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October 26, 2017

6 Secrets to Top-Ranking Travel Content and SEO Stardom


Let’s be real. Landing a top search result ranking isn’t easy, and in the multibillion dollar travel industry "page one" success is particularly competitive.Even with sound strategy and a savvy SEO support team, appearing prominently in search is something of an art. But search engine rankings aren't all smoke and mirrors.According to a new study from software company Searchmetrics, there’s a fundamental framework of “best practices” hotel marketing teams should build their digital presence upon.The data looks at top-ranking travel brands to analyze what helps propel them to the top of search results.Here’s our breakdown of the data, and what your brand can do to land among the most coveted search positions.

1. Publish content with bulleted lists

The travel world’s top-ranking sites consistently have landing pages and blog content that are rich with bulleted lists. In fact, travel sites have longer bulleted lists than are typically found on sites from other industries.

Hospitality brands that already organize their features and amenities into bulleted lists are on the path to success. The more easily digestible the information, the better.

Case Study: Thompson Hotel's website has long bulleted lists laying out the amenities guests can expect in rooms and suites at its Nashville location. This makes it easy to absorb what they offer, and helps expedite decision making.

2. Write long-form content

In a case for being verbose, top-ranking travel sites use more words than their competitors. On average, they offer a staggering 2,500 words per page, some 57% more words than top ranking sites in other industries. This means the pressure is on for hospitality marketers to put fingers to keyboard and tell an interesting story about their brand.

Concision is always an important consideration when writing for the web. It’s a poor strategy to be wordy for the sake of being wordy, but as the data from this study shows, it can be beneficial to err on the side of longer content to improve rankings.

Case Study: Snow King has a blog where it publishes long-form content about what guests can do in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This is a great value-add for visitors who are doing research while planning their next vacation, and it's helping the resort with search rankings.

3. Include great pictures

It's a no-brainer that travel sites should include pictures of their locale on their websites, and it appears Google agrees.

Travel sites in Google's top slots have an average of 2.1 pictures per page. That's 38% more images than the average top 10 site, showing just how important it is for travel brands to take their visual identity seriously. It's not just good impressions that are hanging in the balance, it's your search rankings as well.

Case Study: The 1888 Hotel in Sydney has based its entire brand identity on visuals, and serves as great example of how pictures can be more than the supporting cast for your website. The site has at least two pictures per page, putting it in the range of what ranks in the top ten of Google results.

4. Add internal links

If you want better SEO results, check in with your internal linking strategy.

The Searchmetrics study found a strong correlation between the number of internal links (links pointing to related resources on your website) and how well travel sites rank in Google. The data shows that travel sites on the first page of Google search results had 23% more internal links than the average page.

In order for hotels and resorts to rank well, they must create a rich internal linking strategy to add value to visitors.

Case Study: The Curtis Hotel in Denver has a strong internal linking strategy on its homepage that points readers toward other landing pages on its website. This answers questions they might have and creates a richer digital experience.

5. Don't overdo it with keywords

Maybe surprisingly, the study found that top ten travel sites typically use fewer keywords than others. In fact, they average just three per page, which is half the number found on average across industries.

What this means is that travel brands shouldn’t rely on old-school SEO tactics, like heavy keyword use, to get their sites onto page one Google results. They have to focus instead on creating relevant content that is clear and interesting, as well as the other factors on this list.

Case Study: The Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island serves as an example of how you can create a top-ranking website without using too many keywords. The homepage offers relevant information in its descriptions without repeating the same search terms.

6. Write highly relevant content

In what's perhaps the most not-really-a-secret “secret” to ranking well in search, the study revealed that the most successful travel sites contain highly relevant content.

If you're wondering who would write irrelevant content for their websites, the answer is people who are trying to game search results at the expense of the user experience. This is the antidote to spammy keyword-stuffing strategies, in which sites would publish articles that were tenuously related their products and services as a way to plug keywords on their pages.

Write about topics that make sense for your brand, explain your products and services, create content to answer customers' FAQs, and Google will reward you.

Case Study: 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City is a nice example of relevant content. Its homepage contains lots of information relating to the hotel, its vision, and amenities. Further, all content is tied into the brand's core messaging and serves to answer prospective guests' questions.

Success with search rankings is more a matter of learning what your audience wants and staying true to your brand than donning a pointy hat and practicing to be an SEO wizard.Hotel and resort marketing teams are wise to take a fine-tooth comb to their brand pages and be sure they're up on the current state of search as SEO standards and best practices evolve.

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