Digital services are vital for travelers: in 2019, as many as 40% of US travelers used mobile devices to book their trips. More than 60% of travel bookings are digital in Europe and the United States where Online Travel Agents (OTA) can have a market share as high as 50%, particularly for smaller independent hotels.
Moving into 2020, the pandemic brought most of the economic activities to a screeching halt. And even now as the world slowly turns back to normal, it is very likely that international travel restrictions will still linger on fear to avoid new COVID-19 cases.
Image Source: Flightradar24
It is in this regard where countries, in order to support their ailing tourism sectors, may purposefully restrict outward travel and encourage local tourism as a substitute.
Reimagining the Online Travel Agency in the ‘Next Normal’
Leisure Travelers are expected to explore more and more destinations within their region of residence. Thereby, making it clear for the tour operators to focus more on local destinations in the immediate future.
One particular case of tour operators is the Online Travel Agent (OTA).
OTA is a third party digital platform that arranges and sells accommodations, tours, transportation and trips on behalf of partner companies. (e.g. Booking.com, Airbnb, Trivago)
And the best way to revive demand for OTAs among leisure travelers is through digital marketing – one focusing on lead generation through local SEO.
Local SEO for Travel Websites
A travel-related search on Google will typically show up PPC ads on top, Google Maps/Answer box/Features Snippets (Local SEO) results, followed by Organic results (SEO) and few more PPC ads at the bottom.
Websites are optimized for local SEO within their region of operation for reliable lead conversions. And that is how local SEO techniques differ from traditional, organic SEO methods.
In order to rank better in the results page, we recommend OTAs to begin with:
#1 List it on Google My Business
Google is without doubt the market leader in “near me” searches. It is only wise to optimize business listings first on Google, and then move to Bing/Yahoo or even Alexa “voice search” results. You may follow our setup guide on GMB for general information.
#2 Separate Landing Pages for Local Regions
We would recommend any OTA website to have:
- A dedicated landing page for each City / State the properties are located.
- A dedicated landing page for each specific area in the city.
- Each listed property page to be optimized for high quality images, genuine user reviews, live chat, CTAs, etc.
#3 Promote Landing Pages via Local Ad Campaigns
Now is also a good time to make use of Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. You look to promote the landing pages for local regions with a special price package to incentivise people to travel via these PPC campaigns.
OTA websites can be also optimized for local “near me” search as follows:
- Add schema markups to your homepage. It is an entry step to feature in Google’s featured snippets, which is a part of Local SEO strategy.
- Optimize page titles, H1 tags and Descriptions according to “local places”. It is also a good practice to use 301 redirects to the most relevant page of your website whenever you remove a listing or destination page. Take reference from the screenshot below:
- Enrich your website content with good quality links from local websites and other highly trusted sites.
- Content marketing in the form of daily blogs on local places for better outreach.
- Build a mobile-responsive user interface and reduce page load time for better user experience.
All the above steps are not complete but it’s good for starters. For an in-depth guidance on SEO for travel websites, follow this link.
Also, if you have enough patience, here is a one-hour long video on YouTube discussing SEO audit for Travel Websites.
Importance of SEO Maintenance Services
What is more interesting is that despite the fact that there are big brand websites like booking.com, airbnb.com, tripadvisor.com (to name a few), user’s still turn to search engines to start their trip planning/booking process.
“As latest as in 2019, Google noted only 9% of U.S travelers know which brand they want to book with prior to doing a purchase.”
Local SEO attracts search engine leads from a targeted geography and offers a cheaper alternative to online ad campaigns. It seems to be the most economic lead generation method for online bookings. And times when international travel seems less likely for leisure travelers, OTAs can make use of local SEO to divert more traffic to domestic destinations.
“SEO is an on-going process, i.e. SEO maintenance is complementary to SEO implementation.“
However, the buck doesn’t stop with just the implementation of local SEO as discussed above. As rankings in search results aren’t permanent and so are not the search engine algorithms, SEO strategies need to be constantly adjustmented to achieve the satisfactory results.
SEO Maintenance for OTA websites will now need to focus on traditional SEO, say On-page SEO including system elements, content & HTML elements, CSS elements and Technical SEO including Link Building, Trust elements, Social Media elements.
“Where Local SEO focusses on traffic generation from a particular geography, traditional SEO strengthens search relevance of your services…”
Essentially, local SEO and traditional SEO are two sides of the same coin and its maintenance requires dedicated time and effort. If your team is not experienced enough for the challenge, there are convenient outsourcing options available for the same.
Choosing a Trusted Digital Partner for SEO services - ColorWhistle
COVID-19 is likely to accelerate the shift to digital as travelers look for flexibility and booking lead times shorten. Smaller accommodation businesses would want to gain from the online exposure that they are likely to get through OTAs. Plus, a huge segment of today’s generation prefer OTAs over individual accommodation/activity websites.
We have created some amazing websites with dynamic content such as live rates and special offers. If you need any help to design, develop, market or maintain an OTA website, you can refer to our resource library for travel operators, travel agents and travel businesses.
Alternatively, our travel web design and development experts at ColorWhistle are here to offer complimentary business analysis and consultation. Fill-in contact webform here for further engagement or comment down below to share your thoughts.