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Online is where more and more people are researching, comparing and booking their vacation options. No matter how incredible the travel experiences you offer are, your business won’t go places if your website isn’t showing up prominently in search results.

Search engine optimization needs to be a part of your marketing strategy if you want to compete with other tour and activity businesses successfully.

While SEO is a complicated and continuously evolving discipline that, for optimal results, requires the expertise of a specialist, you can get a jump-start on improving your online visibility by paying attention to some basic best practices.

Six SEO Tips to Help Your Travel Website Succeed Online

1. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, get a move on to fix that!

Most consumers search for information about vacation destinations using mobile devices. According to research by Google, nearly half of all smartphone users are comfortable researching, booking and planning their entire trips using their mobile devices.

Travel websites that are mobile-ready (i.e., present well on smartphones and tablets, and provide a good user experience) not only stand a better chance of keeping people on their site longer, but also improve their search ranking (on mobile AND desktop devices). If you want to revamp your site to be 100% mobile friendly, get a new site with Tourism Tiger(opens in a new tab). All sites are responsive on mobile and tablet devices.

2. Enhance your inbound link profile.

Inbound links from reputable, high-authority websites will help improve your site’s ranking on Google. Make sure the backlinks you get are from sites that are relevant to your industry. A few examples to consider include review sites (such as TripAdvisor and Yelp), travel directories, tourism bureaus, chambers of commerce, travel publishers and travel directories. Check out Tourism Tiger’s list of 95 Places To List Your Tours(opens in a new tab) to get you started.

3. Kick up your keyword strategy.

Review your current keyword focus to make sure it’s not wholly concentrated on general keywords that have intense competition for ranking.

For instance, say a tour operator in Chicago focuses only on the search term “Chicago tours”. That keyword phrase returns 347 million website results on Google, so ranking on that term will prove quite challenging.

By getting more creative with the keywords and phrases in your website content, you can improve your visibility online because those specific keyword combinations won’t have as much competition.

According to Adam Clark in his book SEO 2017: Learn search engine optimization with smart internet marketing strategies, “Long-tail, informational, and transactional keywords are good keywords for most SEO projects.”

While it’s OK to use general keywords, also incorporate long-tail keywords that are more exact and tailored to the people looking for the specific type of experience you’re offering.

For example, a Chicago tour operator might achieve a more favorable ranking using these keyword phrases:

  • Downtown Chicago riverboat tours
  • Walking tours of downtown Chicago
  • Haunted tours of downtown Chicago
  • Self-guided architectural tours in Chicago

Discovering the keywords that will best serve your SEO purposes starts with keyword research. Some steps for doing that include:

  1. Brainstorm according to what you know about your target customers and the search terms they will likely use.
  2. Use resources like the keyword planner in Google AdWords and SEMrush’s keyword research tool(opens in a new tab).
  3. Use a competitive analysis tool like Moz’s SERP analysis tool to assess how challenging it will be to rank for your desired keyword phrases.

4. Create destination landing pages.

If you offer tours at multiple travel destinations, you can help improve SEO results by having dedicated website pages for the individual locales where you offer tours. This will give you an opportunity to use more target keywords and phrases and build more in-depth content around them. The more value Google believes your website delivers to users, the better search ranking you’ll be able to achieve.

5. Make sure your website’s images are more than just a pretty face.

A website rich with tantalizing photos of quintessential getaways can gain more traffic when the images are optimized for SEO.

Accomplish this by using keywords in your image file names. Instead of using default file names like “DSC2247.jpg,” tell Google what your photos are about by giving them unique and descriptive file names.

Also, use keywords in your images’ alternative text (known, too, as “alt text” and “alt tags”). Alt text describes the contents of an image. Alt text impacts SEO — and the accessibility of your website to visually impaired persons.

You can also potentially help your SEO by trimming the file size of your images. Page speed affects how well websites rank on Google, and if your photo sizes are very large, they will cause your site to load slowly. Unfortunately, people are impatient and, according to a recent survey(opens in a new tab), 40 percent of website visitors will leave a site if it doesn’t load within three seconds.

6. Deliver an exceptional experience to earn positive online reviews.

The Moz 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors survey found that online reviews are among the top 10 factors that influence local search results. However, realize it’s not enough to have a presence on review sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, Facebook, Citysearch and Google My Business — you need to earn favorable reviews to stand out from the competition. Often, reviews will show up higher in Google search results than will your business’s website. And that first impression can mean the difference between someone visiting your site to learn more or moving on to explore other options.

Bon Voyage on Your SEO Journey

My checklist brings some basic SEO practices to the forefront that your tour business should keep in mind, but there is much more to consider if you want to get the very best outcomes from your efforts. If you don’t have the time or expertise in-house to address search engine optimization, reach out to a reputable, experienced SEO firm or consultant for guidance.

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