The term “SEO” can make most creative (non-technical) types completely tune out. However, it’s an important skill for your travel business if you are relying on your website or blog to attract new business. Whether you are a 1-person, home-based agent or Expedia.com, the basics of SEO are the same and ANYONE can do this. When you know the basics and apply a little time and effort to it, you can even do it for little or no cost. In this article, I lay out the basics of Search Engine Optimization in an easy format so you can apply it to your business.
Almost 90% of all travelers jump on the internet in preparation for booking their travel. A large percentage of them will NOT book online, but you can be sure they go online to do their research, get ideas and filter out their options. These are the people you want to be in front of with your website because they are looking for guidance and ready to book. And this is where Search Engine Optimization comes into play.
Optimizing your website or blog for keyword phrases is only useful if you know what people are actually typing in to the Google Search bar. Thus, the first step in your Search Engine Optimization is to research what people are actually searching on.
Step 1 – Brainstorm
The best way to do this is to begin with a brainstorm session. Sit down and spend some time just thinking about possible keyword phrases your ideal client might be searching on. Remember, your ideal client is searching for travel that falls within your particular specialty. Write down everything that comes to you in a list. Try to stick with 2, 3 or 4 word phrases. 1 word phrases will be far too broad. Here are some helpful tips that will jump start your brainstorm session:
Travel Destinations (i.e., Cape Town; South Africa; Okavango Delta)
Travel Types (i.e., elephant back safaris, European River Cruises, etc)
Travel Products (i.e., Four Seasons Miami; Fairmont Kea Lani; Singita Boulders)
Step 2 – Assess the Demand
Once you have exhausted all ideas, it’s time to research your list. There is a free tool on the internet called the Google Keyword Tool. You can use this tool to assess the demand for your keyword phrases, and assess the alternatives they give you.
When I say “demand” what I mean is the number of searches per month for that keyword phrase.
To access the free Keyword Tool, go to http://www.google.com/. Then enter the phrase “keyword tool” into the search engine. Select the option that has “KeywordToolExternal” at the end of its URL, as in the image below:
Type your first keyword phrase from your list into the Google Keyword Tool. For example, let’s say your specialty is Family Travel. One of the first keyword phrases on your brainstorm list might be “Family Travel”.
(1) Type this phrase into the space provided next to “Word or phrase.”
(2) Check the box that says “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms.”
(3) Yype the characters that appear in the picture for the security encrypting.
(4) Click search.
The result is going to tell you two important things: 1) How many searches per month for your keyword phrase; and 2) a list of alternative keyword phrases and their monthly search numbers.
In this example, you can see that the keyword phrase, “Family Travel” has 110,000 Global Monthly Searches and 49,500 Local Monthly Searches. You should be looking at the local monthly searches number as it pertains to searches within the United States. If you are in Canada or another country, you can go back to the prior screen and under “Advanced Options and Filters” you can change your location from United States to another country.
49,500 is a great number for monthly searches, so I would keep the term “Family Travel” on my targeted keyword list.
Now it’s time to mine for other keyword phrases by looking at the results from the “Keyword Ideas” list. I like to list my results from highest to lowest, for the Local Monthly Searches column, so click on this term in the “Keyword Ideas” list and it will automatically arrange your results from highest to lowest.
You want to select keyword phrases with at least 2,000 searches per month. If the demand number is excessively high (like over 100,000) it’s too broad. Remember, we are looking at the Local Monthly Searches list (NOT the Global Monthly Searches list). Stick to keyword phrases that have monthly searches in the range of 2,000 to 100,000.
In this example, a few that stick out for me are “travel with family”; “family travel trips”; “family travel tours”
I recommend you use a spreadsheet and record these keyword phrases and their corresponding “Local Monthly Searches” number.
Go through each and every keyword phrase from your brainstorm list and repeat this process.
Step 3 – Assess Supply
Now it’s time to look at the supply of your keyword phrases. When I say “supply” what I mean is the number of websites already optimized for that keyword phrase.
To assess the supply, type the first keyword phrase from your list into your google search engine bar. BE SURE TO PUT double quotation marks around your phrase. For example, the first phrase from my list is “family travel” and this is exactly what I will put in my google search bar.
Located just above your results, Google tells you how many websites come up in their search for that particular phrase. In this example, there are 8,410,000 websites containing that phrase and listed in the results.
Record this number in your spreadsheet. The lower the better, but don’t get freaked out by numbers in the millions. Repeat this process for each and every keyword phrase on your list (including the alternatives you found in Step 2).
Step 4 – Pick 10
The next step in the process is to pick the 10 best keyword phrases from your research. The cherries in your list are the keyword phrases that have high demand and low supply. Look through your list and pick out the best options.
Don’t overthink this. If you have a lot of keyword phrases that seem to be equally good, just make a decision and pick 10.
Step 5 – Incorporate Your Keyword Phrases in Your Blog and Website
Now that you have your list of 10 good keyword phrases, incorporate these in your blog posts and on your website. Try to incorporate the phrase several times in the post (3 to 5 times). In addition, if you can incorporate the keyword phrase in your blog post TITLE, it will significantly help your search engine rankings.
Even better, create a video that is optimized for each keyword phrase, use the keyword phrase in the title of the video and put the video on video distribution sites like YouTube and Vimeo. Your video will help your rankings for that keyword phrase significantly.
Once you have been practicing this for a few months, you can go back and do the same process to add 10 more keyword phrases to your list (so you then have 20). It would be great if you do this analysis every few months, so you eventually get to the point where you are optimizing for 100 keyword phrases.
Find some time in your schedule to do a keyword phrase analysis. Being your own SEO expert is far more productive than delegating to an expert. You can hire an expert to help you with the process, but you, as the business owner, should be actively involved. A little knowledge and awareness of good keyword phrases will go a long way!