that they weigh lighter than an anvil. It’s best to make sure your images are sized accordingly as well and you’re not just uploading everything from phone images to 4000 pixel wide images.
- Is your website mobile optimised?
- In the world we live in today, with everything at our fingertips and basically a computer in our back pocket, the phone or mobile device has exceeded desktop usage. Google is very serious about this by actually using the mobile version of your site in its index instead of the desktop version. Mobile first indexing is here to stay, make sure your site stays on top too.
- Busted links and pages going nowhere.
- You may not have a large website but with so many links on any single site something one day will break. Check for broken links on your site and make sure you don’t get penalised for sending people to a 404 page. 404 pages are like getting a bad Christmas present, nobody likes them. If you have a WordPress build then using a broken link checker plugin will help you monitor this. Online tools for broken links are free and will result in a snapshot of where to find these pesky little bust ups.
The small travel business can now compete with all the big players out there. Having a solid content strategy, a great usable website that’s friendly on a phone as it is on a desktop or laptop, and planning your SEO from start to on-going, will make sure your business is punching above its weight.
Your size is an advantage as it clears the path for those long tail keywords that the bigger travel companies aren’t using to generate traction. If you follow some of the advice above, we’re sure you will succeed, too!