Category Archives: Travel Marketing

Search Engines Role in Travel Purchases

Over the last decade business Internet usage has grown rapidly. If your business doesn’t have an online presence then you are missing out on a prosperous market. However, having a website is not always enough. You need to ensure that your website can be easily found by your customers. Search is the first point of online research for 93% of consumers; therefore, it is crucial for your website to rank on the top search engine result pages.

A recent study by Google and Neilsen shows that 70% of consumers who purchase a product online usesearch engines at least once. For consumers of travel that number rises to 92% using  search engines at least once before making a purchase.

Travel consumers tend to use search engines often as a source of information. On average they use search engines 20 times – researching recommendations, reviews, destinations, maps, ways of travel and comparing packages – before their research leads to making a purchase.

The illustration below portrays the 28-day user behaviour of a travel consumer. This consumer has initially researched “Corfu holidays” on Google search. The consumer used Google several times during the research journey before finally making the decision to book a holiday.

Illustrtaion of a Travel user journey online

Google and Neilsen Research (2012)

The chart below illustrates how travel consumers continue to consult a wide range of sources including search engines during the time spent online just prior to booking.

Illustration: Travel user decision making journey

Google and Neilsen Research (2012)

The Google and Nielson study also shows that travel consumers use both generic and brand terms when researching their travel plans. 13% of consumers used generic terms only, 10% used brand terms only and 77% used both generic and brand terms during their research period.

It is evident that a search engine is the first place consumers will look for travel information which will help them to make a purchase. Therefore, if you own a travel business or are looking to promote a destination or travel related product, your website has to be accessible and visible to your consumers. The only proven way to achieve this is through developing a search engine optimisation strategy to ensure that your website reaches the relevant consumers.

Changes at Google Create the Need to Re-think Online Marketing Strategies

Over the last 16 months Google has been making significant changes to their ranking algorithm. It started with the release of the “Panda” update in February 2011, which resulted in a decrease in search engine traffic and affected many online businesses. It was then followed by the “Penguin” update in April 2012, which is aimed at decreasing the search engine ranking of websites that do not follow Google’s best practices.

The “Penguin” update has impacted a large number of websites, including travel affiliate websites that had one thing in common; SEO strategy that depended on seeding a high number of links from low quality websites with over-optimised content.

These websites will not recover their organic search traffic and ranking unless they revisit their digital marketing strategy and make some major adjustments to their SEO strategy.

Travel websites now need to focus on the quality of their inbound links and the authority of the linking websites. They also need to re-evaluate their keyword strategy. With “Penguin” in place, top search engine result pages (SERPs) are dominated by big travel brands for highly competitive keywords. Smaller travel websites need to start focusing on lower-competition keywords, exact match domains and pursuing narrow niches.

Social Media is another area travel websites should focus on. Google’s search engine in particular is now implementing their own social network (Google Plus) into the way results are ranked on their SERPs. To make search results more relevant to users, Google favour links that are recommended by the user’s Google Plus network and rank it higher than other websites. Similarly, Bing and Yahoo favour links that are recommended by other social networks.

Overall, travel sites will perform well if their digital marketing strategy has an emphasis on inbound marketing such as content, SEO, social media, conversation and user experience.

Therefore, “Penguin” has created the perfect opportunity for those in the travel industry to ensure that their online marketing strategy is current and their site is optimised to its full potential. Only by aligning with “Penguin” guidelines can a site compete with similar services on search engines.