Trav­el is one of the most com­pet­i­tive ver­ti­cals.

Trav­el brands not only com­pete against them­selves direct­ly but also against a pletho­ra of oth­er busi­ness mod­els vying for the same users.

Com­pet­ing for the same users are the trav­el giants, such as Book­ing Hold­ings (who report­ed­ly spent $1.3 bil­lion on “per­for­mance mar­ket­ing” in a sin­gle quar­ter), ver­sus small­er out­fits with more mod­est mar­ket­ing bud­gets, and Google itself.

The trav­el sec­tor is also one of the most data-rich sec­tors, thanks to what is rel­a­tive­ly inelas­tic and sta­ble sup­ply cou­pled with what is user-demand and sea­son­al­i­ty that is pre­dictable.

What makes it chal­leng­ing is that the user jour­ney isn’t lin­ear.

The com­mon user goal in trav­el is to go from A to B and com­plete an action or set of actions.

The com­plex­i­ty is that on offer with­in the mar­ket place, each facet and option pos­si­ble is avail­able either incom­plete pack­ages, such as guid­ed coach tours or as indi­vid­ual ele­ments that a user can piece togeth­er them­selves.

A user may also con­duct research on indi­vid­ual sites, before using an OTA to com­pare options and prices before book­ing.

There is the argu­ment that Google favors larg­er brands with­in search results (which to an extent is true).

In order for small­er trav­el brands with less­er bud­gets to be com­pet­i­tive, they need to be more strate­gic with their efforts and resources and start to do SEO in the way right for their busi­ness mod­el and offer­ings.

It’s also impor­tant to note that advance­ments in Google, such as BERT, don’t actu­al­ly change the over­all goal and objec­tive.

Over the years, we’ve had to adapt our SEO approach­es based on:

  • Google crack­ing down on some prac­tices through algo­rithms such as Pen­guin.
  • Changes in user behav­ior such as the big shift to mobile – and not oth­er IoT inter­net-enabled devices.

In order to do this, trav­el brands need to be smarter with data avail­able to them and focus even more on cre­at­ing user val­ue and expe­ri­ences rather than core com­mer­cial mes­sag­ing.

1. Engage Travel Influencers on New Mediums

When it comes to engag­ing influ­encers in the trav­el sec­tor to gain brand expo­sure and links, there has been a con­tent shift.

  • Larg­er brands now look­ing to engage those in the trav­el world with strong fol­low­ings on YouTube and Insta­gram.
  • Small­er brands have remained focused on blog­gers and get­ting links.

While links are still impor­tant to rank­ings and Google algo­rithms, so is build­ing a brand and being rec­og­nized. Unless you’re being fea­tured on the biggest trav­el por­tals, you aren’t going to get the brand expo­sure.

The move toward work­ing with influ­encers who don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly pro­vide writ­ten con­tent (such as YouTu­bers, pod­cast­ers and vlog­gers) cor­re­lates with user trends in mov­ing away from writ­ten con­tent for infor­ma­tion dis­cov­ery.

Engage Travel Influencers on New Mediums

YouTube is becom­ing more pop­u­lar amongst the younger gen­er­a­tions as a con­tent dis­cov­ery plat­form. This is being enabled by:

  • Advanc­ing smart­phone tech­nol­o­gy.
  • Access to the inter­net becom­ing cheap­er from cell providers.
  • Increased “free” WiFi in pub­lic spaces.

Curat­ing video con­tent with trav­el influ­encers whose pri­ma­ry medi­um is YouTube or pod­casts won’t nec­es­sar­i­ly return the link that a lot of mar­keters have been con­di­tioned to per­ceive as being the objec­tive.

That said, by engag­ing with the right ones in the right way (and not just spon­sor­ing a chan­nel so the logo is there), it can yield good results in terms of mar­ket­ing and PR, thus build­ing your brand and brand aware­ness.

2. Be Open to New Audiences & Markets

This is also impor­tant in engag­ing new mar­kets.

Mar­kets now hit­ting high­er lev­els of inter­net acces­si­bil­i­ty are doing so through the same mod­ern devices as the younger gen­er­a­tions.

A good exam­ple of this is that 4 of the top 10 YouTube chan­nels glob­al­ly are Indi­an (accord­ing to Social­Blade data).

Accord­ing to the UNWTO (Unit­ed Nations World Trav­el Orga­ni­za­tion), by 2020 India will account for more than 50 mil­lion out­bound tourist vis­its, and has been grow­ing at a year-on-year rate of 10% to 12%.

When expand­ing into new mar­kets, mak­ing sure that all the SEO ele­ments (such as Hre­flang and local­ized con­tent) is impor­tant.

It’s also impor­tant to ensure you can pro­vide good lev­els of cus­tomer ser­vice and sup­port to dif­fer­ent time zones and dif­fer­ent lan­guages.

I’ve seen a num­ber of trav­el brands make this expan­sion step with­out mak­ing pro­vi­sions for dif­fer­ent cus­tomer needs and then attrib­uted the per­for­mance of the expan­sion to oth­er fac­tors.

3. Leverage Micro-Moments in Content

In 2016, Google gave the world four trav­el-spe­cif­ic micro-moments and their place with­in the trav­el cus­tomer jour­ney:

  • Dream­ing moments.
  • Plan­ning moments.
  • Book­ing moments.
  • Expe­ri­enc­ing moments.

I wrote an arti­cle explor­ing these micro-moments in full in March 2018, but almost four years on there are still few trav­el com­pa­nies incor­po­rat­ing these moments into their con­tent ecosys­tems.

The major­i­ty of web­sites in trav­el are decen­tral­ized web­sites.

By Kevin Indig’s def­i­n­i­tion, a decen­tral­ized web­site is:

…a web­site with many points of con­ver­sion, used by ecom­merce busi­ness­es, social net­works, and mar­ket­places. They are “decen­tral­ized” sites with page tem­plates they can scale, such as pub­lic instances, user pro­files, apart­ment list­ings, prod­ucts, or cat­e­gories. Exam­ples are Pin­ter­est, Airbnb, and Ama­zon.

These moments have mul­ti­ple intents depend­ing on how far along the user is on their jour­ney, and under­stand­ing how to be present at the var­i­ous stages of the jour­ney is key.

In the past, I’ve described this to trav­el busi­ness­es as curat­ing con­tent and user expe­ri­ences for var­i­ous stages of the fun­nel in order to ease under­stand­ing, as com­mer­cial con­tent on its own is no longer suf­fi­cient (unless you’re a mega-brand).

Cre­at­ing con­tent around micro-moments and being present at the var­i­ous stages of the jour­ney not only rein­forces your (brand) posi­tion with the user but also help improve the rel­e­van­cy of the web­site as a whole by hav­ing great sup­port­ing con­tent (to the main con­tent), which will improve organ­ic search per­for­mance over­all.

SOURCE: Search Engine Jour­nal