Content Marketing, SEO Strategy, Social Media Strategy, Online Marketing Guide for Travel Industry BusinessesDecember 10, 2014Rossitsa TsanovaReading time: “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao TzuOnline marketing is crucial for any online business and the travel & tourism industry is no exception. But how can you compete with websites like TripAdvisor, Fedora, Lonely Planet or Booking.com? To get your business going and growing you first have to be discovered, then liked, then chosen, and finally — preferred. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step, and in this case, that’s building a successful online marketing strategy.Here are Hop Online’s most useful insights about the fundamental components of an online marketing strategy, accompanied by practical tips on how to develop and implement these components for your travel or tourism business.4 Principles for a Successful Online Marketing StrategyBefore we jump into the nitty gritty details of travel industry online strategy, let me share the top four principles every business needs to follow for online success.RelevanceAt the core of every company is a particular brand idea. Make sure your tone of voice, promoted values, and unique selling propositions (USPs) match and support the brand identity you want to forge.It’s also key to package your message using only those content formats which are relevant to the communication channels you use: social media, email, website, etc. Not every format works for every platform.Most importantly, focus your marketing efforts on relevant target groups and buyer personas.ConsistenceBe consistent in providing the same level of quality across different communication channels and platforms, so you achieve unified customer experience. This will help you create a solid brand image which people can trust.EngagementInitiate dialogue and be available to answer customer inquiries. The birth of social media dramatically changed the way companies and brands interact with audiences and customers, so make sure you take advantage of these new engagement opportunities.Outreach/PromotionCompanies in competitive industries, like travel, need active promotional methods to stand out.Creative promotional techniques (paid and organic) will get you noticed. Keep in mind that a big number of the most successful growth hack techniques are in fact creative promotional innovations. Airbnb is a great example: they built an integration with Craigslist to allow quick listings to a website with over 10 million users.Online Marketing Tips and Techniques for the Travel IndustryHaving laid the principle framework for your online marketing strategy, you can go forward and explore different techniques to support the achievement of your business goals. The following 4 suggestions provide just a quick overview of the wide variety of possibilities, and they cover the basic activities every travel or tourism business should include in their online marketing plan.1: SEO for Travel Industry WebsitesEven if your company offers a top-notch service or an innovative product with the potential to disrupt the travel market, it needs to be discoverable to succeed. If your website is not easily found and indexed by search engine bots, it won’t be reached by people, either. As a result, your business either won’t take off or the growth cost would be too high.Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should always be step one. SEO comes even before you start creating your marketing communications strategy. There are many factors that have to be taken into account when a travel website is optimized for search engines, including website load speed, page meta descriptions and titles, and management of URL parameters among many more. Optimizing the technical elements, however, will not be half as effective if the human factor behind the search and website usage is neglected.Human usability has a direct effect on search engine rankings. For example, if you have a hotel booking website and your UX-optimized search form provides quick and relevant results, the probability that your visitors will stay longer and click through different pages is higher. That means you’ll have a lower bounce rate — a highly important Google ranking factor that measures how relevant and user-friendly your website is.The key takeaway here is to make sure you optimize your website both for robots (crawlable and indexable pages) and people (relevance, user experience).2: Local SEO for Local Travel and Tourism VenuesLocal listings on Google appear below the first AdWords and organic results. Part of the local results are also the so-called Carousel galleries — the pictures strip above the search results providing visually appealing local suggestions. Google dropped the local Carousel for restaurants, hotels and other categories in November and replaced it with local pack views.Google is constantly improving their algorithms and the search engine now shows local results mixed with organic ones even for more generic keywords like “top 10 restaurants,” assuming that the users could be interested in local venues. So, if your travel and tourist business runs a restaurant, attraction or hotel, optimizing your website to rank in the local search results is a must.And although ranking in local search pack is influenced by 150 factors, the optimization process includes four major points:Registering your Google My Business page and filling out all the informationAdding high-quality pictures on your Google+ pageGetting customer reviews on your Google+ pageBuilding local citationsHaving a specialist execute a local SEO audit and recommend further action is a good starting point.3: Social Media Marketing Techniques for Travel WebsitesSocial media is no longer a revolution; it’s a lifestyle norm. It changed the way companies and brands interact with audiences and customers. The impact of social media on the travel and tourism industry has become more and more significant. About 25% of customers seek information or inspiration in social media platforms before deciding on a travel destination, a service or a provider.Maintaining a consistent social media policy, making an active effort towards growing social media communities around your brand, initiating dialogue and being available to answer customer inquiries and respond to general feedback are of the utmost importance.Operating in the travel industry, your company will probably need to have an active presence on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Pinterest. Appropriate additions would be Instagram, with its growing importance and adoption by businesses, and, of course, Foursquare if your company has physical venues.Here are some platform-specific tips:Google+: Engage with special travel communities to build your brand and widen your reach.Foursquare & TripAdvisor: Help your customers find you, and motivate them to post reviews about your venue.Twitter: Listen to and engage with potential customers, and initiate direct sales via social listening techniques and tools.Facebook: Grow an engaged fan base and spread the word about your biz with carefully targeted promoted posts.Pinterest and Instagram: Share visual content, which typically holds the most appealing messages in the industry — from the landscapes of exotic destinations to luxury accommodations and beautiful sightseeing spots.4: Content Marketing for Travel WebsitesContent Marketing in a word means to create, publish and promote content with the goal of attracting, converting and retaining customers. The type of content can range from blog articles, videos, and photos to whitepapers and e-books, where each format works best for different end goals. The process of building an effective content marketing strategy inevitably includes:Buyer Persona Analysis: Define your ideal buyer. This will help you target your content to your particular customers. Is your buyer a business traveler or an adventurous backpacker? They will be interested in completely different types of content.Competition Analysis: Check what your competitors are doing and how they’re doing it. This will help you compare your performance in search ranking, ad spending, brand positioning, offers and USPs. Search for a new travel business niche that can help you stand out from the pack.Keyword Analysis: Research which keywords have the potential and volume to bring relevant and targeted organic traffic to your website. This will help you build a lean content strategy around those keywords. Don’t neglect long-tail keywords like “boutique hotel in old Prague,” as narrow search terms will attract high converting traffic.Outreach Strategy: Outline a plan to promote your content via social media, email, AdWords and other channels, by considering your buyer persona profiles and identifying which channels they use. Give your content its best chance by promoting it in the right spheres. This will help you maximize and speed up the achievement of your communication goals.ConclusionA detailed analysis of your company goals, communication needs, target markets and competitors is an important stepping stone to building an effective online marketing strategy that will help your business grow. Such a strategy should include a balanced and effective mix of techniques, each one adding value to your overall marketing efforts and contributing directly or indirectly to sales.