On May 20, 2021, Joseph Franklyn McElroy, CEO of Galileo Tech Media, hosted a webinar about jump-starting travel SEO. McElroy is a marketing technology expert and an award-winning content producer, artist, and technologist.

Keys to Jumpstarting Travel SEO

At the core of jump-starting your travel SEO efforts are SEO keywords themselves. In the last year, thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses had to dial back their marketing and SEO efforts. This was particularly true in the arena of travel and hospitality.

As the world reopens, now is the time to audit content. McElroy explained that “content gets old, content gets unused and all that can drag your SEO down.”

A good first step is to build macro keyword groups to help you listen to your market. You should first create categories of keywords to understand, and then have a good sense for where each search is going. You will need to identify which trends are here to stay. McElroy predicted that local travel will be the next big thing as people begin to travel once again. You can use trends like this to plan your SEO strategy and monitor keyword volume over time.

By understanding demand, you can use search to inform your product, your media, and your positioning strategy as the economy reopens, McElroy explained. Search can become an incredible part of the recovery on the horizon.

April and May of 2020 looked bleak for the travel industry, but keywords and search data indicate that things have started to bounce back. This is less true for business travel corporate travel, which has not yet shown signs of recovery. Travel agencies and boutique hotels are seeing good search results.

Travel SEO Tools

Google Trends can be an excellent tool to use in your 2021 travel SEO efforts. Using different sets of keywords, you can see how trends for business, travel, corporate travel, and other areas are moving.  In general, Google Trends indicates that the travel industry is showing signs of recovery, which means now is the time to put efforts into SEO, paid media, email marketing, and unique offers to catch the attention of travelers in the dreamer’s phase.

SEO should focus on evaluating your technology, ensuring that your site is healthy, that mobile is optimized, and that user experience is satisfactory. Auditing your existing site structure and content can be done using sites like Bright Edge, Ahrefs, SEMRush, and others. These audits will help you to determine where you should focus your SEO efforts, whether it be on keyword research, on-page SEO basics, link building, or elsewhere. Long load times, issues with user experience, large amounts JavaScript, and other technical issues need to be addressed, as well.

Travel Webinar Transcript

Core Web Vitals and Travel SEO

These changes are even more important due to the most recent Google update, called Core Web Vitals, which is being unveiled over the next few months. McElroy explained that this essentially speaks to issues like whether your site loads quickly enough and permits good user engagement.

McElroy said, “We’ve seen incredible jumps in search engine positions by doing certain kinds of schema…There’s restaurants, there’s any number of hospitality related aspects. And each of these can new things. I have rooms, prices, charges; all of this can be made into a schema.”

Star ratings, prices, and other embellishments on-page are considered “decorations” by Google. When your search result gets decorated, it has a higher conversion rate, and people are more likely to click on it. That’s as important as getting a high relevancy score in Google. You need to be working on your schema for getting better search results, but also for getting more decorations that increase your conversion rate, which in the end also increases your ranking in search.

Other important factors in the travel space for schema are tourist attractions and tourist destinations. You should also offer questions and answers about your business or its location By answering questions that users type into Google, you have the chance for appearing in the “featured snippet” position, which puts you very close to the top of Google’s organic search results.

Global and Local SEO

Travel is a global industry. However, local SEO is a critical part of all travel SEO, because people search for specific locations when they are booking a trip. Being heavily optimized for local is important. So in that regard, you need to set up a well-optimized Google My Business page, which provides the basic fact about your company and your contact information hours. It will help drive both local and global traffic.

If you have multiple locations, you will want to create a Google My Business page for each one of those locations, and optimize each one of those as a separate entity. You want to target the keywords, seek reviews, and respond to reviews.

You can use your reviews to thank those who loved your business, make amends if travelers didn’t love it, and in doing so, advertise services customers might have missed.  This will show not only that you are a real person, but also you’re addressing the concern of whoever is reviewing you, all while advertising and promoting the amenities you have to offer.

You should have calls to action based upon your location. Whatever data you can get that’s relevant to your location and your business is a good thing to add, said McElroy. You want to make sure the meta-description for those pages, the title tags, the headlines, the alt-tags, and the schema markup are all location-specific. You want to optimize location hubs on your site, he explained.

Content Hubs and Memorable Tourism

The navigational structure of your website and the content hubs on it are very important to your SEO.  Content hubs are topic-oriented, with a central topic page. You’ll have the end pages, which are just supporting documents, to support the authority of the subtopics and topics. Instead of pointing down, everything points either laterally or up. For travel businesses, this can be a great way to showcase destinations and attractions near your business.

McElroy used the example of Meadowlark Motel, his property in North Carolina. “We don’t want to just show up for North Carolina, or just for Maggie valley, where we’re located. We also want to show up for hiking in the mountains.”

Perhaps travelers are looking for somewhere to go, as opposed to having a specific location in mind. “I want to go hiking in the mountains. I want a cabin in the woods. I want to see the sea from a cliff,” McElroy explained. “You want to have positions there to make them aware that you exist and that it’s a good place to go do those things. You can do that with content hubs. And, and when you’re considering a content hub, it’s not just what’s on your site. You can also have external sites that point back to you to be considered part of your hub. You could have influencers and co-creators, that are also part of a hub.”

Memorable tourism experiences, or flashbulb memories people have from an experience they had while on a visit, are also important to capture in SEO. McElroy explained that those sorts of experiences are associated with more brand loyalty and more revisit intention than just visitor satisfaction.

You can build anticipation with marketing, and you can trigger the anticipation of a memorable experience with the words that you use in your marketing efforts. This anticipation is highly correlated with repeat customers.

Now is the time to update your travel business’s SEO strategy to get ahead of the coming tide of anticipation, booking, and sales. If you have any questions on how to prepare or on travel SEO, Contact Galileo Tech Media today.