You should do all to appear in Google Travel Guides. It takes four steps for tourism operators and ultimately your destination should do all to be included in Google Travel Guides. Forget about spending too much time (and money) on perfecting your entry in the local DMO or tourism board site. Your visitors and customers are anyway less and less visiting such sites.
Google offers you many ways to research places to visit and things to do and access travel tools that help you learn about your destination. You type a country or city name into Google Search and see the following location information which at this stage made up of four to five sections:
- Travel Guide (right hand panel or within search results)
- Points of Interest
- Day Plans to visit museums, attractions, etc. based on actual visits(some smaller locations include the Day Plans within the main overview, while larger cities have their own day plan page.)
- Plan a Trip (hotel listings and travel videos)
The Travel Guide gives you a snapshot of the things-to-do: top activities for the location you entered, along with a preview of flight and hotel prices, and a link to a location-specific Travel Guide. Travel Guides provide a brief overview of the destination, including potential trip prices. Click on the flights or hotels icons to explore prices in depth. You can also explore prices and book flights and hotels using Google Flights and Google’s hotel finder and booking tool. So you as a tourism operator should take all and any steps to make sure you (and ultimagtely your destination are included in Google Travel Guides.
But how does that work? How do yo get your tourism business included the Google Travel Guide?
1 Make sure your area is available on Google Maps
The first issue to overcome is that not all places or areas have their own Google Travel Guide at this stage. The reason is that Google Travel Guides depend on enough data that needs to be available. If there is not enough data for a location, Google has no reason to add a (separate) Travel Guide for the location. And ‘data’ here means: companies having a Google My Business (GMB) account. The more tourism operators set up a GMB account, the more likely it will be your village, city or region will also get its own Google Travel Guide.
So you need to get your tourism business on Google My Business and encourage your local colleagues in the destination to do the same and submit their locations to Google My Business as well (free and easy to set up). Making sure more tourism operators in your destination join and understand the benefits of having your own Google Travel Guide is where your local tourism board or destination marketing organisation also can help. You really want to get your destination (and ultimately your tourism business) to appear within at least one Google Travel Guide.
Does Google Maps Recognize Your Location?
Also make sure your area can already be found in Google Maps and is considered as such (administratively and geographically). What I mean here is that for instance regions like Noord-Limburg (Netherlands) or notions like North-France (or Northern France) are not recognized as areas in Google Maps. So at this stage Google will not include them in the Google Travel Guide. Although Google will still give you results close to them (in this case the province of Limburg and France as a whole will show up in the results respectively).
The local tourism board or DMO can help by setting up workshops and trainings for local tourism operators. And making sure they all have Google My Business accounts and optimized themselves for local marketing. This increases the chance your destination (and the local tourism operators) appear in Google Travel Guides.
Tools are available to do location audits to see who already has a GMB account and who not. If, of course, they want to and do not see this as competition to their own sites. Which they should not. But in my own experience this can be quite a battle. Otherwise, go it alone with those tourism operators (or local government people) who are willing to invest in this local marketing strategy to get included in Google Travel Guides.
2 Travel Articles and Travel Videos Are a Quick Win
The two organic placements in the travel guide overview are Travel Articles and Travel Videos.
Travel Articles in Google Travel Guide
For articles Google uses well respected and authored sites (like Wikipedia) and not pages from for instance a hotel or local tourism operators. Nor have I seen articles from DMOs or tourist boards (very often if not always notoriously biased marketing blah-blah).
In some countries, like the UK, Google uses large publications with very detailed travel sections and niche travel sites. They also do ‘best of lists’ for food, activities, hotels, and points of interest. For large cities, they can display up to 14 articles, for regional cities around 10 travel articles. The articles give readers extra information in or nearby the location and are not necessarily optimized for organic search themselves.
So what can you do? You can approach the specific authors and publications (for Wikipedia this is not difficult) and discuss inclusion of your location. Of course, you must have a good reason to be included. If you have just opened or you have a bad reputation the author or publication will not see much reason to include you.
Replacing Articles in Google Travel Guide
You can also try to get one of these articles replaced with one of yours. This only happens if it is extraordinary and very well written. In addition, it needs to contain additional local resources for the reader. Also here I see that local tourist boards or DMOs can help.
The articles, however, change regularly. Also you do not have or get any insight in data related to Google Travel and what type of return you could expect for the amount of time that your article is featured.
But if you insist on your own content appearing, then your first step is to build up a repository of location-based content, which in itself will bring you organic traffic and build up brand awareness for your location in itself. With this strategy, you are already winning. And it could mean that ultimately your tourism business – and ultimately maybe the destination – as a whole could be included in Google Travel Guides.
Travel Videos in Google Travel Guide
For larger areas Google also displays 10 to 14 videos. Also here there is a good opportunity to get exposure for your tourism business or for the destination as a whole.
The catch is finding channels that post enough videos (over 50 according to SemRush which is quite a lot) . The quality is not important. Even basic image carousel videos will work. I believe this is even better since it enhances the credibility of the content shown.It is the real stuff. It is the same with reviews: you do not want to see the photoshopped images of the location itself (fake news!) but the wobbly, not always focussed pictures recently taken by one of the visitors (the ugly – or not – truth)!.
So what to do? Add videos to your local articles. This gives you two chances to appear within the Google Travel Guide. In addition it improves your website! Even if your articles or videos would not immediately be appearing in the Travel Guide, it will be well positioned in search results with hopefully increasing organic traffic.
Also here there is a downside. We do not get to know how many people view the videos directly.
3 Points of Interest Section
You cannot do much to get into this section. Google is completely in control here in adding places of interest. Also I cannot see whether Google uses any positioning criteria, apart from the ‘centroid’. The centroid is the center of what Google thinks is the center of – amongst other criteria – your area. However, all have a Wikipedia info snippet, so they are well-known entities.
The best you can do is make sure the descriptions on Wikipedia are complete and kept up-to-date. Also here tourism boards, DMOs or even the local heritage associations can play an effective role.
4 Day Plans Section
Actual human visitors make up this section with data Google has tracked via the Maps app on phones (!) to generate different types of day plans, ranging from 1 to 3 days .
Now how can you get get your location to appear within the Day Plans of Google Travel Guide?You would have to influence real visitors to really come to you location. You can do that in several ways:
- developing ‘things to do’ day plan suggestions (starting form your location) and adding them to your website and social media channels
- asking tourism operators included in your suggestions to also include your day plans on their sites or at least mention your location (back-linking)
- creating your own routes with your location included in applications like RouteYou
- creating articles on things to do near the other locations mentioned in the surrounding day plans (including your location)
- contacting tour operators that visit these locations on adding your location into their itineraries.
The upside is that the day plans can be accessed via Google Travel AND in Google Maps. This gives you two opportunities to be included in Google Travel Guide. The downside is that we get no indication from Google Travel of their use.
Is Google Travel Guide Worth All of the Above?
Well, yes. As already mentioned above, all the work involved contributes to your web presence becoming stronger, your content becoming better and more attractive for Google to offer to users organically. This will drive traffic to your website and visitors to your location anyway. And can be measured.
If maybe as an extra, in the end you other with other tourism operators in your destination should do all to be included in Google Travel Guides!