Today we go retro. The tourism marketing landscape has changed. There is plenty of evidence to support this, but did you know that old school marketing is still going to give your money and time the best ROI? It is just 'same same but different' marketing.
Yes, as retro as it sounds, did you know that email is still, by far, the most effective marketing channel we have available to us today? This is despite the fact that every day we are constantly subject to the launch of a new shiny new transformative marketing tool released by latest Groovy Guru (flashback viewing for the over 40's).
91% of people check their emails at least once a day. That is no stat to scoff at. It is pure opportunity. And what's more groovy, is that all those people on your list actually chose to hear from you. They WANT to hear from you. They WANT to know about your destination, tour, accommodation or tour. As sales opportunity and relationship building goes, it just does not get better than that.
Email and web traffic expert Neil Patel reminds us that email gives you the ability to reach your current and potential customers whenever you want.
Your branding now affects how you are 'ranked' in the search engines or your SEO. Poor and inconsistent branding means poor web presence and that you are less likely to be presented in a search no matter how big or small you are. And it is not about your logo or font.
David Amerland tells us that authenticity and consistency in branding is more important than ever:
"Marketing has changed, which means branding needs to follow suit and these days, both are also closely tied into search. You can’t talk about what you do and why you do it (which is where marketing and branding come in) without also taking into account the impact all this has on search" David Amerland, Author of Semantic Search
The world of semantic search has presented new and exciting opportunities for some and headaches for others. Branding has always been important, but in recent times, your branding influences how (and if) you are presented in the search engines when a potential customer is searching for your destination, product or service.
You see, Google's philosophy focuses on the customer experience - so should yours by the way. It wants to provide the very best pages and websites appropriate to the traveller sitting in their lounge room looking for travel ideas on Youtube or taking in a micro-moment at the bus stop.
So what's branding got to do with it? One of the golden rules of branding is to provide a consistency in messaging at all touch points. This is vintage marketing. But what is new is that, creepy as it seems, Google is now looking at this too. Google's algorithms are now specifically looking for sites that are trustworthy, of good reputation and can stand for some authority on its topic - this could be beach holidays, family vacations, holidays with pets or short spa retreats for stressed out executives for example.
When you are consistent about who you are, your messaging and your target markets, the search engines gain a further understanding on what you are all about - contextually speaking. If you talk about different things all the time and talk to different markets, then the search engines can't figure out what your business or destination is all about - just like people. This is dangerous. If they can't figure you out, they can't trust what you are saying is of interest to the traveller therefore, they are less likely to present your page to the traveller. They will present the webpage with the strong consistent brand and messaging.
A strong brand, that is consistent in what it stands for, who it markets to and has clear competitive positioning will stand out not only in the eyes of the customer, but Google and the search engines.
So if you have been a brand that has historically, tried to be all things to all everyone, you stand to lose. If you are focused , authentic, consistent on your tone of voice, visual identity and your target markets you stand to win. Semantic search rewards those who are seen as expert and trustworthy. So, if you dominate a topic like family holidays, country holidays or luxury vacations, consistently, you will turn up in search more often and matched to more appropriate travellers searching.
I firmly believe that we are in a marketing landscape where the smaller operators can win over the larger operators in effective tourism marketing.
Between us, Carolyn and I have done a huge amount of research around destination and travel branding over our collective 55 years (ouch). MyTravelResearch.com Members click here for our presentation and insight as to what makes a great tourism brand. We give you all of the elements collected over years of research on the topic.
Still, a little retro for me to be telling you that social media is good for marketing, but it is far more important than you think!
You know how you have to put your website URL into the settings of your social media accounts? Another way for search engines to figure your destination or business out is through 'social signals'. There are several schools of thought here. Google doesn't really tell us if they do or don't take social signals into account. But there are a few experts like David Amerland and Eric Enge, from Stone Temple Consulting, conduct ongoing 'unofficial' experiments and research around the matter. They tend to all indicate, social media does count toward your trust, reputation and authority in the eyes of the search engines at some level.
Importantly, social media engagement means you are more likely to be presented in a search engine result.
In his book SEO Help, David Amerland talks about engagement as the litmus test of your social media success. It is also inextricably related to your branding success and helps build the picture and context around what you are about for the search engines. In this more recent article, he tells us: "The social component in semantic search leverages these interactions to determine the trustworthiness of news, fresh data and the true importance of websites".
Our end goal is to create social media engagement. Engagement is not likes, follows or +1's. Those engaged in your brand in social media are your true audience. Engagement is a result of conversations that extend beyond your social media page. So those operators with 5000 followers that 'post and run' stand to lose over the engaged brand with 100 followers and ongoing conversations where your content is interacted with, commented on, with you being a part of the conversation. It's even better if your followers come back into the conversation on a regular basis.
Engagement is actually really difficult to achieve, but you can do it. The key is to engage through relevant and interesting content that appeals to your target market.
In his article about the topic, Eric Enge, talks about how people will automatically share and engage with great content that is great and relevant, it is a given. And as a result, it means that there are more links to the content as it gets shared and talked about - links are still great for SEO.
"From an SEO perspective, your social media promotion can help provide the exposure to your content that results in other people linking to it from their web sites or blogs. As noted above, links are still a major driver for SEO". Eric Enge, Stone Temple Consulting
So either way, a great social media campaign driven by relevant content to your audience, can impact your SEO. It is one of the main reasons to build a social media campaign.
Twitter real time feeds to appear in Google search results
Back in February Twitter and Google joined forces. What this means is that twitter feeds will show up in real time Google search. They seem to be still working this out. But when it happens, you need to be ready. So we are all being advised to 'step on the gas' when it comes to twitter.
Content marketing, branding, social media go inextricably hand in hand with semantic search.
MyTravelResearch.com members can download our content marketing and social media best practice guide for the semantic web here.
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She also runs a well respected seniors travel blog, http://www.newyoungtravel.com.au.
Bronwyn is also the published author of Seniors Travel Tips, a global travel guide for seniors.