When it comes to tourism marketing, many of us are suffering from information and technology overwhelm. And some of us just cannot afford in the immediate term to commission a SEO company to help out. But believe it or not, it IS possible to achieve a robust online presence yourself and within your own team without spending a cent.
As a travel researcher and marketer, I have been experimenting with various methodologies over the last few years since Google switched its algorithm over to semantic search. As a result, we have enjoyed great success as a small boutique agency in ranking for our own site.
I have decided to share this methodology with you. I have narrowed the formula down to 5 tourism marketing tactics that will boost your digital presence. These tactics do not require a huge marketing budget, but they do require time and effort. And it is important to understand that they all work together as the sum of all parts and will not work in isolation.
The Cost is Time, Effort and Consistency.
Implementing these marketing tactics will cost you time and effort, not necessarily money (unless you want to outsource some of these tasks). What's more, this methodology is evidence-based. It has been tried and tested on MyTravelResearch.com over about 3 years with great success.
Aside from the time and effort you put in, you need to be prepared to keep on top of the digital landscape - technology rarely sits still.
To maintain success, keeping your marketing knowledge up-to-date needs to become a priority to maintain a sustainable competitive advantage.
When you opened the doors or created the website for your tourism business or destination, you signed up as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). This means you need to take full responsibility for your marketing. And whether you decide to D.I.Y or outsource is up to you.
Search and the digital marketing landscape has changed dramatically over the past few years and continues to evolve. We are now in the age of semantic search and machine learning. This may sound like nerd speak, however, it can mean the life or death of your business in the Internet age. It pays to know a little.
The way people search online has evolved and Google has changed with it.
A few years ago, search engines could be easily 'gamed' by those with the deepest marketing budgets. But when Google switched over to "semantic search" in 2014, it put big and small business on a level playing field for the first time ever.
This is a significant departure from the keyword and fake link building tactics of yesteryear where we saw many major travel companies seriously burnt by algorithm updates in the lead up to switching over to semantic search. It has seriously transformed online tourism marketing.
The main implication being - page 1 of Google will be different for every user, every location and every desktop or mobile device.
The role of branding in SEO for tourism marketing
Today, everything you do or say online is considered to be a representation of your brand.
Google and other search engines are dedicated to providing the best user experience possible. For them to present your web pages in a search, Google has to trust your brand enough to do this. You need to prove you are worthy by building trust, reputation and authority not only with your customers, but in the eyes of the search engines.
So, if you want to realise an enhanced online presence without paying money, you need to create a strong brand that impresses both Google and your prospects.
How do you do it?
Build Trust, Reputation and Authority.
The answer lies in just these three words: trust, reputation and authority. These three ingredients are key to improving your ranking and ultimately your online presence.
And, the only way to do this successfully is over time on a consistent basis. So just having one big go at it, is not enough (don't let any SEO company tell you otherwise)
Simply having a beautiful website with target keywords and a claimed Google My Business page won’t do.
To attain the robust digital presence that is key to modern tourism marketing success, you have to convince both search engines and your prospects that you are indeed a trusted source, a real authority in your field and a reputable business with integrity.
No customer wants to do business with an entity they can’t trust or are not sure of. The same goes for Google.
As a tourism and marketing professional, you must clearly communicate that you can be trusted and that you are an expert in your field. This is the best way to create an enduring sustainable competitive advantage online.
Here are 3 areas of focus:
- Great content: Your customers are currently searching for information and answers to their problems. To reach them, you should create quality content around the questions and keywords they may be using online. The content should be genuinely useful, engaging and sharable content that triggers conversations that facilitate a closer relationship with your target audience.
- Strong brand: Tourism marketing and branding are both closely tied to online presence. If you are a well-established business or destination with solid, consistent branding then online success will easily follow. But if you’re a start-up, you have to first work on branding by identifying your customer segments and personas and building your own distinct online identity.
- Mobile: Think 100% mobile from now on. More users are searching on mobile devices than on desktops. Search engines, including Google and Bing, reward websites that are responsive while penalising those that are not. Make sure your website is responsive and follows Google’s 25 site design principles. The web portal should ensure that your users always have the best browsing experience.
Once you get your business branding and web design in order, it’s time to implement the five small business marketing tactics that will take your online presence to the next level without spending any money.
5 Step Tourism Marketing System
1. Claim your business on Google My Business
Google is usually the starting point for most web users when searching for products online. If you want these users to find you, you need to help Google to locate you by claiming your free listing on Google My Business page. After creating your Google My Business page and Google+ page for your business, go ahead and post lots of useful content that includes words, videos and images.
Don't stop just once. You will be looked upon favourably by Google if you have a continued stream of updates, images and videos. Preferably everyday.
You should also get as many user reviews on Google as you can. When you get 5 reviews, your yellow stars will start to display - your visibility will increase.
2. Content Marketing
Today’s customers are more information-focused than ever. They are looking for valuable information and genuinely useful content. That is where content marketing comes into it.
Not only that, you need content, and lots of it for the search engines to find and figure you out through their machine learning algorithms. Without content, it is impossible for the search engines to get to know and trust you.
So to achieve real success, you need to create compelling, useful content on a continual basis. Writing only a few articles and posting them on your Facebook page is not enough. You have to constantly churn out fresh, superb content that is up to date.
The content should not overtly advertise your business, but it can revolve around any topic in the field you serve. Try to educate to sell and solve consumer problems and answer questions, rather than just selling.
It can also be extremely advantageous to deliver that useful information in a variety of formats, since it will increase its appeal to your audiences and become more shareable. So make sure your content includes images, videos, infographics, pdfs, whitepapers and others – which are relevant and relate to your written content.
Use your blog and interlinked social media profiles to distribute your content.
When it comes to blogging and content creation, always keep in mind that the more often you publish, the better it is for your online presence. So establish a solid blog and constantly post fresh, interesting and valuable content. Be prolific!
Quality content should be a priority over quantity. Poor content that is not useful or does not engage with your customer personas can damage your business trust and brand.
And remember to keep your blog posts scannable, with breakouts, lists, bullets, images and bold. Also, use keywords and naturally and include both internal links (linking to pages within your site) and external links (linking to other sites); as they still matter even in today’s semantic search world.
3. Make Use of Visuals in your marketing
Visuals are king right now. Mike Blumenthal tells us that Google really, really wants our images, particularly in your Google My Business profiles. This is super powerful for the travel and tourism industry.
And did you know that the search engine algorithms can actually read what is in your images? So ensure that any images you use, relate directly to your content. Your images help provide context to the words for the search engines.
Video is rising rapidly. 96% of consumers find video useful when they are buying online.
Youtube is where it all happens for video. And here is something else you ought to know - Google owns Youtube. And as I preach: if you love Google, Google loves you back. Here are a few tips to optimise your YouTube videos:
- Prioritise YouTube and upload all your videos onto this search engine. YouTube videos feature high in SERPs for relevant keywords and comments often appear as individual posts on Google+. These will be very helpful in enhancing your online presence.
- When creating the title, be as descriptive as you can and try to use keywords
- Tag as many videos as you can, but ensure they are relevant to and fit with your brand and target audience
- Video descriptions are searchable content and you should, therefore, provide detailed descriptions
- Include the name, address and phone number of your business or destination in the description in the same format as it appears on your "Google My Business listing
- Include your website URL in description.
4. Use Social Media to Distribute Content and Engage With Potential Customers
Social media are a powerful tool that can greatly boost your online presence. But you have to do social media right to reap the maximum benefits and achieve a robust online presence. Your content must be engaging, of interest and genuinely useful to your customers.
I like to view social media as a distributor of your amazingly useful content.
The more engaged your followers are, the more they share, like and comment on your content, the more inbound links to your site it generates and this adds greatly to your SEO 'juice'
Engagement helps your trust, reputation and authority. Shareability and the fact that your followers click on your links indicates to the search engines that you distribute content that is relevant and interesting to your target market.
Always remember, it is more important to have 100 truly interested and engaged followers than 1000 followers who do not engage with or share your content.
Two Way Relationship
Successful social media marketing is about creating and/or joining online conversations which keep your audience (followers) involved and engaged.
Always encourage your customers to leave reviews on Google My Business and other platforms and try to actively respond to all of them in a helpful, informative and positive tone. Great responses to negative comments can sometimes be your best friend.
Your job is to provide meaningful, useful and high-quality content that is fresh and updated on a regular basis. Try as much as you can to interact with those who see your content. Always respond to comments.
When creating content, always be true to your brand personality. Find your voice (as part of your unique online identity) and let people see and recognise it whenever they come across your content online. Your authentic voice and personality are a part of your brand and will define your online presence.
5. Mobile Marketing
Mobile is the future of the Internet. The majority of internet users and travellers now access the web using a mobile device, and if you don’t have a mobile friendly site these potential customers will become easily frustrated with your brand, and most likely abandon you for a competitor.
You can check your own site with the Google’s Mobile-Friendly Tester tool to determine whether or not your site is mobile friendly. Just plug your URL into the tester tool to find out if you’re responsive.
It will let you know if you are or you are not mobile friendly. And if not, it will tell you what you need to do to make it mobile friendly.
Aside from cross-device compatibility, make sure your website is speedy and easy to navigate. Content should be easy for search engines to parse and for users to scan. Include prominent calls to action, easy-to-fill forms, and anything else that enhances navigation.
So just to recap, there are 5 actions that you need to focus on this year to optimise your online and digital presence:
- Google My Business
- Social media
Good luck! And please let me know how you go.
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.