Google recently made big changes in the way it sorts and ranks its results pages, with huge implications for the travel industry. Businesses with a strong search marketing strategy should see early benefits, while those with dubious or weak approaches will be feeling the pinch.
It is also likely that smaller and younger websites will now find it harder to break through into the much coveted top five places on Google, creating a clear disadvantage for smaller players in the travel business.
Here are a few tips for making sure your website is well-placed for good search engine visibility.
Tip #1. Follow the rules: Google made the changes to penalize websites that have exploited and manipulated its algorithms by using low-quality content and spam tactics to appear more popular than they really are.
Google is very clear on the use of spammy content and link “building” tactics: They are not allowed.
When undertaking any search marketing work in-house or contracting search marketing work from an outside source, be sure to verify that nothing is being done that breaks Google’s terms of service.
This seems obvious, but unfortunately there are a huge number of SEO “professionals” out there who have made careers out of playing the system. Even some big brands are now feeling the pain of Google wising up to their old tricks.
You should definitely steer clear of any approach that is based on buying links, exchanging links or mass producing hundreds of links on obscure websites. In the past these things worked; these days you’re playing with fire.
Tip #2. Content is king: Google is equally clear on what is likely to encourage higher rankings in their search results: good quality, unique and valuable content.
Travel businesses, including travel agencies, should be constantly trying to find ways of exploiting their assets, expertise and knowledge, and sharing it online. In the travel world there are a huge number of options: downloadable travel guides and personally written tips on your destinations, travel blogs, photo sharing, video content - the list goes on and the only boundary is your imagination (okay, and your budget).
It’s important to have a comprehensive and ever-expanding website. The easiest way to achieve this is to host a blog on your URL. Update your blog regularly with useful content that contributes something of value to the web and encourages discussion and interaction with your visitors.
Secondly, share your agency’s assets and expertise with the world. Use social media platforms to share your content and your knowledge and you will find people coming back for more.
If your content is great, people will start linking to your website, and it is these natural links (as opposed to purchased or spammy links) that the search engines are looking for when deciding how to rank your site.
The more content you publish and the higher value it is, the bigger the payoff will be. Over time your growing library of content will act as a huge traffic magnet, pulling in visitors from the search engines and driving them towards your product and service pages.
Tip #3. Build real relationships with real people: The changes made by Google were specifically aimed at the huge number of sites that automatically strip content from other websites and republish it in an effort to hijack traffic and rankings.
This is lazy marketing and it was destined to fail. Stick to seemingly old-fashioned and outdated concepts - like real relationships, with humans.
Be your own public relations agent; contact other website owners and bloggers, travel writers and journalists and offer to share your expertise with them.
It is through relationships like these that you will generate natural, valuable links to your website. It’s hard work and it takes time, but the payoff makes it worthwhile.
Matthew Barker is a managing partner at Hit Riddle, an internet marketing consultancy specializing in the travel industry.