7 Need to Know Travel SEO Tips for Tour Companies and Tour Providers

Generating targeted organic users from Google is one of the easiest ways (which requires a lot of time and patience!) to drive clients to a business within the travel and tourism industry.

Search traffic plays an extremely important role, and is highly effective when a proper strategy is put into play. In this guide, I’ll breakdown how to achieve success with Travel SEO. Let’s start with some facts and figures:

  • Search is the starting point for 60% of travelers
  • Nearly 39% of traffic to travel websites comes from organic Google search
  • A whopping 50% of travel brands’ revenues comes directly from organic traffic

Large travel companies and tour agencies know and recognize how important search is for targeting the right type of leads through content and in turn generating more revenue for the business.

The travel and tourism industry is very competitive with thousands of businesses forming each and every month, all fighting for space on the first page of Google.

The objective of this post is to really help save you time, and put some thought into your current search marketing efforts when it comes to:

  • Implementing small changes that can help to have a BIG positive impact on your rankings.
  • Recognizing important factors when it comes to SEO in the travel space, and perhaps efforts which you have not yet addresses
  • Finding an agency that is familiar with the travel space that can help recognize weak points in your organic traffic strategy and can help implement fixes to drive targeted traffic to your brand’s website.

Without further ado, let’s jump straight into it the meaty part and bring some helpful learnings you can implement today for some big wins.

1. Understand the state of Google results for travel search queries

The way Google displays search results is constantly changing, with constant changes coming into how user’s experience search – knowledge graph results, featured snippets, google flights, hotel ads and many other things that come into play.

things to do in rome

This search query returned the following result types:

  • 2 paid ads at the top
  • “Top things to do” carousel
  • “People also ask” carousel
  • 3 related query suggestions at the bottom “Cities in Italy”, “Cities in Europe” and “Next Summer Olympics”
  • Somewhere in between all of the above, 8 organic listings mostly from the travel industries’ largest players

Of those 8 organic results, 3 of them are tour provider platforms and aggregator sites, including Trip Advisor, Yelp, and Viator.

That means overall, from everything shown on the first page of the results, roughly 5 of those spots are up for grabs for ranking your business organically for this query.

There’s a ton of competition as well around such terms, so you’re going to need a pretty powerful and authoritative site to even try and rank.

Outside of simply thinking about how to rank your business for very competitive terms such as the one above, you should be thinking outside of the box.

These third-party aggregator sites such as Trip Advisor, Yelp and Viator have their own internal ranking factors setup on how they rank pages to show internally, and these sites generally are going to rank very well for many-travel related queries.

The bigger picture here in a competitive space or for a competitive term is that you need to understand where your website currently is at to understand if it’s truly possible or not to rank in Google’s search for certain travel keywords.

You can easily get listed on these other platforms, and take organic traffic from them to drive users over to your own business.

These pages already rank quite well, and there’s plenty of ways to piggyback off that exposure and drive organic traffic in other means for very competitive terms.

Running paid ads on such sites, in some cases, can also be an extremely effective way to bring that traffic back over to your own business.

With all of this in mind, it’s important to set expectations for later and have a proper content strategy in mind for which keywords you’d like to tackle to start with, that are feasible to rank for.

More competitive terms will require more resources to achieve rankings, and for those, it’s better to think outside of the box to achieve quicker traffic from other more fruitful means.


1a. Google’s Four Travel Micro-Moments

From the second a person decides they want to go on a trip, there’s a ton of research and planning that goes into their decision-making process.

From that first second, users turn to their devices to start researching information about potential locations, such as “where to stay”, “things to do”, “flight prices from”, and many other related search queries.

Depending on your business, you’ll most likely have content that you can market to hit these different user queries, to answer their questions and provide them with advice for the consideration of eventually booking their trip.

It’s extremely important to understand the customer journey when it comes to travel and trip planning from an SEO perspective, and how that matters for your business.

Google breaks this process down into what they call “travel micro-moments”, which are defined as per below:

  1. I-want-to-get-away-moments (dreaming moments) – exploring options for different destinations with no exact plans just yet.
  2. Time-to-make-a-plan moments (planning moments) – the destination has been selected and now is the time to start finding the right dates, flights, accommodation and things to do on the ground.
  3. Lets-book-it moments (booking moments) – Now it’s time to pay for the tickets, airfare, accommodation, and trips.
  4. Cant-wait-to-explore moments (experiencing moments) – The trip is now underway, and travelers are ready to experience everything they’ve planned so hard for.

Google has stated that 72% of travelers using their mobile device during the research phase have taken all relevant information they could find, regardless of which travel company was providing that information. There’s no true brand loyalty during this phase.

That is why it is key to build a strategy around these micro-moments, and understand how you can best get in front of your potential customers during each and every touchpoint. To do these, you need to keep these key considerations in mind:

  • Be visible in Google when users are searching for relevant searches that can be helpful or necessary for their trip.
  • How can we help provide useful information throughout the micro-moments that best match up with your businesses services?

2. Select your keywords based on search intent

When you are building out your content, you need to understand how the actual intent behind that keyword is going to affect both what Google is going to show in search, and also, what your potential page should look like for this specific keyword.

Keyword intent is best illustrated by using a funnel, which shows three distinct areas behind a keyword’s actual intent:

  • Attention (Top funnel keywords)
    • Intent: Searching for information related to travel
    • Example: places to visit in London, things to do in Cartagena
  • Discovery (Middle funnel keywords)
    • Intent: Searching for information on your services
    • Example: London tour operator reviews, tours around Cartagena cost
  • Purchase (Bottom funnel keywords)
    • Intent: Searching for your services
    • Example: tour operators near me, private tours in London

Each of these parts of the funnel represents different intent, and our goal here is to rank for those purchase keywords. At the same point, we want to touch those users at each and every point of the funnel and be visible in search results throughout that process.

With this strategy, we can 3x the overall organic exposure from search and drive much more traffic to your business.

Keeping all of this in mind, it’s important to understand how mapping keywords to intent actually works. It’s not only about the potential volume and difficulty of ranking for that keyword, but what is the actual intent behind it from a user’s perspective.

As mentioned earlier, it’s not only important to keep in mind the user’s intent, but also Google’s intent when showing results.

2a. Understanding What Google Wants to Display

When you look at search results for a specific query, you’re going to want to notice what is ranking well for a particular term.

Not only should you look at the possibility to rank for a specific query from tools like Ahrefs, SEMRush, etc. but you also should understand what actual content Google is showing.

This is simple – simply open up Google and search for the keyword or phrase you’d like to rank for – what does Google show in the results?

If you search for “best restaurant in New York City” and all of the results return similar content, such as “Top 50 Restaurants”, “Best Top 100 Restaurants” etc. in blog-style format, you’re going to know what type of content you need to create in order to rank.

If you build a single service page trying to rank for this term, you’re not going to have a chance to rank, even with a very powerful domain.

Google will tell you exactly what they want to show for a query, based on the results, and this should always be taken into consideration.

You should also keep in mind the concept of “modifiers” that show for such queries. Even if you search “restaurants in New York City”, you’ll notice the majority of the search results include the term “best”.

This is how users are searching, so you’re going to want to take a look at getting ideas for which modifier you should use both in the content itself (to rank for additional searches) and also which would be best to pair with the main keyword in the title, meta, h1, and other on-page elements.


3. Optimize for Local SEO

Local SEO is highly relevant for businesses in the travel and tourism industry and can provide a HUGE influx of targeted organic search traffic if done properly.

In order to rank in Google Local results, you’ll first need a location set up for your business. This is the most basic starting point, but if you provide multiple services and in multiple locations, there’s definitely a certain structure you should follow.

3a. Deciding on the right structure

There’s a lot of different ways you can configure both your website and the setup of your Google My Business profiles, depending on how many locations your business operates in, as well as how many specific services you offer.

Enterprise travel companies will have a much different structure versus a smaller 10 person travel agency serving clients in only one single location.

For the point of this point, assuming you’re operating multiple locations, you’re going to want to set up your own Google My Business profile in each location, with the relevant name, address, and phone number on the location.

Additionally, you’ll want to have individual landing pages set up for each of these locations, which includes hyper-local information on that specific city. A few other areas you’ll want to touch on for that landing page include:

  • Name, address and phone number of the business
  • Reviews collected from the GMB profile for this location
  • Google Map embed of the location
  • Relevant tours, trips and other services for this location
  • Images and videos from this specific location

3b. Verify Your Google My Business

To be eligible for your business to show in Google Local results, you’re going to want to create a profile and verify your business at https://www.google.com/business/

You’ll receive a code to the provided address by mail within 5 business days, and all you’ll need to do is type that into your Google My Business account to get your profile active.

3c. Optimize Your GMB Profile

Once your account is created, you’re going to want to optimize your profile for best results.

Description

First, you’re going to want to enter a detailed description of your business, including hyper-local information about both the location you serve and the services you offer.

Reviews

Google My Business reviews help your business to rank locally, and they also pull through stars into the search results themselves.

You’re going to want to start out by asking your past clients for reviews, which can be easily done thanks to the ability to easily share your Google My Business profile link via an email blast.

You should aim to have at the minimum 15-20 (5 star) reviews on each of your Google My Business profiles. This will help you stand out from the competition, driving more clicks.

There are plenty of third-party companies out there that provide excellent services to help you manage this process, including GatherUp.

Categories

The primary category you select in Google My Business will be a key determining factor in who finds your listing. You’re going to want to select a primary category such as “Tour Operator” or “Travel Agency” as your main category, depending on your services.

Additionally, you’ll want to go and define all other relevant secondary categories that also relate to your business.

A Quick Case Study

Nothing would speak to these points without showing some results, right?

With the optimization points above in mind, Sourced Adventures implemented these changes upon our advice to their Google Local profiles and saw MASSIVE returns in both visibility and traffic.

Take a look at just one of their Google My Business profiles which saw a huge traffic spike in just a week:

The above lift in visibility and traffic only was a result of profile optimization, collecting reviews, and ensuring the correct primary and secondary categories were selected.

Google My Business profile optimization can go along way, and it’s crucial to ensure you set things upright to see the best results when it comes to driving traffic from Local SEO.

Whether you’re just setting up your Google My Business profile, or you’re looking to take a deeper dive into optimizing your account, check out our expert guide on how to rank higher on Google Maps.

3d. Local Citations

Local citations are directory listings where you add your business profile to websites like Facebook, Better Business Bureau, Yelp, etc.

These citations are highly valuable to local SEO as they act as a directory that builds authority to your physical location, adding authority in the eyes of Google.

There are hundreds if not thousands of different directories where you can list your business, and it can be quite a tedious process. Depending on how competitive the local results are, you’ll need more citations to perform better in the rankings.


4. Create Content That Drives New Users

Content is the main source of life for driving new traffic to your business, period.

You’re going to need content that hits all areas of the funnel we talked about earlier, and you need to create content in a strategic manner that will help drive users to find your brand.

There’s no way around it, great content picks up shares, it picks up traffic and it helps to convert users into paying customers.

Especially in the travel space, content is going to be at the core of how you drive users to find your business and get them interested in your service offering.

You’re going to want to take another look at your keywords you’re looking to target that we’ve assigned to intent, and start there. Generally, that structure is going to look as follows:

  • Use keywords with Purchase Intent on your service pages
  • Use keywords with Attention and Discovery on your blog and resource pages

When you create content, you have to keep in mind you want to be creating the best content out there on the web. There’s no way around it, great content takes time and resources to create.

In return, you’ll drive more traffic and paying customers to your business. Your on-page content must include the focus keyword in the following areas:

  • URL
  • Title
  • <h1>
  • 1 image title
  • 1 image alt tag
  • 2-3 times throughout the content itself

For blog content, you’re going to want to be pumping out a good amount of words and go deep on the subject.

The average word count of a Google first page result is 1,890 words.

Longer content performs better in Google, and that’s a fact.


5. Understand Travel Seasonality and SEO

Search engine seasonality, and seasonality in general, plays a large role in the effect on traffic and revenue for many businesses and is an especially important consideration in the travel and tourism industry.

A good starting point for determining seasonality in your SEO efforts is to look at Google Analytics data Look at analytics year-over-year for the last few years. Here you can begin to gain an understanding of when traffic usually tends to show seasonal spikes

Furthermore from here, you’re going to want to dive deeper into which specific pages and keywords drive traffic during certain times of the year.

Google Search Console is an excellent option for this, as you can see both impressions, positions, and clicks for both specific pages and keywords all in one area.

Once you understand the lows and peaks of your targeted terms, you can begin to anticipate spikes, and you’ll then know when to launch promotional content in the form of posts, landing pages, and other content-related efforts.

Seasonality in the travel industry is a crucial aspect to understand, and you’ll want to properly plan your time and resources towards efforts that will be the most fruitful for the upcoming months.


Getting other (high-quality) websites to link to your website is still the number one ranking factor when it comes to performing well in Google’s search results.

Building links is a very resource-heavy, tedious process and requires spending to achieve results. You can’t rank for competitive keywords in most cases, without having authority behind your domain name.

And this comes from building links, using some of the following tactics:

  • Creating great content that gets linked to as a resource
  • Outreach to target websites for guest posts
  • Buying sponsored posts from authoritative websites

There are tons of different methods for picking up backlinks, and although it’s a very grueling process sometimes, it’s worth its weight in gold to do it right.

The easiest tactic to start out with when it comes to backlinking would be to reach out to other relevant websites within the travel industry, offering a guest post for the promotion of your website in the content.

Everyone loves free content, especially when written by an industry expert like yourself.

This will still require some effort, as you’ll need to have a proper outreach process in place, including the actual process of finding potential sites that might be willing to link back to your domain.


7. Track Results & Scale Accordingly

Driving organic traffic comes at the cost of both time, and money. For that reason, we need to be able to demonstrate a positive ROI from SEO campaigns.

In order to track ROI, we should be able to monitor and report on the following KPIs:

  • Total organic traffic
  • Visibility in search & keyword tracking
  • Organic traffic to “key” pages
  • Leads generated from organic search

It takes time for any SEO campaign to kick-in, and you generally shouldn’t expect to start seeing results until after the first 6 months.

Total Organic Traffic

Google Analytics is the starting point for understanding how you’re doing when it comes to driving organic visitors.

Open Google Analytics and navigate to Audience > Overview and make sure you add a filter to show only Organic Trafic.

You can filter from here to compare date ranges versus the previous period, year or custom defined dates to see the uptick and change in organic traffic over a period of time.

Google Analytics

Visibility in Search & Keyword Rankings

SERP visibility is important because it will tell you how many of your target keywords your website is indexed for.

Visibility in search is a key indicator if your actual content is ranking and what positions its ranking in.

For this, you’ll need a tool search as Ahrefs to monitor and track progress over time.

Travel SEO Ahrefs

Organic traffic to “key” pages

Driving more organic traffic is good, but not if its for relevant keywords. We want to ensure we’re driving traffic to the right pages, which are our “key” pages. In the travel industry, these would be for example specific tour pages, tour category pages, and even blog posts.

Open Google Analytics and navigate to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages and make sure you add a filter to show only Organic Trafic.

Landing pages are the key content on your site, aka your “key” pages you want to target and where you want to drive organic visitors.

Leads generated from organic search

The most important factor of SEO is that we want to understand how these efforts are impacting the bottom line.

Using Google Analytics, we can track eCommerce conversions for users signing up for tours, trips, and other services your travel business offers.

Open Google Analytics and navigate to Conversions > Goals > Overviews and make sure you add a filter to show only Organic Trafic.

Using this, we can also track form conversions, email sign-ups, and even phone calls, which are all important to understand what impact has been made from SEO.


Travel SEO is competitive and is only becoming more challenging every day with changes in Google’s displaying of results, algorithm and the increase of competition.

If you want results, it’s going to take time, commitment, and doing things the right way.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach me here.

Ready to drive more search traffic? 🚀

Find out how we can help drive targeted search traffic to your business.




5 comments

Brian February 20, 2020

Thanks for taking the time to put this together. It is very informative post. Keep posting content like this!

    Justin Berg February 20, 2020

    You're welcome, Brian!

Chris G February 21, 2020

Fully agree with this on the right way to do SEO for tour providers. Would be interesting if you'd also cover a bit more in depth site structure setup and link building strategies as well. Thanks

    Justin Berg February 21, 2020

    Good point, Chris! I'll be adding more content in the near future.

Mark February 21, 2020

I think what's important to consider when it comes to SEO in the tourism industry as an agency, is that seasonality plays a bit impact on the numbers. This can be difficult when setting session/user goals with clients, as you really need to first analyze previous traffic and set expectations up front. A lot of businesses encounter seasonality, but it's definitely something you have to think about when talking about marketing in the travel industry. Definitely something worth thinking about as an agency owner.




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