Why Local marketing/Local SEO is important to travel and tourism
Local marketing/SEO (hereinafter referred to as ‘Local SEO’) has become and will continue to be very important to any local business targeting customers on location.
Of all marketing strategies a travel company or tourism business can deploy, local SEO is definitely the most effective one. Especially, for travel and tourism companies and businesses targeting travelers, tourists and other visitors on location.
When tourists or travelers research things to do, hotels or tourism products, like restaurants or attractions, they (and local residents) specifically want to know about products offered within the destination they want to travel to or the location where they already are. Nearly 100% of all people search online to find a local business nowadays. So businesses need to optimize their web presence to connect to potential customers. Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the optimization of your online properties (your website, inclusion in listings and directories, links, keywords etc.) so you can be found in localized searches by (mobile) users.
They turn to Google and Google reveals as results the relevant company information in the area. The good news is that Google gives brands, including small to medium travel and tourism companies a free opportunity to advertise through Google My Business. Travel companies and tourism operators can build and optimize a listing in Google My Business that will be used to pull information related to users’ searches.
Finally, getting your Local SEO in place will also help you to appear in Google Travel Guides (see post here).
Optimizing web Site and Web presence
One of the first steps is to optimize your website for local search results. If you fail to do and are marketing too broadly you are actually competing with every website on the Internet. Which, especially as a small to medium enterprise, is a battle you can nearly never win from the huge travel and other companies out there.
Local marketing in general and local SEO in particular and focussing on online searchers in or near your own location gives you a much better opportunity to grow visits and revenues.
For any tourism operator or other location-based business local marketing/SEO presents a possible quick win to successfully target potential customers.
Google and other search engines will help you. But they need to know that you are local to give you preferential treatment. You have to demonstrate that you are a local business and deserve a place amongst your local competitors. We will explain in this chapter how this works.
To determine you are indeed a local business, search engines use local ‘signals’ from:
- Local directories
- Other local websites
- Review sites
- Social media
Such directories and websites etc. ‘signal’ that you actually exist and can be trusted to be a real business.
Especially in travel and tourism Google search is changing and becoming more and more the number one place on Internet people go to. For travel information, like flights and hotels. But also for destination and tourism information. And finally, on Google Maps for location-based information. Like ‘restaurants around me’, ‘attractions near Paris’, ‘things to do in Amsterdam’.
YOUR WEBSITE SHOULD BE A ‘TRUSTED WEB PROPERTY’
Brands and verified, identifiable businesses are receiving preference in the search results. So for (small to medium) tourism and travel businesses, creating a ‘trusted web property’ (that is your website) should be a priority. You also have to make sure you are included in local directory listings, where your ownership of the business is verified. This can really help your search engine rankings. Local directories in the USA would be Yellow Pages, and Yelp. In Europe it could be also the listing of your local Chamber of Commerce. Any of such directories is a valuable source proving you exist. in addition they can generate traffic, links and SEO signals.
THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A GENUINE PHYSICAL ADDRESS.
An important part of SEO for local business is having a genuine physical address. Businesses with a street front presence will benefit from having a physical address promoted on their websites. But local SEO does not only work for ‘brick-and-mortar’ companies . Even online-only businesses should have a physical address. Also and especially on their website. The address can be a residential (the home address of the owner). Or a commercial location (where the business has an office).
Why you should have already started with local marketing/SEO
Here are a few trends that prove how important local search is for your business:
- Users are comfortable researching, booking and planning their entire trip to and activities in a new travel destination; using only a mobile device.
- Bookings are nowadays completed via a website or mobile app, without human interaction.
- More and more people conduct searches for local services or product information on mobiles and tablets; this includes tourism and destination information.
- The majority of searchers who conduct local searches on their mobile phones are looking for things like a local business address.
- Most of them actually go to a physical location within one day. And pay or buy something.
- The majority of local-based searches on a mobile device end in purchases being made offline in physical locations.
- Most people search online for the location of a business in order to confirm its existence before going there for a first-time visit.
- 1 in 3 searches on a smartphone was conducted just before arriving at a physical location.
Therefore tourism operators and travel companies targeting tourists, travellers and locals to visit their location are businesses that can benefit most of local marketing/SEO.
Immediate availability of information
These businesses achieve the most benefit from local SEO because of the immediate availability of customer reviews and local address information. Such data come up in the search engine results pages (SERPs). This immediacy of information leads potential customers to for instance restaurant businesses in the least amount of time. In addition, it allows people to see the restaurants providing the best quality food and service in the neighborhood.
So if you have not already done that, you need to get started as soon as possible with local marketing/SEO. Also because getting your local business to rank well in search results will become more difficult in the future if you wait too long. This is due to three reasons:
- A massive increase in the number of mobile devices; meaning more people are turning to their phones to find businesses near them.
- An increasing number of businesses recognizing the benefits of local SEO.
- There is also Google’s Local Pack, which pushes down the first website search result below the fold.
Google’s Local Pack
The Local Pack is the top section of the search results in Google. It highlights three local businesses related to a search as shown in the screenshot below:
This is very useful for mobile users who can quickly find a business near them and see hours, phone number, reviews, and more. No need for clicking through to a website anymore.
Whenever we search for a local service online, Google shows a map among the organic search results. Without requiring us to perform another click.
The Local Pack appears in many first page Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). Making it the most frequently displayed SERP feature (along with the Featured Snippet which I will deal with in another post).
Among the businesses affected by the Local Pack are those servicing a particular branch. For example plumbing, repairing, delivery services. Or local businesses (restaurants, dentists, hair salons, etc.).
In addition,the presence of the Local Finder on the first SERP is enough for users. We tend to skip the organic results since the block gives us all the info we need right away.
This is an important message for all tourism boards and destination marketeers out there! The (mobile) users are not going to your websites anymore for information. Today, tourists are making decisions based on their search and experiences of others on the Internet. They want to find all data needed in their search results. Including reviews. They find local businesses in the SERPs and Local Packs provided by Google. Not anymore on tourist boards' or destination marketing organisations' websites. Such sites are no more than one of the many (mostly free) channels travel companies and tourism operators can have links on referring to you and your site. It is you, the tourism or travel operator, responsible for driving local visits to your location. This means if you are not fully optimized for local SEO, you could be missing out on a lot of potential customers visiting your tourist attraction, tours or travel-related business. So your challenge now is to make sure your local SEO is working and people actually can find your information in the search results of Google and other search engines.
Strategies to improve local marketing/SEO
By now you must be convinced you need local marketing/SEO and, hopefully, you still have a chance to be included in Google’s Local Pack. So what does the strategy to improve local marketing/SEO look like? Content, on-page optimizations, and link building are all part of local marketing/SEO efforts. As is optimizing your Google My Business listing. Making sure all potential local signals for Google and other search engines are consistent and correct. Because if they are not (like when you provide different information for the same business), you can unintendedly end up ranking lower in search results.
When it comes to local marketing/SEO, it isn’t all that different from organic SEO. Keyword research, content, links, and on-page technical SEO. When optimizing for local marketing/SEO, however, these parts contain more of a local focus on searches people are performing in the immediate area surrounding the business.
These elements are important to get right for your website. Your immediate area and your industry overall in order to outperform the competition in the SERPs.
In the next chapters and posts I will go through the steps you need to take to optimize for local marketing/SEO. And show you how to set up a local marketing and local SEO strategy for travel and tourism.