A young woman on a laptop daydreaming about travelling abroad

From dreaming to booking: Mastering SEO across the traveller’s journey

A well-crafted SEO strategy can make or break a brand’s success in the competitive tourism landscape. With data indicating that 69% of tourism sales occurred online in 2023, it’s clear that a robust online presence is paramount. That’s why mastering SEO tailored to cultural nuances is not just an option, but a necessity for tourism marketers.


Crafting a comprehensive travel SEO strategy

For effective SEO in the tourism industry, brands must align their strategies with the various stages of the holiday booking process. It’s not just about securing bookings but also about nurturing long-term customer loyalty. Let’s look at each stage of a typical traveller’s journey and explore how SEO tactics can be strategically applied:

1. Dreaming moments: This marks the start of the buyer’s journey, where travellers are in the exploration phase, seeking inspiration for their next adventure. Broad keywords such as ‘best summer holidays’ or ‘top winter destinations’ can enhance brand visibility and capture the attention of potential customers.

2. Planning moments: As travellers narrow down their destination options, they delve into specifics like prices, reviews, and logistics. Optimising content for local search queries, such as ‘best restaurants in San Francisco’ or ‘things to do in San Francisco in December,’ helps build trust and guides potential customers towards conversion.

3. Booking moments: This is the pivotal stage where the buyer commits and makes the booking. Successful lead conversion is the primary goal at this stage.

4. Experience moments: Even after the booking is made, SEO efforts shouldn’t cease. Providing value-added content, such as recommendations for nearby restaurants and attractions, can deepen the relationship with travellers and foster long-term loyalty.

5. Advocacy moments: Encouraging satisfied customers to share their positive experiences through reviews, social media posts, and user-generated content can amplify brand visibility and credibility. Leveraging SEO to optimise for related keywords and hashtags enhances the reach of advocacy efforts, strengthening brand reputation and attracting new potential customers.


Why tourism SEO is unique

Compared to other industries, travel SEO presents unique challenges and opportunities:

1. The impact of seasonality: Understanding seasonality within travel is crucial for informed decision-making. Brands must capitalise on seasonal trends by creating timely, indexed content to reach new customers during key periods. Bear in mind that different cities, countries, and most obviously hemispheres, have different seasonal peaks.

2. The emphasis on location-based keywords: Travellers often search for specific destinations or attractions, so it’s essential to optimise website content with relevant location-based keywords. For example, a resort in Bali would want to rank highly for keywords like ‘beach resorts in Bali’ or ‘luxury accommodation in Ubud’. This requires thorough keyword research and strategic implementation to ensure the website appears in search results when potential tourists are seeking information about these particular locations.

3. The ever-evolving market: The travel industry is characterised by uncertainty, exacerbated by factors such as recessions, shifting consumer trends, and shocks such as pandemics, terrorism, or extreme weather events. Remaining agile and adapting to emerging trends, such as the rise of eco-conscious travel, is essential for staying relevant and attracting new customers.

4. The impact of reviews: In an era of thorough research, online reviews play a significant role in influencing consumer decisions. Verified reviews not only aid in search engine ranking but also contribute to converting users once they land on your site.


Strategic considerations for tourism SEO success

Key elements within tourism SEO to consider include:

  • Multilingual SEO: In the global tourism market, speaking the language of your target audience is essential. Optimising content for multiple languages not only expands reach but also enhances engagement with international travellers. Implementing multilingual SEO strategies involves meticulous keyword research and cultural sensitivity.
  • Cultural SEO and localisation: Cultural SEO entails more than just translation; it involves understanding and incorporating cultural nuances and linguistic preferences into content creation. By tailoring content to resonate with local cultures, destinations, and customs, tourism businesses can forge deeper connections with diverse audiences worldwide. Using Local In-Market Experts can help you understand local markets in detail.
  • Seasonality: Recognising and taking advantage of seasonal trends is pivotal in the tourism sector. By creating timely, indexed content that matches travellers’ seasonal preferences and decision-making journeys, businesses can capitalise on peak travel periods and tailor offerings to meet fluctuating demand throughout the year.
  • Adapting to local search algorithms: Search engine algorithms are constantly evolving, particularly when it comes to local search. Staying updated on algorithm changes and understanding how they impact search visibility is crucial for success in international markets. Implementing effective local SEO tactics ensures that tourism businesses remain visible and competitive in diverse locales.
  • Google Business Profiles: Claiming and optimising Google Business Profiles (formerly known as Google My Business listings), and encouraging positive reviews, are foundational steps in enhancing local search visibility and attracting nearby travellers.
  • Site speed optimisation: Prioritising site speed optimisation is imperative for delivering a seamless user experience, especially for travellers accessing content on mobile devices. Faster loading times not only improve user satisfaction but also positively impact search rankings. Compressing images and ensuring efficient code are ways to improve site speed.
  • Backlink building: Cultivating a diverse portfolio of high-quality backlinks from authoritative sources enhances a tourism website’s credibility and authority in the eyes of search engines, thereby boosting its organic search performance.
  • Compelling content: Engaging and informative content that showcases destinations, experiences, and travel tips not only attracts visitors but also encourages social sharing and organic link acquisition. Compelling storytelling can evoke wanderlust and inspire travellers to explore new destinations.
  • Mobile responsiveness: With an increasing number of travellers using smartphones and tablets to research and book trips, ensuring mobile-friendly navigation is essential. Responsive design guarantees that website content is easily accessible and visually appealing across various devices, catering to the needs of on-the-go travellers.
  • Keyword optimisation: Thorough keyword research and strategic placement of relevant keywords throughout website content, meta tags, and URLs improve search engine recognition and increase the likelihood of ranking prominently in search results.
  • Video enhancement: Video is especially important in travel marketing, since it brings destinations and attractions to life. Video optimisation involves fine-tuning video titles and descriptions, strategically incorporating relevant keywords, and using transcripts to enhance accessibility and SEO.
  • Reviews management: Promoting user-generated content, such as reviews and testimonials, enhances SEO by providing authentic insights into the traveller experience. Encouraging satisfied customers to share their feedback online can boost credibility and influence potential visitors’ decision-making.
  • Continuous measurement and iteration: Travel SEO requires ongoing monitoring, analysis, and adaptation to remain effective in an ever-changing landscape. Regularly evaluating performance metrics, tracking algorithm updates, and refining strategies based on evolving cultural dynamics and consumer preferences are essential for sustained success.


Common tourism SEO mistakes to avoid

Successful travel SEO is not just about identifying the biggest opportunities – it’s also about avoiding costly mistakes. These include:

  • Neglecting SEO altogether: Disregarding SEO deprives tourism businesses of a critical tool for enhancing online visibility and achieving success in the digital realm. Failing to invest time and resources into SEO practices limits the ability to compete effectively in search engine rankings, resulting in missed opportunities to attract potential travellers and drive bookings.
  • Lack of regular analysis and adaptation: Within the digital landscape, standing still is detrimental. Failing to conduct regular analysis and adapt SEO strategies in response to changing algorithms, consumer behaviour, and industry trends can lead to diminishing online visibility and decreased competitiveness. Without ongoing evaluation and adjustment, tourism businesses risk falling behind competitors who are more agile and proactive.
  • Ignoring local SEO opportunities: Neglecting local SEO can hinder tourism businesses targeting specific regions. Failing to optimise for local search queries, claim Google Business Profiles, and solicit positive reviews can reduce visibility in local search results. Incorporate local keywords throughout your homepage, landing pages, meta descriptions, and meta tags to maximise results for local searches.
  • Overlooking mobile optimisation: With a high volume of travel research taking place on smartphones, overlooking mobile optimisation can be a costly mistake for tourism businesses. Failing to ensure that websites are mobile-friendly and offer a seamless user experience across various devices can lead to high bounce rates, decreased engagement, and lower search rankings.
  • Neglecting content quality and relevance: Content is king in the world of SEO. Thin, duplicate, or poorly written content not only fails to engage audiences but also risks being penalised by search engines. Investing in high-quality, informative, and engaging content that addresses the needs and interests of target audiences is crucial for building credibility, attracting organic traffic, and improving search rankings.
  • Focusing solely on keywords: While keywords are crucial for SEO, solely focusing on keyword optimisation can backfire. Keyword stuffing, over-optimisation, and ignoring user intent can lead to a negative user experience and decreased search rankings. Effective SEO requires a balance between keyword optimisation and delivering valuable, user-centred content that meets search intent and covers relevant topics thoroughly – bearing in mind that audience intent may differ by market.
  • Failing to tailor strategies to each market: Using a one-size-fits-all approach to SEO across different markets can be ineffective. Neglecting to customise strategies for each market can lead to missed opportunities. Working with Local In-Market Experts helps to develop tailored strategies that resonate with local audiences, increasing visibility and bookings.

Emerging trends in travel SEO

Aside from sustainability concerns and the rise of eco travel, notable trends within tourism and travel in 2024 include:

  • Alternative travel destinations and the rise of ‘dupes’: In response to overtourism and growing environmental concerns, travellers are seeking out so-called ‘dupes’ – that is, cost-effective alternatives to popular destinations. These hidden gems offer unique experiences and cultural immersion without the crowds, providing an appealing option for conscious travellers looking to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations. From lesser-known cities to remote natural landscapes, ‘dupes’ present new opportunities for tourism businesses to optimise their SEO strategies and capture the interest of adventurous travellers seeking authentic experiences beyond the tourist hotspots.
  • Set-jetting and the influence of media and entertainment: The trend of “set-jetting,” inspired by film and television locations, has become an influence on travel decisions. As travellers seek to recreate memorable scenes from their favourite movies and TV shows, destinations featured prominently in popular media enjoy sustained popularity and increased visitor interest. Tourism businesses can capitalise on this trend by aligning their SEO efforts with relevant film and television content in their target markets, optimising keywords associated with iconic filming locations.
  • The rise of AI in travel companies: Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionising the way travel companies operate and market their services. From personalised recommendations to automated booking processes, AI-powered tools are enhancing efficiency, improving customer experiences, and driving conversion rates. For example, Expedia’s innovative travel planner, which uses advanced AI technology, exemplifies this trend by providing users with tailored travel suggestions, itinerary planning assistance, and real-time support, all while streamlining the booking process and fostering deeper customer engagement. By harnessing the power of AI-driven solutions, travel businesses can optimise their SEO strategies, and deliver more personalised content.
  • Digital nomadism: The rise of remote work since the Covid-19 pandemic has led to an increase in digital nomadism, with individuals opting to work remotely while traveling the world. This trend presents opportunities for travel brands to target digital nomads through SEO tactics tailored to their needs, such as promoting destinations with reliable internet connectivity, co-working spaces, and accommodation options conducive to remote work.


Unlock your travel SEO potential with Oban

Mastering cultural SEO in international tourism and travel marketing requires a nuanced understanding of diverse cultures, languages, and search algorithms. By prioritising cultural sensitivity, localisation, and multilingual SEO, brands can effectively engage with international audiences and expand their global footprint. Oban has extensive experience in helping travel and tourism businesses achieve international growth – to find out more, please get in touch.


FAQs about tourism SEO

What is tourism SEO and why is it important for international travel marketers?

Tourism SEO is the practice of optimising websites and online content to attract more visitors from around the world who are interested in travel and tourism. It’s crucial for international travel marketers because it helps them reach a global audience and increase their visibility in search engine results, ultimately driving more traffic and potential customers to their websites.


How can I optimise my travel website for international audiences?

To optimise your travel website for international audiences, consider implementing multilingual SEO strategies, including localising your content into different languages, using hreflang tags to indicate language and regional targeting, and optimising meta tags and URLs for each target language.


What are some effective SEO strategies for promoting international destinations?

Effective SEO strategies for promoting international destinations include creating high-quality, informative content about the destination, optimising for location-based keywords, using local SEO techniques such as maintaining up-to-date Google Business Profiles for each location, and earning backlinks from reputable international travel websites.


How can I improve the visibility of my travel-related content in search engine results?

To improve the visibility of your travel-related content in search engine results, focus on creating engaging, relevant content that answers the questions and needs of your target audience – which may vary by market. Additionally, optimise your content for relevant keywords, use descriptive meta tags, and incorporate multimedia elements such as images and videos to enhance user experience and attract more clicks.


How long does it take to see results from tourism SEO efforts?

The timeframe for seeing results from tourism SEO efforts can vary depending on various factors such as the competitiveness of the target keywords, content quality, and the effectiveness of the SEO strategies implemented. Generally, it may take up to several months to start seeing notable improvements in search engine rankings and traffic. Consistent effort and ongoing optimisation are key to long-term success in tourism SEO.


What are some common mistakes to avoid in tourism SEO?

Common mistakes to avoid in travel SEO include neglecting mobile optimisation, using outdated SEO techniques, neglecting local SEO strategies, keyword stuffing, and focusing solely on search engine rankings instead of user experience. It’s essential to stay updated on the latest SEO trends and best practices to avoid these pitfalls and maximise the effectiveness of your SEO efforts in the tourism industry.

Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion.
Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.

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