Virtually all travel agencies use some form of print or electronic brochures, itineraries, or other documents as marketing tools for prospective clients, or as pre-travel information once clients have booked.
Chances are you’ll have spent some effort on compiling or creating these documents. You might have even paid a professional to do the layout and design.
But don’t stop there. Your offline documents are often precisely the kind of top-rate creative content that the search engines crave, and you should make full use of them on your site. You can put them online in a way that actively benefits your business by generating more traffic and new leads.
The good news is that PDFs are now very well read and indexed by the major search engines (almost as well as regular HTML webpages).
There are just a few things you need to bear in mind while preparing and uploading your documents:
Use text, not images: If you prepare your PDF in graphic design or drawing software (i.e. Photoshop) it will be generated as a single image, and search engines cannot “read” images in the same way that they can index and understand text. If your needs are limited, you can do this in MS Word or similar. If you are creating a fully designed brochure, invest in a tool like Adobe InDesign.
Use tags & attributes: Depending on the software you’re using, you can optimize the meta tags in your PDF content in the same way that you optimize an HTML webpage. You should definitely apply tags/attributes to your page title, subject (similar to the page description), image ALTs and even specify H1 and H2 headers. As with on-site optimization, the key is to use your target keywords in all these fields.
To add tags in Acrobat, look under Document Properties in the File menu. Other programs will have slightly different interfaces.
(Bonus tip: If you’re paying a design agency to prepare a document for you, be sure to check that they are able to include all this with the design. If not, go elsewhere.)
Watch the file size: The only downside to uploading your entire brochure is that the file will probably be colossal. Even if the search engine spider did index the file, your users would leave the site before it’s even loaded. Instead, create a web version of your docs, using lower resolution images. Tools like Acrobat also have file size optimization settings and you should definitely select the “Fast Web View” option.
Deep link through your site: The PDF acts in the same way as HTML web pages, and you should make full use of linking opportunities to other pages on your site. Be sure to use keyword-rich anchor text, as you would with any other web page.
Link to the document: You can’t just stick the document online and hope for the best. First, don’t bury the document too deep inside the site (www.example.com/travel-packages/itineraries/peru-itineraries/downloads/machupicchu5day.pdf is far too deep for the spiders to find). Store it as close to the root domain as possible (www.example.com/machupicchu5day.pdf would be fine).
Second, make sure you link to the document from other prominent pages – your home page, destination pages, product pages, etc. This gives the spiders additional signals that the document exists and that they should go and check it out.
Following these very simple steps will allow you to leverage all those beautifully designed offline assets and get them working for your site. As with regular pages, if the documents are well optimized they can become part of your online footprint, drawing new visitors and creating new leads.
Matthew Barker is a managing partner at Hit Riddle, an internet marketing consultancy specializing in the travel industry. He is also the author of the Hit Riddle travel marketing blog. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.