ABTOT Associate Bluesoup on why focussing on SEO is so important

Whilst the world is still trying to come to terms with, and understand, the impact of Covid-19 the effects on the travel industry are set to last for a considerable time.  How will airlines and accommodation providers handle social distancing, what quarantine measures will be put in place by governments around the word, and as a result, when will customers feel safe and able to travel overseas again?  The list of questions is almost endless with no immediate answers or clarity in sight.

And this is now the issue for travel companies looking to capture what little consumer interest is out there, and how to do so at an acceptable ROI.

Gone are the days of TV or press ads driving significant volumes of enquiries.  Reduced online search volumes leave advertisers chasing a significantly reduced pool of users searching for holidays, driving up CPCs and in turn CPAs.  And then how do you avoid those “dreaming” of a holiday but who have no intention of booking right now…who just add to your click costs.

So how to invest marketing budgets wisely, in order to yield a short term return and prepare for the future?

Step forward SEO – (the art of ensuring that Google can easily find your website for those who aren’t sure).

Ensuring that your site is optimised for Google (other search engines are available!) will help you be found by those few customers who are out there searching.  The money you invest in SEO will mean your site is in good health, offers an optimised user experience, it reduces the risk of you falling foul of algorithm updates, and a healthy site (from an SEO perspective) will also perform more efficiently for paid search activity.  So of all the channels available to you at the present time, SEO is a wise investment for the here and now and will also ensure that when you are able to re-activate your wider marketing activity, you are quick out of the blocks.

But just as you might be thinking we’ve given you a golden nugget of advice, beware.  Organic results have been a little unpredictable of late – so you need to approach any SEO activity with your eyes wide open.

So what’s been going on with the organic results then? Organic results have been volatile to say the least over recent months, in part thanks to rapidly changing user behaviour, and in part due to the roll out of some algorithm updates from Google. The updates have addressed the challenges Google have faced over competition while, as ever, aiming to ensure searchers are presented with the most relevant results for their needs.

The most recent update, the May 2020 Core Update, is still being unpicked by the brightest minds in SEO, as Google tend to be light on the details of the updates – merely stating that the updates are “designed to ensure that overall, we’re delivering on our mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers”.

The impact of the most recent updates has left many in the SEO sector scratching their heads. Search results saw wild swings, with the travel industry being one of the most volatile in terms of fluctuation, according to many tracking tools. The travel industry topped SEMRush’s table of volatility, which uses a max score of 10 to highlight how drastic the rankings swings can be. During the peak of the May update, the travel sector hit 9.3 on their sensor. More information on the volatility of search results from other tools has been expertly laid out on Search Engine Land.

As a result, we find ourselves at a point in time where the sensible choice is to invest in SEO vs other marketing channels, but where the results are even more unpredictable than normal. So, if ever there was a time to draw on a Churchillian quote, perhaps it is now……

It is no use saying ‘we are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”

To help you set a strategy and to manage either internal teams or external agencies/freelancers, below you’ll find our top 5 tips to SEO success…..

  1. Ensure your site is in good technical health
    Don’t ignore the SEO basics, now more than ever ensure that there is no reason for Google to penalise you. Do your title tags contain the correct keywords you are trying to optimise the page in question for? Are the pages correctly canonicalized? Are you ensuring you have created unique content for each page? Ticking off the basics will be rewarded by Google, and also yield a better, slicker, faster consumer experience.
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  3. Content
    The trick remains to answer the questions consumers are posing to Google.  How helpful are your FAQ pages? Is the basic information easy to find? Are your blog articles relevant – do they link together – is there a strategy? Content tells Google your site is a living, breathing entity, but make sure you fill it with well thought out, well written content.
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  5. Reviews
    It appears that one of the impacts of newer algorithm updates is the use of 3rd party reviews in an attempt to remove the accusation of bias towards the industry “big guns” that is so often levelled at the search engines.  As an example, if you search for a service such as a “Chiropractor” followed by your town name, a small “find results on” box should appear at the top linking you to directories, offering  a more “non-biased” set of results. However, if you were to search for “holiday cottages *and then an area – say Devon, for example*, you are greeted with a different set of results in that box. While these are not third-party sites, they mostly look to have third party review integrations, or perform well on review sites. This remains speculative at this stage, but the hypothesis seems to be gaining momentum and acceptance within the SEO community. So you should consider how to integrate any 3rd party reviews into your site?
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  7. User experience
    There has long been a correlation between the user experience and SEO – if a user has a bad experience, it is unlikely they will return. You need to assess how your website is laid out, how easily the user can navigate from where they land on your site to achieving their end goal. Basic elements to consider are load speed, hard to click buttons, lengthy contact forms and even visually how your site appears can all have a knock-on effect to how well your site performs from an SEO point of view.Google has even pre-announced a major update that will be rolling out sometime in 2021 which relates to page experience. While this might not be entirely new from Google, it does bring a number of elements together to give websites more of a “hit list” of improvements they may need to make to their site. The full details of what is known at the moment can be found here.
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  9. Give it time
    SEO is not a quick fix. It takes time to work, and with the ever-changing landscape caused by the regular updates from Google, strategies often have to be tweaked or you may find that certain areas of focus may become more important than they used to be. You are often told that you will not see any significant results for at least the six months, and even that can be on the more optimistic side. But that is why now is the perfect time to be focussing on SEO. With a market that is “up in the air” to say the least, now is the time to get your house in order so that you are ready to come out the other side, firing on all cylinders!

We’re not by any way suggesting that by waving a magic SEO wand it will transform any travel business. That would be naive and would underrepresent the enormous challenge that the industry faces.  It is going to be a tough road for some considerable time, but we do believe that what little budgets there are could be wisely invested in SEO for short term gain and long-term preparedness.

And just to reassure you that our advice is unbiased, as a full-service agency, Bluesoup is not reliant on any one medium for its sales.  As such our focus remains advising our clients (and ABTOT members) on how to invest marketing budgets for greatest return…and as things stand, this is our best advice.

If you’d like a free, no obligation SEO audit, please get in touch. We’ll be able to give you an honest appraisal of where you are and then develop a bespoke strategy given your objectives and budget.

Contact Bluesoup’s Managing Director for more information and to request an audit:  ben.duhig@bluesoupagency.com

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