Nearly everyone knows at this point that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a vital part of any business’s comprehensive marketing plan, and tourism destinations are no exception. But how do you score that coveted spot atop Google’s search results? How do you land in the “local pack,” the group of three businesses that sit at the top of a location-based search?
While there is a certain amount of technical skill involved, you can reach those goals relatively easily just by answering questions that your potential visitors, and search engines, are asking.
Your visitors are asking search engines all kinds of questions – where should I go? What should I do in the location I want to visit? If you answer those questions with content on your destination’s website, you’ll be on the path to good SEO. But you should also be paying attention to how you are answering these questions with your website, because Google and other search engines determine where you should rank in searches based on specific factors.
Let’s look at some foundational ways you can improve your destination’s SEO:
- Define what you are – and what you’re not
While it may seem helpful to capture as much traffic as possible with broad language, you want to avoid attracting traffic to your website that isn’t specific to what you do. You aren’t looking for as many visitors to your site as possible; you want quality, not quantity.
For instance, if your primary pool of potential customers are tourists and visitors looking to rent bicycles, you do not want to attract traffic from folks looking to buy bicycles. They’ll bounce (navigate away from your website) very quickly because they didn’t find what they were looking for. Search engines account for a lot of factors when determining your page rank in searches and bounce rate is one of them. Aim for a low bounce rate if you want to increase your rank.
Takeaway: keep your page content precise and specific to the services your destination offers to avoid a high bounce rate.
- Take your time planning and writing your website content
You should put time and effort into planning what pages you will have on your website and what those pages will say. A good place to start your planning is to find out what kind of information your customers are looking for. You probably already know that people typically use similar terms when searching for your business. Think about what amenities your destination has to offer, and act like a potential customer: type a search for those terms into a search engine and see what comes up. The “related searches” at the bottom of a Google search will show you the related terms and phrases people also search for. Use these terms to begin building your focus keywords.
Focus keywords are terms you can use naturally in the copy of your landing pages. Natural is important – don’t overuse or force these terms into the content of your pages. Search engines can tell when you are trying to rank for a specific keyword or phrase by using it as many times as possible. You can also use Google Keyword Planner to get more ideas for keywords and terms you should use.
Takeaway: write high-quality copy that answers your customer’s questions about your attraction or destination.
- Update your listings across the internet for consistency
Your business is likely listed on directory sites such as Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc. Claim your listings and make edits as necessary. Are all of your phone numbers and addresses the same across all of these listings (and your website)? Is your website linked on each listing? Do you have 5-7 high quality photos for your business on each listing?
You’ll also want to create and fill out a Google My Business account if you haven’t already. This is the primary source Google looks to for information about your business (address, phone number, etc.) Bing and other search engines have similar business listing platforms you can take advantage of. Search engines will scan these various listings together to determine your website’s credibility.
Takeaway: update your business listings to be consistent and comprehensive to help your rankings.
There are a lot of steps you can take to improve your destination’s SEO beyond these first three, but these foundational steps will help you get started on the path to climbing the rankings. In part 2 of this series, we’ll dig into the technical, structural aspects of improving SEO.