A travel website is no field of dreams—just because you build it, doesn’t mean anyone’s going to come and see it. No, if you want your travel site to be successful, you’re going to have to work for it, which means consistent and strategic self-promotion.
Once you understand your target market, choose one or two promotional methods that resonate with both you and your audience. Take time to learn how to use those platforms and streamline your processes. Only after you’ve mastered those, should you take on new challenges. Because trying to do too much at once will burn you out without delivering results.
Here are 9 different ideas for how to promote your travel website.
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is one of the best promotional strategies for any website because it helps people who are looking for what you offer find you right when they are most interested in buying.
SEO involves setting up your website to be user and search engine friendly. The most important aspect of travel SEO is providing information that your customers will find both relevant and interesting. From there, it’s a matter of formatting your site so that it’s easy to use, understand, and navigate. You might want to check out my SEO Tips For Your Travel Website for help getting started.
Don’t expect instant results from SEO. It can take weeks, months, or even years before your website earns enough credibility and recognition from the search engines to climb up the rankings. But your efforts are cumulative, with work you do today yielding results for years to come.
2. Review Sites
There’s no getting around the influence that review sites have in the travel industry. Being a top-ranked attraction on TripAdvisor can skyrocket your business. Meanwhile, bad reviews can be devastating. That’s why it’s important to manage your review site listings.
If you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to create accounts with the sites your audience is most likely to reference. Make sure your listing includes your company name, a description of what you do, photos, and a link to your website.
If you’ve been around for awhile, it’s possible someone else has created a listing for your business already (so they could leave a review). In this case you’ll want to claim that listing and begin managing it. That means updating any incorrect information, requesting reviews from happy customers, and graciously responding to any negative reviews that may be there.
3. Social Media
Travel is among the most popular topics on social media. People love following accounts that provide them with a little escape from their everyday and inspire their next adventure.
You don’t have to be on every social media platform all at once. Quality is more important than quantity, so it’s better to have one really active and engaged account on, say, Instagram, than to half-ass it on 15 different social sites.
Choose a platform that is popular with your target audience. Use the site regularly so you get to know the culture—what people like to share, how they use hashtags, what is considered proper etiquette, etc. Then, build your following organically by sharing content, following other users, and engaging with other people’s posts.
4. Online Ads
A fast way to boost your reach online is with paid advertising. You can pay for ads just about anywhere on the web: in search engines, on social media, on specific blogs and websites, or in email newsletters.
Online ads get your brand in front of more eyeballs for less money compared to offline ads. You can also get more specific with your ad targeting, and detailed analytics about the ad’s performance. However, there can be an expensive learning curve with online ads. Small business owners often run out of money before figuring out how to get the right ad in front of the right people, so you may want to work on your message organically first, then boost the most successful ones with a paid ad.
YouTube is a great place to promote travel because it’s so visual. You can show potential customers exactly what it will be like when travelling with you.
There are two routes you can go with YouTube. The first is to advertise on channels that are popular with your target audience. You can use Google’s ad platform to buy ads that play during other videos, or you can partner with specific YouTubers to sponsor their channel and get them to talk about your brand.
The second route is to post videos to your own YouTube channel and build a subscriber base of your own. This route will take significantly more time and effort, but the end result will be more enduring with loyal fans willing to advocate for your brand.
Podcasting is still a relatively young and underdeveloped marketing channel. That means it is not—yet—oversaturated with marketing messages and provides an excellent opportunity for you to stand out.
As with YouTube, there are two ways to use podcasting to promote your travel brand. First, by paying to sponsor other podcasts. And second, to start your own podcast.
Starting your own podcast is relatively easy. All you need is a quality microphone, a quiet place to record, and the ability to talk engagingly on a topic of interest to your audience. However, like your website, your podcast will need its own marketing strategy in order to gain listeners.
7. Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a way of leveraging someone else’s popularity to reach your target audience.
When most people hear the word “influencer” it brings to mind social media starlets. But an influencer is really anyone who is known and trusted by your target audience. This might be a celebrity, an activist, an industry leader, a travel advisor, a civic leader, or a neighbor. They may or may not have a large social media following. Don't let the numbers fool you, what matters is the influencer’s ability to reach their audience. True influencers are not just followed, but listened to by the people you want to reach, whether that’s through conferences, newsletters, TV, radio, or any other channel.
Once you’ve identified people who are influential with your target audience, you have several ways you can partner with them. You might pay them directly for their endorsement, invite them on a FAM trip, sponsor a charity they are involved with, or you simply interview them for your blog or YouTube channel.
A webinar is an opportunity to establish yourself as an expert in your field, educate your customers, and build your email list. It’s also another way to work with influencers (by asking them to co-host a webinar with you).
Select your webinar topic based on what you know your target audience would like to know more about. For example, if you host yoga retreats, you might offer a virtual yoga class or a Q&A session with a master yogi.
Next, set up a registration page where people can sign up to join the webinar live. Be sure to collect registrants’ email addresses. This will make it possible to send reminders and market to them after the class.
During the webinar, you can soft-sell your products and services and provide links to your website. But the content of the webinar should focus on providing highly valuable information, not hard sales pitches.
Finally, remember, not everyone will be able to attend the webinar live, so consider offering a recorded playback people can access from your website.
9. Media Relations
Getting mentioned in a news article with a link back to your website is one of the most authoritative ways to promote your site. Not only will it drive direct traffic, but it's great for SEO.
Media relations is about more than sending out press releases. It’s about establishing a relationship with the media wherein you are seen as a trusted expert in your field.
You might start by introducing yourself to a media personality at an event, on LinkedIn, or by regularly interacting with them on social media. Then, you could politely invite them to be a guest on your podcast, webinar, or YouTube channel. Your goal is to establish a friendly relationship with a person, not just push your brand on a publication.