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Tourism Web Marketing 101

Tourism Web Marketing 101

It isn’t enough to build a website and hope for visitors. You need to be proactive in not only optimizing your site, but also in creating local listing, responding to reviews and promoting your site on social media.

In this webinar you’ll learn:

  • What elements of your site you need to optimize for search
  • Why local listings are important
  • Why you need to monitor and respond to online reviews
  • How to choose which social media channels will provide the best ROI

Speaker: Kathy Gray, Brand Engagement Strategist

Watch Time: 00:16:52

Download Tourism Web Marketing 101 slides on SlideShare.

[Video Transcript]

Hello. This is Kathy Gray, Brand Engagement Strategist for Pole Position Marketing. Today, we’re going to be talking about web marketing basics for the tourism industry. We’re going to start at home base, your website, your most important piece of real estate on the internet. As an example, we’re going to take a look at a tale of two bed and breakfasts from Cooperstown, New York, the Landmark Inn and A Comfort Woods Guesthouse.

According to Google travel research, 60% of leisure travelers use search engines when they are travel planning. Can the traveler find your business? I did a quick search for “Cooperstown Bed & Breakfast”. As you can see, the Landmark Inn shows near the top of the results. This is actually their Google Business listing that is displaying. It shows an inviting picture, and I can see that it has 11 reviews, with a 4.9-star average. This listing grabs my attention more than the others. A Comfort Woods “Guesthouse” doesn’t appear until the second page of search results, which most of the time people never even make it to the second page of results.

How are you going to show up for travelers? There are hundreds of factors that go into Google’s search algorithm, so we’re going to focus in on a few quick wins that many other tourism businesses aren’t utilizing.

The first step is to understand how customers are searching for you. Many people start with their business name, but new customers don’t know your name yet. Here are some of the most used words when travelers are searching on Google. Notice that location and destination words are some of the most used. The important thing to note is that travelers aren’t searching location alone. They’re searching “Cooperstown hotels,” “Cooperstown restaurants,” “Cooperstown weather,” “Cooperstown attractions.” Or they may be searching “hotels near Baseball Hall of Fame.” The location or destination they’re searching could be an attraction or even region, not just the name of a city.

Google AdWords offers a free keyword planning tool. But for a little bit of money, you can sign up for keywordtool.io, which is very easy for the novice to understand and will give you some basic SEO, keyword search volume information. You can enter in keywords you think people might use to search for your business, and it will show the search volume and give you variations of these keywords. It’s important to remember that more generic keywords that have a high volume of traffic might not always be the best match for your business.

For example, if you did a search for “New York hotels,” that may have a huge amount of search traffic, but it’s a very generic search. What was the searcher’s intent when they made that search? Were they really looking for a hotel in Cooperstown, New York, a hotel in New York City, or a hotel in New York state?

One of the most important SEO influencers on your site is your title tag. What is the title tag? When you look at search results, the title tag is the text used as a hyperlink to your website. Many businesses never customize their title tags, and often they’re missing out because of this. Looking at our examples, you can see that Landmark Inn uses “Cooperstown Bed and Breakfast” as part of the text in their title tag. A Comfort Woods Guesthouse only uses their business name. This doesn’t send a signal to Google that they’re a Cooperstown bed and breakfast. Your title tag should be no more than 50 to 55 characters. After that point, it begins to get cut off in results and offers no value. Each page of your website should have its own individual title tag. Google ranks each page individually, and often users will enter your website through pages other than your homepage.

The meta description tag doesn’t have a direct impact on your rankings, but it does have a direct impact on whether or not a user will click on your listing in the search engine. Google is actually looking more and more at the click-through rate of listings in search. So if you’re getting a high rate of people seeing your listing show up in search, and then they click through, that can help you. This is approximately 150 characters of text that appears as a description below your listing. Again, if I’m looking for a Cooperstown bed and breakfast, the first listing includes those keywords along with other features and benefits of the property. Dream showers, Jacuzzi tubs, walk to Downtown, sounds perfect. Sign me up. The second listing doesn’t have a unique meta description. Google is just pulling content from the website to display and it’s not as enticing. As a user, the first listing is much more appealing and matches what I’m searching for, so I’m going to be much more likely to click on that link.

Tourism was made for mobile. Smartphones have become a traveler’s best friend. Instead of carrying around a guidebook or visitor’s guide, travelers can now just pull out their smartphone to find out whatever they need to know about their destination. This doesn’t mean the visitor’s guide is obsolete, so don’t go out there and stop printing brochures or visitor’s guides. It still fills an important role, but when travelers are in a destination they are more likely to turn to their phone for information, rather than a visitor’s guide.

Eighty-four percent of leisure travelers rely on search engines via smartphone to find local information about activities within the destination. This is huge and something tourism businesses need to be cognizant of. How does your site display on mobile? Is it just a tiny version of your website or does it reconfigure itself to display beautifully like the Landmark Inn’s website?

Put your website through the Google Mobile-Friendly Test. Last year, we experienced Mobilegeddon, where Google started favoring sites that were mobile-friendly when users search on their smartphone. You can check your website using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, that needs to become a top priority for your business.

Does your website appeal to the traveler? Which is more appealing, this website or this site? A picture is worth 1,000 words. In tourism, high-quality photos of your business can make or break a traveler’s decision to spend their dollars with you instead of the competition. As we’ve discussed, high-quality images are a must. You can also appeal to the visitor through the use of high-quality video on your website. Make the text on your website easy to read and skim through the use of short paragraphs of just a few sentences, breaking content up with subheadings or the use of bullet points.

Your website’s navigation can also make or break the user experience. Make it clear to the user what info they will find when clicking on different navigation links, and make it easy to find the information they are looking for.

Now, we’re headed to first base, which is local listings. As Google evolves and becomes more complex, they are able to provide more precise results for users. One area that is constantly evolving is local search. This is any search that uses a local modifier, such as “Cooperstown bed and breakfast,” instead of just “bed and breakfast.” As the user, I’m going to expect this search to return only bed and breakfasts in the Cooperstown area.

How does Google know where your business is located? One way is through local listings. So what’s your NAP? Do you know what it is? This is one of the first things we have to memorize in school: our name, address, and phone number. The most important thing about NAP as adults on the web is that we keep it consistent across all listings. If our business is Landmark Inn Cooperstown, 64 Chestnut Street, Cooperstown, New York 13326, we always want to list our address exactly the same way. We don’t want it to be the way it was stated before on one site, and then as Landmark Inn Bed and Breakfast 64 Chestnut, Cooperstown on another site.

The number one local listing you should claim is your Google local listing. To do this, go to google.com/business. Make sure they have the correct info for your business, complete all of the fields available, and add some of your high-quality images. Other local listings you’ll want to claim include those with your local Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, your local Chamber of Commerce, state tourism website, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Citysearch, and social media. There may be other directories that offer listings as well that are specific to your niche, such as bedandbreakfast.com or Taste Ohio Wines, which is specifically for Ohio wineries. Data aggregators provide Yellow Page and local directory-type sites with their data, along with GPS systems. Making sure your business is listed with these sites and listed correctly will aide in your business turning up in local searches.

Now, we’re going to head to second base with Cleveland Indians player, Rocky Colavito, and we’re going to talk about online reviews. Do you know what travelers are saying about your business online? Make sure you’re monitoring reviews. Some of the top sites travelers use to review businesses are TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google Local, Yahoo Local, social media, and Urbanspoon. Again, depending on the type of business you are, there might be other industry-specific sites like bedandbreakfast.com, which also offers reviews.

What you don’t want happening is the review we see here, where it says “R-U-D-E,” “RUDE” with a one star. That’s not going to invite people to stay at your location. Then, respond to the reviews and not just the bad ones. Thank people for their reviews, and use customer service skills to resolve issues when there are complaints. When possible, try to move resolving the issue offline or into a private online setting.

Encourage travelers to review your business. After their stay, send an email thanking them and giving them links to your Google or TripAdvisor listings where they can review your business. Include a link to your top listings on your website. Include a call to action on your receipts. Place a sign by your cash register asking for reviews. There are many different options.

Now, we’re headed into third base with my favorite Indians player of all time, Jim Thome. As we slide into third base, we want to get social. Eighty-three percent of leisure travelers were inspired to travel by social networking, video, or photo sites. Think it’s just the youngsters on social media? It’s not. Chances are visitors are already talking about your business. Make sure you’re there with them.

Your visitors are there, but what are the benefits? It can assist with branding and loyalty, reputation, authority, increase website traffic, affect search rankings, and finally purchasing decisions, which all provide you with ROI.

There are challenges with social media you need to take into account when getting involved. How much time do you realistically have to spend? Do you have the knowledge needed? Maybe you keep hearing about Snapchat, but you’re more comfortable on Facebook. Stick with Facebook until you have the knowledge and time to take on Snapchat.

What’s your social media budget? Social media isn’t free. Most of the major networks now use algorithms to determine what content shows in user feeds. It takes a mix of organic or free posting and paid to get the most out of social media. You may also need tools to make managing your social media accounts easier.

This is one of my favorite graphics explaining the different social networks. Do you need to be on all of the social networks shown here? No. The biggest mistake companies make is trying to do it all. Pick one network, master it, and then add another. Also, make sure your audience is actually active on a network, and the purpose of the network fits with your marketing goals. Marketing general Cedar Point admission on LinkedIn isn’t going to work really well. But marketing corporate outings and events at Cedar Point would.

Real-time is where it’s at with social media right now. The most popular posts on social media are those that are real-time, or nearly real-time. People want to see what’s happening at your destination right now.

Hand-in-hand with real-time is visual content. Travel is a visual adventure. Yes, you want high-quality images. But on social media, they don’t always need to be perfectly staged images. Get your smartphone out and start taking pictures and short videos showing off your destination.

Take advantage of user-generated content. See a great photo of your business on Instagram? Ask the Instagramer for permission to repost it. A traveler’s image is going to carry much more weight with a potential visitor than your image will.

One way to keep social media manageable is to do a little planning. Take the anxiety of wondering what to post out of the equation. Create a posting schedule with what I call “theme days.” Each day has a theme or themes for what you’re going to post. This way, you know that each Tuesday you’re going to post about an upcoming event. On Friday, you’re going to post a live photo from your patio. Saturday, you’re going to share a customer’s photograph. Depending on the network you’re posting on, you may have more than one post per day, or you may have only several posts a week. But you can still implement a schedule such as this.

Facebook is the largest social network, and many businesses still don’t understand how people who like their page see their posts. The algorithm was implemented because the average user has so many friends and likes so many pages, that it would be impossible to see every single post every day. The algorithm tries to solve this by showing the users posts they are more likely to find engaging. There are hundreds of factors that go into the algorithm, just like the Google algorithm. But on a very basic level it looks at how often the user interacts with the user or page, amount of engagement a post receives overall and time of engagement, how much a user interacts with that type of content in general, whether it’s photos, links, video, amount of negative feedback a post is receiving. So if people are hiding your post in the newsfeed, that post is not going to get as much distribution.

Because your posts aren’t always going to get in front of consumers, you need to consider social advertising. But it’s not just to get more eyeballs on your posts. Many of the social networks offer highly targeted ad options at reasonable prices. With Facebook advertising, for instance, you can target your website visitors on Facebook, your email subscribers or male cat lovers between the ages of 36 and 43 who live in Hartville, Ohio. You can get very specific with your exact target audience.

So those are the basics that you need to make sure that you’re covering in your tourism marketing. Have questions? You can find me on Twitter @KaGray, or email me. Thanks for watching.