SEO (or Content Strategy) for Independent Travel Agents & Tour Operators

It's been a while since I visited this subject back in 2012 with my blog “SEO vs PPC, the debate rages” and things have moved on a long way. Researching whether or not to engage in Paid Search ( PPC), knowing whether it is useful for your business  and what the ROI would be all depends on what you are trying to achieve and where in the sales funnel you wish to attract customers ( and ‘anywhere' as an answer to this will only cost you lots of money! so it's important to set out what you wish to achieve.

Update on SEO

The update on ‘Search Engine Optimisation' in 2014/15 is that it is non negotiable. To have a successful business with longevity and sustainability that attracts customers from online, travel agents MUST have a content strategy.

AirBnB is arguably one of the most successful travel start ups of recent years. Transforming the ‘Bed and Breakfast' short term rental market. This is how they approached Content Strategy:

1. Deliver tools for extended engagement: Airbnb Does Neighborhood Guides 

2. Inform and educate: Airbnb TV

3. Drive leads with testimonials: The Airbnb Lifestyle

5. Drive customer loyalty and trust: Airbnb Connections

4. Drive leads through social engagement and calls-to-action: The Strategic Use of Social Media for Promotion

The full article can be found here at The Huffington Post

STARTER SEO STRATEGY CHECKLIST OF TRAVEL AGENTS

The good news if you are reading this is that the vast majority of travel agents in the UK have NO content marketing strategy and so by starting 2015 with a strategy you will be ahead of your competition and by starting now you will always be ahead of your competition as Google will be ranking your content sooner than your competitors.

There are lots of areas of SEO to get used to – on page vs off page, meta tags, optimisation etc. In any one of my talks this is the point that a lay audience will start to glaze over so I only want to get one point across here. If you have no content then  there is no point in worrying about off page SEO, optimisation and metatags. Sure, if you have written a heap of content and no one is finding it, it's time to talk about the other elements of SEO, but let's get started first.

A | Brainstorm a ‘Content' Strategy (on page SEO)

For travel businesses that arrange bespoke tours ( or act as a tour operator) then create content around your chosen activity/holiday type. As an arranger of these trips you are setting yourself up as an expert and a writing plan to showcase to your audience your expertise ( as AirBnB does in its City Guides) is a great way to develop an SEO strategy

For more general agents then a relevant content strategy may be to write about your educationals, your relationships with tour operators ( which operators you use an why?). Don't be afraid of linking to tour operator websites so long as you have made it clear to the reader the advantages of booking directly with you ( same price, better value and service etc.) and if you have a content website from us then of course you can link directly to that Operators product in your own website.

The key behind the Content Strategy is to develop your ‘voice' and ‘expertise'. Give your readers a reason for coming to your site so they can learn something. SEO and blogging is all about building your showcasing your expertise.

Writing for a Specialist audience is what content marketing is all about – read what the experts have to say on MOZ.com and read The Ultimate Guide to Content Planning here

B | Develop your Keywords Plan

Developing your keywords is essential to any good content marketing plan. Use Ducttape's various resources to help you brainstorm keywords

C | Start Writing

Use in house resource but if you have not got anyone with a writing bent, find freelances on websites such as peopleperhour.com. You will often find travel writers whom are not expensive.

NOTE | Your Knowledge

For small to medium businesses with tight budgets – that is most travel businesses unless they have the might of VC money like AirBnB do 🙂 I would always advocate having someone you trust in your organisation to understand the very basics of SEO. While SEO is theoretically free, outsourcing someone to do this for you outside of your business is very expensive and normally outside the budgets of travel businesses. The great news is that there are tons of self learning programmes that cost very little to start to learn all about SEO. There are free resources online that may be relevant such as an explanation of someone else's work – http://www.simplyclicks.com/Travel-Agent-SEO.pdf or for a more planned approach I recommend online courses such as those from ‘Distilled‘ – some of the modules are free and all are free tomorrow, 3rd December 2014

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