What's Behind the Scenes of Successful Destination Marketing Strategies?

In Part 2 of this blog series on Destination Marketing, we focus on strategies for improving Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising (want to know how potential travellers behave? Read Part 1 of this blog series). This is not to say that other tactics aren’t important, however, people are increasingly engaging in search for their travel needs and if you don’t have successful SEO and PPC strategies it will be tough to compete.

The Travel Journey Involves Search Every Step of The Way

Google describes four micro-moments in the travel journey, all of which, can be heavily influenced by good SEO and PPC strategies.

Dreaming Moments

This is the very beginning stage of a person’s travel journey and 37 percent think about where they’d like to travel to once a month, while 17 percent think about it once a week. In this stage, they’re asking the Google search engine questions such as: “What to do in [destination]?” and “Where is [destination]?”.

Organizing Moments

Just as the headline says, this is the stage whereby people start to figure out the details of where they want to go and how they’re going to get there. People are taking advantage of search on all their devices to work out things like cost, time to travel and when to travel.

Booking Moments

This is the stage where people put their money down on the table and book stuff. This is actually when a person will least likely engage via mobile, as people still prefer to book travel details via their desktop (Google also found this to be true in 2017). As people become accustomed to buying items on their phones, things could change, but travel is usually a big-ticket purchase and perhaps the rate of error on phones is still high or perhaps travel related websites are still designing primarily for a positive desktop experience.

Experiencing Moments

This stage is when the “Near Me” searches take place, as people are unfamiliar with their surroundings and want to experience the best whether it’s food, entertainment or hotels. According to Google, 53 percent of leisure travellers choose their destination because they want to explore new places. Google also found in 2017 that more and more people are choosing to engage in spontaneous travel (60 percent of US travellers would make an impulse trip), since everything is now really at our fingertips, spontaneity carries lower risk.

What is clear is that for all these micro-moments, search engines play an important role, and companies that are well positioned on search will engage the most new and potential travellers. Therefore, SEO and PPC are no longer nice to have strategies but a must for destination marketers.

4 Strategies for Successful SEO

Implement a Content Marketing Strategy

When it comes to the travel industry, content is king, queen and everything else. As discussed in Part 1 of this series, when it comes to travel people love to read, and love to look at pictures, in fact, SearchMetrics found that when they compared the travel industry against other industries and determined ranking factors, the top five ranking factors were as follows:

  1. Word Count (on average more than 2500 words)
  2. Overall Content Relevance (long form text tends to score high for content relevance)
  3. Number of Images (at least 200×200 pixels, and lots of them)
  4. Bullets per list (again, people like to read, so longer lists are in)
  5. Number of Internal Links (again, people clicking through your site to read more, means the content is relevant)

User-generated content is also extremely compelling, whether reading other people’s traveller stories or online reviews, it’s deemed to be more trustworthy and therefore more likely to convert potential customers into actual customers. So, create that travel blog. Add easy access to online reviews. Implement a keyword strategy that lets users find your great content (although this same study found that keyword stuffing was a definite no-no), but most importantly, let users have a chance to add their feedback and share their stories.

Use Images to Enrich Their Experience

Images will help people to dream and to understand what you have to offer. The number of images—as noted above by SearchMetrics—is an extremely important ranking factor, in fact, SearchMetrics found that the URLs that ranked on the first page of Google’s search engine results had 38 percent more images on average than other industries. And when you add images, make sure you use Alt tags with keyword inclusions, which will make your image accessible by search engine spiders as well as screen readers for visually impaired people.

Let Videos Tell Part of Your Story

Yes, people love to read, but they also love to watch videos. Forester estimates that 1 minute of video equals 1.8 million words. Google found that many of us are beginning our preliminary research on YouTube. The integration of videos on your website is evidence to search engines of quality of content. And as more and more people want to watch videos when searching, this ranking factor will only increase in importance. You should also optimize your YouTube presence for search engines as much as you do your website. Although the 1 to 2 minute rule for video used to hold true, YouTube is now trying to compete against TV, so longer videos are in. Comscore found that the average length of a video watched on YouTube is now just over 4 minutes.

Optimize your Website and Implement a Mobile-First Design Strategy

Ensuring that your website is optimized for search engines is stating the obvious. That being said, you may have in the past optimized your design for desktop and implemented a responsive design to catch all those visitors from mobile phones. We suggest, especially if your business is local and you operate more at the end of Google’s travel journey, that you design your site with mobile first in mind (plus engage in local search strategies, such as optimizing Google My Business). We also suggest that you have a well-organized site with lots of internal links for people to read or view more information, as noted above, Google places a lot of importance on the number of internal links within a travel-related website.

4 Strategies for Successful PPC

Know Your Audience and Target

All successful marketing campaigns come from knowing and understanding your audience, which every marketer knows. But, since travel is often based on seasonality, you should make sure you adjust your offers, headlines and content, bids and budgets based on what stage your potential visitor is in (and times for when they’ll likely be researching). For example, if you’re marketing a dog-sledding company, advertising discounts in the spring when no one is thinking about a winter vacation, may not be the best strategy. Know your audience and plan your advertising accordingly (and see what works, of course).

Create a Compelling and Unique Offer

And by this, I don’t necessarily mean price (although Google did find price to be an important factor and a reason for people to make impulse purchases), but all your ads should be compelling and differentiate your from competitors. If you want people to come to your sunny location, you need to tell them what will make your location better than all the other sunny locations. If you offer something unique, and you have a niche destination with relevant keywords but low traffic, dominate those keywords (it may be the only chance you really have to get people, and you might as well try to get them all). If you don’t have a niche, try to create one.

Get Visual Whenever Possible

As discussed, images of travel are compelling and entice people to consider your business. Obviously, for search engine ads, no images are used, but don’t forget about Google Display Ads, and when you do create campaigns, go with pictures and not text! Whether your PPC ads are Search or Display, ensure that the landing pages are full of images. You have less than a second to impress people after they click through; make sure they can see themselves there.

Sign Up to Google’s Travel Blog

Stay up-to-date with Google by subscribing to their travel blog. Based on how important search is to the travel journey—and therefore big business for Google—they will always be improving their travel related capabilities and giving out great tips.

SEO and PPC aren’t rocket science, but they do take time and there’s a lot more involved than what we’ve outlined above. Read how we used SEO and PPC to attract tourists to “The Great Waterway” for Ontario Regional Tourism and contact us to learn about what we can do for you.