Increasing your visibility across Google is key to growing your travel agency's inbound business, said presenters at a workshop on leveraging the power of social media to enhance Google My Business profiles during the Dream Vacations annual conference onboard Celebrity Apex.
"Social media is not only about engagement. It's also about visibility and having customers be able to find you in Google search results," presenter Jessica Hernandez said. "Your Google My Business profile is an essential digital platform to put your business on the map, literally."
What Is Google My Business?
First thing's first. Though people use the terms interchangeably, Google My Business (GMB) is not the same thing as your Google business listing. It's a free tool that enables business owners to optimize that listing (also called a business profile). Using Google My Business, you can post content, show and respond to customer reviews, answer questions, and even set up a chat feature on your listing.
But, why is doing any of that important? Isn't just having your business listed with contact information enough?
When someone goes onto Google to find a travel advisor, Google serves up local agencies in the search results first. But it doesn't go alphabetically or by distance. Google prioritizes businesses that it deems active and it makes that determination by looking for things like recent reviews and activity on your Google business profile.
"The Google algorithm likes to see that you're regularly engaging and posting content on your Google My Business listing. That shows that you're an active and engaged business," Hernandez said.
The more Google's algorithm finds, the higher in the search results your travel agency will be.
And that means more sales.
A 2019 study of 45,000 listings across 36 industries revealed that, on average, any individual business shows up in 1,009 searches per month. From those, there's an average conversion rate of 5%.
That's an average of 50 opportunities per month to sell travel to a new client.
While it is true that searches dipped in 2020, they're on the rise. Marketing firm RIO SEO tracked more than 200,000 Google My Business listings from September 2020 to September 2021. They found that across almost all markets total searches increased by 102%.
Anecdotally, advisors Travel Market Report spoke to at the Dream Vacations concurred.
"There is definitely an increase in the last few months," Joy Teet, owner of a Palm City, Florida Dream Vacations franchise, told TMR. "We have gotten four leads in the past month that we are aware of from Google My Business. We may have received one or two prior to this."
With searches on the rise, it's never been more important for travel advisors to optimize their Google profiles. Here are a few ways to do this.
Treat Your Google Profile Like It's a Social Media Channel
Treat your Google Profile the same way you would any other of your social media channels. Don't ignore it.
It may be annoying, but copy and paste whatever you post on Facebook or Instagram into your Google My Business profile. Try to post at least three times a week. Remember, Google rewards active businesses.
There are software programs you can use to link your social media accounts with your Google profile so you don't have to post twice, but they cost money.
You also can -- and should -- use your Google My Business account to respond to reviews and answer questions.
Again, the more active you are on your profile page, the more Google will prioritize your business in search results.
Share Your Google My Business Page
Another way to optimize your Business Profile is by sharing it with your customers, specifically to ask for a review.
"Sharing can help you generate leads and drive more bookings," Hernandez said. "Now more than ever, obtaining and responding to customer reviews is essential to attracting new customers and establishing credibility."
Every Google My Business account has a unique URL business owners can use to share with customers. Keep your link handy and send it to clients after they've returned from a trip to ask for a review. Then, share it on social media to show off your new review.
Though Google prioritizes digitally-active businesses over inactive companies, the algorithm also looks for SEO keywords. Make sure you're incorporating keywords into your profile description, responses to reviews, and answers to questions for an extra boost in local search results.