SEO for Travel Companies in 2018

by | May 18, 2018

SEO for Travel Companies in 2018
24 min read

SEO for Travel Companies in 2018

SEO for Travel Companies in 2018. What’s changed, what you need to know and do. In these slides and videos, we cover SEO landscape changes and the current state of SEO for Travel Companies in 2018. It covers aspects of technical SEO for travel companies, content creation specific to the travel sector, as well as how to boost authority signals and link building for travel companies in 2018.

Table of Contents

View our webinar slides on SEO for Travel Companies in 2018 below:


in marketing we trustSEO for Travel Companies in 2018: Landscape Changes

“Is SEO dead yet?” – Everyone in digital marketing

Yes. But not in the way you think. Google and TripAdvisor remain the gatekeepers when it comes to travel research. Qualitative user research by Google shows how users interact the most with other key entities in the travel space.
SEO for Travel Companies: gatekeepers of travel research

Moving from Results to Answers

Google is moving away from results to answers. There’s no more room for basic answers. Publishers need to move to complex answers in order to survive. This is the difference between a vertical and horizontal algorithm. A vertical algorithm, like dating sites have, will tell you who the best person is for you, while a horizontal algorithm will tell you what the best restaurant in town is, based on a set of universal sources.

Organic still gets 45% of clicks

SEO for Travel Companies: Google CTR Breakdown
Source: Rand Fishkin
SEO is still holding 40-45% of all searches.

AdWords is getting more pixels

While SEO results are still getting around 45% of click-throughs, AdWords is getting more visibility across search engine result pages. Whether through classic AdWords or tools, including Google Flights and Hotel Ads.
SEO for Travel Companies: AdWords is getting more pixels
SEO for Travel Companies: Adwords is getting more pixels

Google Features Getting Greater Share of Clicks

Google Features are also getting a greater share of clicks.
SEO for Travel Companies: Google Features
SEO for Travel Companies: Google Features

Attention is drawn away from results and onto images and tools


SEO for Travel Companies: Google Features Heatmap


SEO for Travel Companies: Google Features Heatmap


This is in order to fast track part of the journey where they don’t make money.

SEO for Travel Companies: Fast-tracking the user journey

While maxing out commercial terms.

SEO for Travel Companies: Google Features Commercial Terms

SEO for Travel Companies: Google Features Commercial Terms

They are bypassing the results page altogether, removing the need for SERPs for high volume, low commercial queries. This increases competition on commercial terms.


Results without FeaturesSEO for Travel Companies: Results without features

It is now rare to find results without certain features.

From a sample of 500k travel keywords:

  • Only 2.7k have zero features
  • Only 30k with just AdWords

This is an opportunity for businesses to build more engaging content from the time of search.


The Algo Storm

For many publishers and brands SEO, 2018 has been a tough year. Google algorithm updates have been more frequent and targeted publishers and affiliates. Those who weathered the storm had better content and UX (user experience). Many algorithm updates are now rolling updates, meaning no jump or drops overnight for most websites.

SEO for Travel Companies: The algo storm

SEO for Travel Companies: The Algo Storm Tweet


SEO for Travel Companies: Major algorithm updatesMajor Algorithm Updates

Major algorithm updates are now part of the main algorithm. This means no more excessive jumps or drops for most websites. We’re seeing either some pages are penalised or the whole site progressively fades. Link quality is now also a constant.


Artificial IntelligenceSEO for Travel Companies: Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence brings full context to queries. AI can process a whole new set of signals, changing the DNA of ranking factors, like situational awareness, context and intent and UX graph.


It’s not all dark

It’s not all bad news though:

  • Google remains the main source of traffic for most websites.
    • You get this traffic for free
    • It could be worse, think about Facebook organic…
  • Algorithm updates tend to clean spam rather than punish good sites
  • Featured snippets reward the best sources of information, including niche sites
  • Rank Brain rewards better UX and answers
  • Voice search opens up a whole new era of long tail
  • A ranking function on any site is an opportunity to optimise
    • Think beyond Google
    • Most algorithms are simpler than Google’s


Summary of SEO for travel companies in 2018

  • SEO in 2018 is a new discipline compared to 2016
    • Voice search will be a game changer
  • AI based rankings mean you won’t be able to ‘cheat’ your way to high rankings and traffic
    • SEO is a by-product of your overall optimisation efforts
  • Big brands dominate the top terms. Go niche, really niche:
    • Adventure travel (2012 keyword)
    • Motorsport adventure travel (2015 keyword)
    • Motor sport adventure travel off the beaten path (2018 keyword)


in marketing we trustTechnical SEO for Travel Companies in 2018

The new tech stack requires an adapted approach

Mobile Matters

Mobile matters more than ever in 2018.

SEO for Travel Companies: Mobile matters more than ever

Source: Think with Google



“Over 60% of Google Search AMP clicks now go to non-news related sites” – Dave Besbris at the 2018 AMP Conference

AMP significantly reduces page size.

SEO for Travel Companies: AMP significantly reduces page size

Source: Stone Temple: The Canonical Guide to AMP

Here’s the difference between a mobile responsive site and an AMP page on our own website:

Mobile Responsive:
SEO for Travel Companies: Mobile Responsive
SEO for Travel Companies: AMP Page

Tracking for AMP

Make sure you adjust your tracking for AMP. Use either a plugin or Google Tag Manager to implement valid tracking.

SEO for Travel Companies: AMP tracking


AMP + Progressive Web APPSEO for Travel Companies: AMP and progressive web app

We love AMP plus progressive web apps. This is one of the key factors leading to a technical SEO renaissance. There’s a bit of a learning curve on both sides, including some testing and dev resources.

Google landing pages coded in AMP are lightning fast, loading focused on delivering the main content rather than loading ads. With the rest of the site coded as a PWA this provides a rich user experience using mobile hardware.


What are Progressive Web Apps?

  • PWAs are “Apps” just like your smartphone apps
  • Except they are also your regular web pages too
  • They simplify App Development and Maintenance
  • Making use of phone hardware (location, gyro, etc.)
  • They create a rich user experience, as if you were in a native application
  • No need to maintain multiple code base, all connect to the same content and user database

Native Apps enable site designers to access phone hardware. Normal web sites cannot access these resources.

SEO for Travel Companies: Progressive web apps enable access to phone hardware

Source: @EricEnge



Considering JavaScript framework for your front end? If you are, this is a must-read article by Elephate.

SEO for Travel Companies: Platforms


Content Management PlatformSEO for Travel Companies: Content Management Platform

Tagged, structured content enables a multi-use approach.

Difficulty: Med/hard

Resourcing: Need tech SEO person + dev support

Biz case: Future proofing, extra channel, chat and sales recommendation

SEO for Travel Companies: Content Management Platform


Ranking Based on DB DataSEO for Travel Companies: ranking based on DB data

Rankings based on DB data is going to be huge. HTML Crawl, indexing and ranking is a resource intensive and inefficient process. Structured markup is a way to speed things up but it still depends upon relevant content. DB often holds the freshest, most accurate dataset.

[patent] Resource identification from organic and structured content. Kudos to SEObyTheSea for finding it.


Personalised Search

Personalised search is going to increase. This will make ranking results blurrier. Google is also gaining stride when it comes to app indexing and deep linking. This provides an individual experience.

But don’t panic. Personalisation doesn’t have to work against you. When someone searches for your target keyword for the first time, you’ve got to do your best to appear among the top results in the unbiased search results page. If the searcher clicks on your listing, you’ll become their preferred entity, and their subsequent searches will most likely include your site as the top result.SEO for Travel Companies: Personalised search


Use Markup is a vocabulary (of many), but is really more comparable to a dictionary.

SEO for Travel Companies: markup

Source: @AlexisKSanders

“I want to live in a world where schema is not that important, but currently, we need it.

If a team at Google recommends it, you probably should make use of it, as schema helps us to understand the content on the page, and it is used in certain search features (but not in rankings algorithms).” – Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google


Use Markup to Help Voice Search

SEO for Travel Companies: Use markup to help voice search

Feature Snippets Worth Considering

SERP Feature Type How to Get In
Video units Create and optimise on YouTube
“People Also Ask” Branding – get searched for with/after the query
Featured Snippet Phrasing and position of short answer in content
Maps Box Claim GMB, get links, earn citations, be nearby
Knowledge Panel Earn brand association, use structured markup
Top Stories (News) Relevant images, alt attributes and direct embeds
Apps Keywords in title and description, become popular in the app store
Books Write a book, use keywords in the title, have an ISBN
Related Searches Be searched and found commonly with the keywords
Tweets Verified accounts help, use keywords in tweets
Search Suggest As with related searches, also geo-sensitive
Sitelinks Get links and visits to several popular pages, use markup
In-Depth Articles Author longer pieces that receive attention and links
Carousels/List Results Be listed alongside common sets on the web


Schema to Include Speakable

Schema is soon to include speakable. This is going to be sweet!

Resources: Speakable and SpeakableSpecification

SEO for Travel Companies: Speakable


What Makes a Good Voice Answer?

Similar to featured snippets, short, sharp answers is what Google and it’s users are looking for.

SEO for Travel Companies: What makes a good voice answer

More info: Guidelines by Google


What to Write for Voice Search?

Try tools like Answer the public and

SEO for Travel Companies: What to write for voice search

in marketing we trustContent SEO for Travel Companies in 2018

User intent > topical/semantic depth > keywords


RankBrain increases performance for quality content. Read more about how to optimise for RankBrain.

  • Analyses user behaviour to answer query intent
  • Understands hard to answer queries
  • Dwell time matters for RankBrain
  • Google’s secret sauce – need to approach your audience and optimisation as a whole


What RankBrain Cares AboutSEO for Travel Companies: What rankbrain cares about

RankBrain cares about dwell time. Visuals, videos and tools help to engage users but can also help answer queries. RankBrain sometimes ranks pages higher up than they “should” rank. Good CTR (click-through rate) can bump up your rankings as Google sees your result as a better answer.

SEO for Travel Companies: Increase time onsite


Increase Time Onsite

Too many sessions are bouncing and users are not engaged. Driving greater onsite engagement and attention will lead to better conversion. Test your layout and increase page speed to improve time onsite.


Build Reasons to Come Back

Sticky engagement beyond on-page CRO tactics.

Having a user centre and developing an integrated solution brings data and automation into the system.

SEO for Travel Companies: Build reasons to come back


Content for Relevance vs. Reach

It’s rare for a piece of content to achieve both of these goals successfully. Always pick your objective for each piece.

SEO for Travel Companies: Content for relevance vs reach

SEO for Travel Companies: Content for relevance vs reach


Build Content to Capture Attention

SEO for Travel Companies: Build content to capture attention

Build content where you can still capture user interest. Capture attention at the “I want to get away moments” (dreaming moments) in order to spend less at the “Let’s book it” (booking moments) stage.


Create Unique Content

Create something uniquely valuable. Unique value refers to the usefulness and takeaways derived by visitors to the page. Many pages can be “valuable” but few provide a truly unique kind of value. Ask yourself: “Does the internet need another page on [topic]?”

SEO for Travel Companies: Create unique content


In-Depth Content Ranks Better

Win the SERPs over by creating in-depth, detailed answers.

SEO for Travel Companies: In-depth content ranks better

SEO for Travel Companies: In-depth content ranks better

Source: Backlinko


Build Authority and Depth of Content

Build authority and depth of content in your niche. Create semantic relevance which is good for RankBrain. This will help you to become a trusted source. Get more visibility via feature snippets and voice search.

SEO for Travel Companies: Build Authority and Depth of Content


Create a Semantic Keyword Footprint

Create a semantic keyword footprint across a whole topic. Related keywords = semantically connected. Google is going to view this as critical to proving that your content is relevant to the searcher’s query.

For example: Which apple are you talking about?

SEO for Travel Companies: Create a semantic keyword footprint



In-Depth Reviews

Rank with in-depth reviews. OTAs and booking sites are transactional in nature. They don’t do a great job when it comes to detailed reviews. Partner with unique hotels/tours needing more visibility.

SEO for Travel Companies: In-depth Reviews


Images Can Drive More Traffic

1 in 5 searches is for an image.

SEO for Travel Companies: 1 in 5 searches is for an image

The recent change to Google’s layout will drive more traffic to your pages/posts. You’re also less likely to get your image “borrowed”.

SEO for Travel Companies: Pics drive more traffic


Tips for Image SEO

  1. Descriptive image filename:
  2. Descriptive image alt tag: alt=”godzilla hotel tokyo japan”
  3. Detailed image caption (visible on the page): N/A
  4. Relevant copy close the image: Did you know you can stay at a Godzilla monster themed hotel: Hotel Gracery Shinjuku?
  5. Keyword-rich page title:
  6. SEO-friendly page URL:
  7. Regular image aspect ratios: classic 4×3
  8. Medium image dimensions: This pic: 81.3kb (688×459 px)

Harder to optimise small images (<500px), Google doesn’t favour those of course. (There are exceptions).

Larger images (>2500px) should be OK. In fact. Google has the tools to filter by image dimensions.

9. Descriptive anchor texts: N/A


Other Tips for Image SEO

a) Submit an image sitemap to Google
b) EXIF data

It’s not yet clear if Google uses image EXIF data in their algorithm.

c) Watermarks don’t matter

Google’s webmaster guidelines state:

“[…] Some people add copyright text, watermarks, or other information to their images. This kind of information won’t impact your image’s performance in search results, and does help photographers claim credit for their work and deter unknown usage. However, if a feature such as watermarking reduces the user-perceived quality of your image or your image’s thumbnail, users may click it less often in search results.”

d) Unique metadata

If you copy-paste keywords/phrases for multiple images, they’ll matter less in Google’s eyes. As with regular web searches, Google wants to show unique images that are relevant with the user’s query.

e) Time and effort

Working on all this image SEO is not easy. Do it manually a few times, and then try to work out a routine for whenever you add more images to the site. Try to cover as many of the image SEO factors above as possible.


Content Optimisation Importance

SEO for Travel Companies: Content Optimisation Importance

Source: Search Engine Land

What great onpage optimisation looks like:

SEO for Travel Companies: What great onpage optimisation looks like


in marketing we trustAuthority Signals and Link Building for Travel Companies in 2018

Not your grandma’s recipe for links

SEO is a by-product, what else should we do?

With more signals coming in, multiple points of authority become necessary.

SEO for Travel Companies: SEO is a byproduct



Links Still Matter

Yes, links still matter… a LOT. Getting links to your site still matters. Make sure you strive for quality over quantity.

Search engines judge you by your links.

SEO for Travel Companies: Links still matter


Why Do People Link to You

  • They know you and/or owe you a favour
  • Your website is unique, interesting, engaging, etc.
  • You link to their website in return (genuinely)
  • Provide content to publish on their website
  • Financial incentive (careful here)
  • You improve their profile/ego/product
  • You offer the most relevant resources (data, tools, tips)
  • You offer a different perspective
  • You are the only/first one to talk about it (in-depth)
  • You are a famous/trusted source of information


Link Building is Ongoing

SEO for Travel Companies: Link building is ongoing

Link Building Methods

Good ol’ classic methods that still work to get links:

  • Get target sites users involved in the content creation process
  • Gather and share data (great for PR)
  • Build tools
  • Reach out for unlinked mentions
  • Reach out to linkerati
  • Get local links (school, sport centre, meetup etc.)


The Making of a Link-Worthy Story

SEO for Travel Companies: The Making of a link-worthy story

What are You Asking Them to Link to?

Offer something that makes sense to link to Offer content that already exists and ask for a link with no further information
Respond to topics in the news agenda you can offer content/commentary on Offer content that an expert writer can source themselves
Get in touch, be personable and find out the kinds of content they want to receive Ask for a link from something that was covered months ago
Work with experts in a related field for greater exposure Lead with the brand rather than the story you’re trying to sell


Linkless Mentions

Bing uses it as an authority signal and a patent by Google (along with observations from many SEO experts) indicates that Google may be doing this as well. So get out and build your brand name, even if you don’t get a link back.

SEO for Travel Companies: Linkless mentions

SEO for Travel Companies: Linkless mentions


Channel DiversificationSEO for Travel Companies: Channel diversification

By opening up additional mediums and channels we can exponentially increase audience reach and user acquisition.

We see the biggest opportunities in (priority order):

  1. Video content; social channels
  2. Optimised content aggregation
  3. Display (awareness over acq.)

60% of consumers watch branded videos on a daily basis.

SEO for Travel Companies: Branded videos

SEO for Travel Companies: Video content


YouTube and Facebook OrganicSEO for Travel Companies: Youtube and facebook organic

Creating a strong instream video presence on YouTube and Facebook can open up a new channel of consumers for your brand. Like standard SEO, start with a niche target. Build around a closely knit set of keywords. Test and learn what works best when it comes to duration. Leverage video content across all mediums (website, email, etc.) to rack up views and engagement. A successful strategy will blend the discoverability of YouTube, with the engagement of Facebook. As a search engine, YouTube exposes users to new content based on search intent. 55% of consumers watch branded content at an engagement rate of 32%. Facebook exposes users to a greater volume of branded video (60%), at a higher engagement rate (49%).


SEO for Travel Companies: boost authority with flipboardBoost Authority

Go where the world’s best content publishers and creators are, on Flipboard.

While Australia is a small market, presence continues to grow.

SEO for Travel Companies: Flipboard Australian Market

SEO for Travel Companies: Flipboard global reach

SEO for Travel Companies: Flipboard audience

Source: Flipboard

AND go where the world’s smallest publishers are competing with media giants, Medium.

SEO for Travel Companies: Medium

SEO for Travel Companies: Medium

With 74 million global users, is rapidly growing. Online publishers are independent content creators are moving their content there.


Other tips to boost authority

  1. Go native on Android and iOS
  2. Optimise for native news aggregators
Kirsten Tanner

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