Navigating Travel SEO: An In-depth Guide


Why Is Travel SEO Important?

Travel SEO helps travel businesses appear higher in search results so they can reach more potential customers. 

A successful SEO strategy can help travel agencies get more eyes on their offers in a highly competitive market. 

Many travel companies rely on paid search to place their sites at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs):

an example of paid search results for "best hotels in istanbul" query

But a paid strategy can get costly when you’re competing with big names for top ad spots.

Travel SEO lets you compete with other agencies without ad spend.

How?

By optimizing your website so you rank higher in organic (unpaid) search results. And the higher you rank, the more people visit your site. 

We’ll cover tips to optimize for travel SEO in a moment (or you can jump to the first tip here).

But first, let’s explore how your visitors find you in a search.

People find your travel business in search engines using specific keywords. These keywords become more precise as they progress in their travel planning. 

For instance, say a traveler wants to book a winter skiing holiday. They may start with the keyword “best winter destinations in 2023 for skiing.” 

“best winter destinations in 2023 for skiing” query in Google 

Now, they have a list of destinations to explore. After researching options, they might narrow their search to a specific country: “best Canada tour companies”:

"best Canada tour companies" query in Google

Or go in search of activities: “Canada skiing trip itinerary”:

"Canada skiing trip itinerary" query in Google

Eventually, the traveler commits. They look for places to stay and tour operators.

Each step in this search journey is an opportunity for you to serve up relevant content. And get your business and offer in front of potential customers.

Here’s how to make sure it’s your content that searchers click on. 

8 Tips to Optimize Your Travel Website for SEO

Audit Your Website 

An SEO audit is an in-depth health check of your site to assess how optimized it is for search engines.

An audit can flag issues and help you answer essential questions, such as:

  • Can Google find and index your pages?
  • Are pages easy to navigate?
  • Do pages load fast enough?
  • Is your website secure?
  • Are pages optimized for mobile? 
  • Is content properly optimized?

All of these are important to ensure your pages appear in organic search results for your target keywords.

Conducting a manual audit using tools such as Google Search Console is relatively easy. But for a thorough analysis and guidance on fixing issues, use Semrush’s Site Audit.

Here’s how: 

Enter your website domain. Then, click “Start Audit”: 

search bar in Site Audit tool

You can use the default settings or customize the crawl later. Click “Start Site Audit” to set the tool to work. 

"Site Audit Settings" page with “Start Site Audit” button highlighted

You’ll see an overview of your website’s SEO performance when the audit is complete.

The “Site Health” score comprises the number of total errors and warnings.

“Site Health” score highlighted in Site Audit overview report

“Errors” require your immediate attention and impact your score more than “Warnings.” Work on these first. Then, move on to other issues.

Click “Why and how to fix it” next to any error to learn more about the issue and how to remedy it. 

an example of “Why and how to fix it” section in Site Audit

You can also connect your Google Analytics account and prioritize the pages with a higher number of visits. 

A clear understanding of your site’s performance and the areas you need to optimize ensures it remains user-and search engine-friendly. This allows you to improve search visibility.

Run a Site Audit every quarter or whenever you make changes to your website. This will help you solve issues before they affect performance. 

Further reading: How to Perform a Technical SEO Audit in 10 Steps

Target Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are specific phrases or questions people type into a search engine. 

Because they’re more precise, long-tail keywords are typically less competitive than broad terms. And can be easier to rank for.

They can also help you target customers based on their unique interests and budget.

For example, a search for “family-friendly hotels in Dubai” draws up a more specific audience than a generic search like “hotels in Dubai.”

The result?

Better quality website traffic from people closer to making a purchase.

Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool can help you find the best long-tail keywords to target based on your seed keyword, or starting phrase. 

For example, here are the results for the seed keyword “dubai vacation” with the Keyword Difficulty filter set to “Easy”:

Keyword Magic Tool results for the seed keyword “dubai vacation”

Results give you different buckets of keywords that suit the needs of unique traveler personas. 

Each bucket is a potential niche your travel business could target. 

For example:

  • “luxury dubai vacation” can attract luxury travelers or those who prefer a personalized experience 
  • “family vacation to dubai” caters to family travelers
  • “dubai and abu dhabi vacation packages” targets travelers looking for a complete package 

Unless you generate tens of thousands of visitors per month, prioritize keywords with lower keyword difficulty (KD). These are the easiest to rank for.

Keywords with a KD of 49 or lower range from “very easy” to “possible” to rank for.

Further reading: Long-Tail Keywords: What They Are & How to Use Them

Optimize for Local SEO

Local SEO is the process of optimizing your travel website to increase traffic, awareness, and visibility in your area. 

Sprinkle local keywords throughout your homepage, landing pages, meta descriptions, and meta tags. So when someone performs a local search, your website is a top result. 

Take CIRE Travel. Search for “best travel agency in New York,” and it’s the first result. 

CIRE Travel is the first results for “best travel agency in New York” query

Why?

Because it optimizes for an audience in the area. 

The CIRE Travel website has multiple articles on New York. Each with local keywords in headers, subheaders, and body content:

an example of articles on New York on CIRE Travel website

It also dedicates an entire page to its services in the city: 

"CIRE Travel New York" page

This tells Google and other search engines that CIRE Travel is relevant for searches related to “New York travel.” And means the brand can capture local organic traffic.

Look at your website. Are your pages relevant to a local audience? If not, add location-based keywords.

Don’t overdo it, though. Your main goal is to create valuable content that benefits the reader. Keywords should flow naturally—never shoehorn them in.

Find more local keywords and determine which to target with the Keyword Overview tool.

Enter a keyword into the tool and press “Search”:

Keyword Overview tool search bar

On the dashboard, you’ll see the factors to assess whether this is a keyword to pursue. Like keyword difficulty, search volume, and related terms.

Further reading: Local Keyword Research for SEO: What It Is & How to Do It

Target Travelers with Blog Content

A blog is one of the best ways to boost search visibility and attract visitors to your website.

It lets you share your expertise to become a resource for would-be travelers. And grow trust and authority. So, when customers are ready to buy, they think of you first.

Take Flight Centre. The agency has a travel blog called “The Window Seat.” 

The blog features content aimed at making the traveler’s journey easier and more enjoyable. 

“The Window Seat” travel blog

By focusing on topics that cater to its target audience and sharing valuable information, Flight Centre has established itself as an authority.

Its posts regularly show up on the first page of search results:

Google SERP for "best australian beaches" show a blog by Flight Centre

This helps more people discover Flight Centre, increasing brand awareness and putting the company front of mind.

When booking a holiday, you’re more likely to go with an agency whose blog helps you plan your trip over one you’ve never heard of.

Our guide to blog SEO has tips on how to get more traffic: 

  • Write about topics people your audience is searching for
  • Write posts to match search intent (e.g., how-to guides or comparison posts)
  • Create helpful, reliable, people-first content
  • Include relevant keywords and links to sources
  • Format posts so they are easy to read
  • Get backlinks from respected websites in your niche
  • Update older posts to boost search visibility

Optimize Your Images 

High-quality photos are a vital selling tool for travel websites. But large files can cause pages to load slowly, which affects search engine rankings. 

To avoid this, compress your images before uploading them. You can do this easily with a tool like TinyPNG or iLoveIMG.

Another way to improve image user experience is by including descriptive alt text. This gives screen reading software something to read aloud for users with visual impairments.

It also helps search engines understand your content. And improves your visibility in search results.

For example, Shangri La Paris offers incredible views of the Eiffel Tower:

"Eiffel Tower Room" page on Shangri La Paris website

Instead of labeling an image as “hotel-room.jpg,” Shangri-La Paris uses descriptive alt text: “luxurious double room with Eiffel Tower view in Paris.” 

This helps it show up in image search results for specific queries, such as “room with Eiffel Tower view Paris”:

Google image search results for “room with Eiffel Tower view Paris”

To check images for alt text, run your site through Semrush’s Site Audit tool. This will help you identify which images need text. And which ones need optimizing to be more descriptive.

Site Audit tool helps you identify images that need alt text and need optimizing

Further reading: Image SEO and Alt Tags: 10 Image Optimization Tips

Ensure Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly 

Create a mobile-friendly website with large, easy-to-tap buttons, concise and easy-to-read text, and fast loading times. 

Do this for two reasons: 

  1. Google uses the mobile version of websites to index pages
  2. A mobile-friendly design improves user experience

Mobile SEO is a Google ranking factor. So, the better your website performs on smartphones and tablets, the better your search visibility. 

For example, Fairmont Hotel in Toronto’s mobile website extends the functionality of its desktop site, but makes the experience better for smaller screens. 

Fairmont Hotel in Toronto’s mobile website

The mobile site features: 

  • Easy-to-navigate menus 
  • Concise text for easy reading 
  • Large buttons for effortless tapping
Fairmont Hotel’s mobile website menu

Mobile users experience a streamlined booking process that’s clear and easy. And images load quickly. 

an example of a listing "Fairmont Gold King" with easy booking process

All of this makes for an enjoyable user experience. And helps Fairmont rank highly in search results: 

Google SERP for "luxury hotel in toronto" ranks Fairmont highly

You can check your website with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test

Just type in your URL, and the tool will analyze your site and tell you whether it’s mobile-friendly. 

Google's Mobile-Friendly Test search bar

Here’s how Fairmont Hotel’s mobile site stacks up:

Fairmont Hotel’s mobile-friendly test results

The tool also flags any issues with performance. To learn more about an issue, hover over it. Then, click the question mark icon.

Mobile-Friendly Test flags any issues with performance

Use Structured Data Markup

Structured data markup, also known as schema markup, is a form of microdata added to the backend of your webpage. 

It gives search engines a snapshot of important information for searchers, such as additional links on your website to explore.

Product review schema can be helpful for travel sites that sell packages or bookings. This schema displays ratings and reviews directly in the SERPs, like this:

ratings and reviews shown for "Warwick Le Crystal" in Google SERP

Add speakable schema to help voice assistants such as Alexa identify sections within an article or webpage best suited for audio playback.

For example, suppose someone asks their voice assistant, “What are the top places to see in Barcelona?”

With speakable schema enabled, Alexa may then read out the snapshot of your blog article listing the top 10 attractions in Barcelona.

Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper makes it easy to generate different schemas:

to start, choose the data type in Structured Data Markup Helper

Choose the data type and paste your URL. Google will walk you through adding tags.

adding tags in Structured Data Markup Helper

Then, you’ll generate HTML and add it to your website.

Structured Data Markup Helper generates HTML you should add to your website

Further reading: What Is Schema Markup & How to Implement Structured Data

Improve Internal Linking Structure 

Think of your website’s internal linking structure as the road map guiding users and Google’s search bots through your site’s content. 

An internal linking strategy distributes link equity (SEO value) throughout your website.

This increases pages’ visibility and enhances the user experience. It also makes it easier for visitors to find what they want.

For example, Flight Centre’s Mexico Vacation Deals page lists offers, relevant blog posts, and answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) in one place. And uses internal links to help people navigate content: 

Flight Centre’s Mexico Vacation Deals page

This helps simplify the journey for visitors. Creating an all-in-one resource makes it easy for them to find content. It also tells Google how this page relates to other content on the site. 

Identify your most authoritative pages and add internal links to those pages to pass through authority.

Semrush’s Backlink Analytics tool can help. 

Type in your domain. Then, click “Analyze.”

Backlink Analytics tool search bar

Next, click the “Indexed Pages” tab.

“Indexed Pages” tab highlighted

This report shows you a list of indexed URLs.

"Indexed Pages" report in Backlink Analytics tool

Analyze the results to see which pages are your most powerful (the ones with the most referring domains).

If the content is relevant, use these pages to link to newer, less authoritative content. This will help boost the rankings of those pages.

Further reading: Internal Links: Ultimate Guide + Strategies

4 Off-page Tips to Boost Your SEO

Here are some activities you can do outside your website that can attract traffic to your website:

Collaborate with other websites, such as travel magazines and blogs, to get more links to your site. 

Backlinks act like votes of confidence from one website to another. 

When another travel website links to yours, it’s a signal to search engines that your content is valuable and reliable. This can help boost your rankings in search results. 

Links from reputable, high-authority websites are worth far more than a bunch from low-quality sites.

So, how can you get quality backlinks and improve your off-page SEO efforts?

By creating quality content.

Take this travel trend report by Tripadvisor

"Travel in 2022. A look ahead" report by Tripadvisor

It’s a high-quality, shareable report. Other blogs, magazines, and websites may cite this report in their own articles. This leads to more people learning about it.

The better your content, the more likely others will link to it. 

You can also write guest posts for publications in the travel industry. A guest post means you get to show off your expertise. And get a link back to your site in return. 

To find backlink opportunities, use Semrush’s Backlink Gap tool. Start by entering your website’s URL and up to four competitors.

Then, hit “Find prospects.”

Backlink Gap tool

The tool shows you a comparison between competitors’ backlink profiles: 

Backlink Gap tool charts a comparison between competitors’ backlink profiles

You can quickly see which competitor is building the most backlinks with the trend charts.

Check the referring domains that send the most links to your competitor using the “Matches” column. 

Domains that match with multiple competitors are good outreach targets, as they link to more than one site in your niche.

Make a list of websites to target. Then, reach out to let them know about your content. Or, ask about guest post opportunities.

Further reading: How to Get Backlinks: 10 Strategies That Work

Encourage Positive Customer Reviews 

Positive reviews drive traffic to your website because they communicate trustworthiness and authority. And 75% of people consider them crucial when making travel decisions.

Encourage your customers to leave positive reviews after a good experience. And respond to negative reviews on time to maintain trust.

A well-handled negative review can turn a dissatisfied customer into a loyal one. 

For example, Las Vegas Hilton at Resorts World fixed an unhappy customer’s issues during their stay. 

The result? 

An updated review with nothing but good things to say about the hotel:

original and updated review on Las Vegas Hilton at Resorts World by a customer

Make the process to leave feedback as easy as possible for customers. Provide a direct link to your review platform and simple instructions. 

Here’s an example of an email Booking.com sends:

Booking.com email asking for a review

Maintaining an open line of communication with your customers through reviews can boost your SEO. And help build trust with your audience.

Claim Your Google Business Profile 

Create a Google Business Profile (formerly called Google My Business) to provide important information about your business in Google Search and Google Maps (e.g., location, opening hours, reviews, etc.).

For example, here’s a snippet of CIRE Travel’s Google Business Profile:

a snippet of CIRE Travel’s Google Business Profile

This snippet gives everything a potential customer might need to get in touch with CIRE Travel. And lists relevant services.

Optimize your Google Business Profile by adding keywords related to your services.

For example, Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London includes keywords like “baby shower planning” and “children’s party planning”:

Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London keywords added to Google Business Profile

This helps increase visibility with potential customers searching for these services. 

Also, provide accurate location details. This will improve your chances of showing in local Google Maps searches, such as “best hotels near me.”

Google Maps results for “best hotels near me” query

Integrate your Business Profile with Semrush’s Listing Management tool to streamline brand monitoring.

Listing Management tool with integrated Google Business Profile

The tool even helps you gauge the tone of reviews so you can handle negative responses quicker.

Further reading: Google My Business: A Guide to Google Business Profile

Partner with Influencers

Influencer marketing is a powerful way to raise awareness, increase trust, and get more bookings.

Take social media travel influencer Zimeee. Her TikTok review for the Amavi MadeForTwo hotel in Cyprus racked up more than 56k views and around 900 saves from potential travelers:

Zimeee TikTok post about the Amavi MadeForTwo hotel in Cyprus

Those views represent potential travelers who are now aware of the Amavi Hotel. And trust it as a place to stay.

An easy way to find influencers in your niche is with BuzzGuru’s Influencer Marketing Platform. 

Start by going to “Influencer Discovery” and selecting your preferred channel: 

“Influencer Discovery” menu in BuzzGuru

Click “Filters” in the top-right corner.

“Filters” button highlighted in the top-right corner

Then set your preferences for subscriber count, category, pricing, engagement rate, etc.

set your preferences in BuzzGuru

You’ll see a list of results based on your criteria.

BuzzGuru provides a list of influencer results based on your criteria

Click on an influencer’s profile for additional data, including contact information.

an example of an influencer’s profile

Once you’ve found potential influencers, pitch your campaign to them.

During the partnership, keep a close eye on campaign performance to monitor how well you’re doing and adjust accordingly.

Start Your Travel SEO Journey

Travel SEO is an ongoing process. Keyword rankings will change regularly. And search performance will fluctuate.

So, it’s critical to keep on top of optimization with Semrush’s SEO Toolkit.

It contains more than 20 tools to assist you in every step of travel SEO, including: 

  • Keyword research
  • Competitor research
  • Link building
  • Technical and on-pageSEO

Get started today with a free account.



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