You’ve purchased your domain name. You’ve built your website. And while you’re not one to blow your own clarinet, you have to admit…things are looking pretty good.
Except… it’s a little like opening night for the movie Cats (not to be confused with the Broadway musical). After much anticipation, the box office opens, but no one shows up to buy popcorn and take a seat. Super frustrating.
There are only three ways to lure people to your site.
- Use paid advertising to entice them to visit.
- Use free methods like social media and handing out business cards in the checkout line.
- And finally, use SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to pull people to your site.
This article will focus on the last method – how to use Search Engine Optimization on your travel website to attract people to your site. And because there is so much to learn about SEO, I’ve decided to chop it up into bite-size, consumable chunks. Let’s get started with:
Keywords, Keywords, Keywords
At the heart of all SEO strategies is a thing called Keywords. What are they?
Keywords can be plural or singular – duh…I guess that makes sense, but in the world of SEO…you’ll also hear the term “long-tail keyword,” and while you might have visions of words where the font is so wild, the serif has crawled across the page like this:
Not arguing…super fancy, but that’s not what we are talking about here. A long-tail keyword is actually a string of words…Okay, let’s just call it a phrase…that people type in to begin their search. That phrase is still referred to as a keyword.
“Travel agent specializing in foodie tours of Bangkok”
Is an example of a long-tail keyword even though it’s technically a phrase according to any grammarian.
And why is it important to denote the differences? Well, because if you think of all the words that could be associated with travel. And then you think about how many big travel companies we are competing against, you’ll understand that the only way little guys like us have a chance with SEO is to dominate with long-tail keywords. That is where the magic happens.
Keyword ranking is another critical piece of the puzzle to understand. Keyword ranking is all about where you show up on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Are you on page 1 or 101? And really, landing anywhere beyond page three, you might as well forget about it. Even page three would be a stretch.
So the very first step in any good SEO strategy is to do some Keyword research. It is the most crucial step. Getting this wrong can cost you hours…if not days and days of wasteful time with no benefit – Sort of giving the exact results you might have received after binging on all six seasons of Jersey Shore back in 2012. I see you.
There are three things you’ll want to keep in mind as you begin your journey down the Keyword hunt, and they are:
Are there enough people searching for a term that it’s worthwhile targeting, i.e. “travel agent for sight-impaired photographers” might only get three searches per month. If that’s who you target, you’ll have to ask ourselves are three leads per month really worth your efforts?
Will the keyword search lead to a conversion into a booking, i.e. people searching for “Cheap travel to Vegas” might net you a lot of eyeballs, but again, aren’t these the type of people you’d rather avoid?
Okay…that’s so not a word (keyword or otherwise), but we have to get real with ourselves. Do we stand a chance against the big guys with massively deep pockets and their teams of minions working tirelessly to improve their rankings for the keyword “luxury travel agent?” It’s great to have aspirations but let’s keep those for online dating sites. A common and expensive mistake is to throw time and money into keywords that will never give you the rankings you hope for.
Nailing your niche
We’ve talked about the importance of defining your travel niche in earlier posts. This is also where it becomes super important to nail down your specialty. Being a generalist won’t leave you with a lot of keyword options.
As a generalist living in McMullen, Alabama, you might get away with using the keyword “travel agent in McMullen, Alabama.” Odds are, you will be the only travel agent in the town of pop. 10. Your chances of ranking on page 1 are, therefore, high. But, well, those other nine people will be related to you, and if you can’t convince them to buy their travel with you, you might as well close up shop now.
For the rest of us, “travel agent in <insert big city name>” may not give us the same results. Therefore, being a travel agent with a specialty will give you a better shot at finding effective keywords that will draw in an audience.
Helpful Keyword Research Tools
Google Keyword Planner
This free and helpful tool will help you get on your way. Here is a useful tutorial to get you started with Google’s Keyword Planner.
You’ll want to come up with a list of keywords you “think” might work for you. Just do a brainstorming session. One of the common mistakes people often make with this exercise is that they are so close to their business that they don’t think like someone outside of the industry. Try asking a few friends how they might search Google if they were looking for a travel advisor to help them book their travel.
Example: while you might cringe at the outdated term “travel agent,” don’t be offended if you find that is the term that most often gets searched. The words “advisor, consultant, specialist and planner” are all relatively new to the industry and haven’t gone mainstream yet.
This is a perfect example of….” Who cares WHAT they call you? Just that they call you 😉”
I’d also highly recommend starting a Google Spreadsheet to note your keyword findings.
You are going to want to note down:
- The keyword
- The average monthly search volume that keyword generates
- How competitive is that keyword – low vs. medium vs. high (any “-” means none)
And if you scroll to the bottom of the found results page, you’ll see Google suggested keyword ideas. Google will tell you exactly what people are searching for using keywords you may not have even considered.
Semrush.com is another super helpful tool and allows you to perform 10 free searches a day. Otherwise, there is a free 7-day trial but beyond that, it gets a little expensive for my cheapskate blood. You can always come back and pay for the full version once you start making money. For now, the free version is enough to get you started.
What SEM Rush offers is a viability analysis of the keywords you’ve chosen.
Step One – Type in your keyword of choice into Google’s search bar
Step Two – See which competitors float to the top using that word
Step Three – Go to SEMrush.com and type in that competitor’s domain name and find that keyword from the found list
Step Four – Note not only the volume of traffic that keyword offers but also the percentage of total traffic your competitor is getting by using that keyword.
It’s a useful exercise because you’ll get a better idea of how much traffic you could gain by focusing on that keyword and beating out your competition.
Keywords Everywhere is a Chrome extension that does cost some money BUT…it’s one of the most affordable keyword research tools available. For $10, you can get 100,000 credits to begin your keyword hunt. Keywords Everywhere’s biggest competitors are SEM Rush, AhREFs and Moz but those start at just under $100 a month. So for that reason, Keywords Everywhere is an affordable option as you learn SEO.
Finally, my favourite, Moz.com. Yes, it’s expensive, but it does offer a free trial for 30 days and the info you can get in those 30 days…well worth it. You’ll need to put in a credit card to access but you can cancel immediately after and still get your free trial.
With this tool, you can upload your CVS file of all the keywords you’ve brainstormed using Google Keyword Planner and Keywords Everywhere and it will spit out a detailed analysis of exactly how each keyword does.
You’ll see the average searches per month that keyword gets. And how easy it is to rank for that keyword. Typically, when you are starting out, you’ll want to look for words that have a score of 30 or less out of 100 in terms of ease of ranking. And you’ll also learn what the CTR or Click Through Rate is per term. Some keywords get a lot of searches but not a high CTR and so you’ll want to factor that into your choice.
Also with Moz, at the time of writing, they also offer a free 4-week SEO training course that can be done if you have the time within your trial period. The whole thing will take just 90 min to go through. But you’ll need to account for the time to implement the strategies. I’ve done it and highly recommend it.
Phew….that was a lot. But, I promise…the time you put in today will be so worth your efforts tomorrow.
And now that you have all of this data, you can start building an SEO strategy that will increase the traffic to your website without you having to spend a ton of money.
Quality over quantity
Once you’ve done your keyword research, choose 10 keywords to focus on. I’m going to assume you don’t have a cast of thousands working for you. 10 Keywords will keep you busy.
Looking to get started?
Start brainstorming ideas and create a Google spreadsheet so you can begin to track the results of each keyword as you go through the tools
In an upcoming blog post, we’ll move onto the next phase. The above research will take a few hours at least but it’s totally worthwhile. Like a day at the gym, you might be tempted to skip it…but don’t.
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