A website with no visitors is about as useful to you as a car with no engine - it’s not getting you where you want to go. Traffic to your website can come from many sources, but the holy grail among them is SEO.
SEO (search engine optimization) holds the promise of low-cost, targeted web traffic. The investment you make in SEO today can pay off for years to come. And it reaches people who are actively looking for what you offer, meaning they are more likely to buy.
What many people don’t realize about SEO, however, is that it isn’t a one-time activity. It’s a discipline that should be an ongoing part of your overall marketing strategy. Here are some tips for how to optimize your travel website for search.
SEO your URLs
Let’s start at the very top of your web browser.
Each page of your website has its own web address, or URL. The first part of the URL is your domain e.g. www.yourtravelcompany.com. If someone types that into their web browser, they’ll land on your home page. Every other page on your website will have an extension (called a “slug”) after the domain, e.g. www.yourcompanyname.com/this-is-the-slug. You can and should optimize the slug every time you create a new webpage.
Make the slug descriptive of what that page is about. Keep it relatively short, particularly if it’s a landing page that you want people to visit directly. And make sure the slug contains at least one keyword.
An example of an optimized URL for the honeymoon suite at your hotel might be:
SEO your headlines
Headings and subheadings not only make your content easier to read, it’s an important part of SEO.
You’ve probably seen Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, etc. in the formatting options of your website builder. The heading styles are usually preprogrammed to make your text look a certain way (bigger for Heading 1, smaller for Heading 2, maybe a different color for Heading 3). But this is more than just a design feature. The headings help organize your text so both readers and Google have an easier time understanding what the content is about.
Use the Heading 1 (also called an H1 tag) to provide a title or quick summary of the page. For blog posts, this is usually the blog title. In our honeymoon suite example, the H1 tag might simply read simply “Honeymoon Suite” or something like “Surprise your partner with a romantic stay in our deluxe honeymoon suite.”
Beneath the main heading you can use subheadings (H2 and H3 tags) to further break down your content. These subheadings may include keywords, but they don’t have to. In our honeymoon suite example, the H2 tags might read: “honeymoon suite amenities,” “in-room services” and “nearby attractions.”
SEO your images
Images are an important, yet often overlooked, part of SEO. Not only do images influence your overall searchability, they can score you bonus traffic from Google’s image search.
The most important thing to know about images is that you want the file sizes to be as small as possible. The larger the file size the longer it will take to load which will hurt your SEO rankings. So use lower resolution photos and file formats that are optimized for the web.
Next, give your image a title that includes a keyword related to the page. For example if it’s a picture of the sitting room inside your honeymoon suite, name it “honeymoon suite sitting room.” You might also consider giving it a caption (I’ve read conflicting information on whether or not captions directly influence SEO, but they don’t hurt).
Finally, don’t leave the “alternative text” a.k.a. “image alt” field blank. This field serves two practical purposes: 1) the text entered here will be visible if your image fails to load, and 2) it can be read by screen readers that aid the visually impaired. The image alt should provide a simple, yet complete description of what’s in the photo such as “The sitting room in our honeymoon suite includes a dinette, plush loveseat, and matching ottoman.”
SEO your content
Contrary to what you may have heard, optimizing your content isn’t about repeating your keyword X number of times or making sure your blog post is so many words long. When it comes to content, what Google cares about is “will this answer the searcher’s question?” So that is what you optimize for.
When creating product or service descriptions, make sure to answer all the questions someone might have about that item. Include the product name, description, specifications, and price. Use headings and subheadings to organize the text. You might even consider including a quick FAQ (frequently asked question) about the item.
For blog posts, consider starting with the question, then writing your post specifically to answer that question. AnswerThePublic.com is a great resource for identifying questions your audience is asking. Choose one, or several, then take a look at the existing search results. See if you can write a more complete or unique answer compared to what’s already out there.
Link it all together
Links are one of the most important factors in SEO. Links are how Google finds and indexes new pages on your site. They also demonstrate which pages on your site are most important (i.e. your home page is the most-linked page on your website making it your most important page).
Furthermore, links are how customers navigate your site and you want it to be as easy as possible for them to find what they are looking for. Make sure your site navigation is clearly labeled and uncluttered.
In addition to your main navigation, be sure to link related content together. For example, have a category page (e.g. tours) that links out to all your content on that topic (e.g. city tours, walking tours, nature tours, etc). You can also include a “you might also like” list of related products or posts on any given webpage.
Another way to link related content together is to hyperlink text within your content to another page that provides further information. For example, if you have a blog post that mentions your honeymoon suite, hyperlink that to the booking page for that room.
Make it mobile friendly
The share of web traffic that takes place on mobile devices has been growing steadily over the years. There’s a good chance that more of your website visitors will be on their phone than on a desktop. That’s why your website must be mobile friendly.
In fact, a few years ago Google instituted what’s called “mobile first indexing” meaning your mobile site is considered the primary version of your website - the one they look at first. So if you don’t have a mobile-friendly site, it could really hurt your SEO.
If your site was built to be responsive (automatically rearranging itself to fit the screen size) most likely you’re good to go. But don’t forget to check what your site looks like and how well it works on your phone as well as your desktop.