Getting noticed online isn't easy. Especially in the travel industry, where a handful of platforms dominate search results, customers flit from site to site in search of the best deals and loyalty is a becoming a thing of the past.
But that doesn't mean that starting up in the industry is a lost cause, or that driving traffic is impossible. There are plenty of ways that you can boost your hits, build a strong presence and work your way up the organic search rankings.
Today we're going to go through a few of those. But let's make one thing clear before we do: A prerequisite to taking any of these steps is that you have a solid idea that's ready to go - a niche travel concept that people are going to be searching for in the first place.
For more information and guidance on that particular hurdle, see here: How to Choose a Travel Marketplace Niche
There are a bunch of things you can do to boost your platform's SEO and improve your Google ranking. But today we're going to focus on just one aspect: link building. Essentially this refers to the practice of getting other website domains and pages to link to yours.
Generally speaking, the more links you get, the better your domain will rank in search engine listings. This is because Google largely bases search results upon the concept of relevance. If other sites are linking to you for a particular topic, then it shows a level of consensus. It suggests that your site is the place to go for useful information within that sphere.
But it's not all about quantity. Google's algorithms are way past being fooled by thousands of bogus links from totally irrelevant sources. In fact, spammy links like that are likely to harm your SEO rather than improve it.
Instead, the source of your backlinks is crucial. The better and more trusted the source (which effectively translates as domain authority), the more impact it will have on the site it's linking to.
Which sites have good domain authority? Usually it's those that are established, trusted and reliable. So we're talking about long-standing company pages, factual encyclopedias and, of course, respected publications.
Respected publications could include popular blogs or more conventional publishers, like newspapers and online magazines. These two groups are the link sources that we're going to focus on today.
Here's our rundown of the best way to build solid, SEO-boosting links for your travel industry business.
Getting great links back to your website isn't easy. To highlight that point, we thought it would be a good idea to start with a hard method that takes both time and patience.
Like any relationship worth having, building connections with other companies and individuals working in the travel space doesn't happen overnight. It might also require some legwork on your end to get things started.
Let's say you're a travel startup offering motorcycle tours in Africa, like one of the companies we featured in our Gap in the Market series, Wheels of Morocco. There's a way to gain publicity from other travel companies without letting your rivalry get in the way.
For example, an Africa-based tour company focused on motorcycle trips might want to develop a working relationship with a tour company offering similar experiences in Asia or South America. The two companies aren't necessarily competing for the same customers - and could each benefit from mentioning (and linking) to the products of the other.
That's just one example, of course. Travel companies needn't be operating in the same sector to mention one another and develop a relationship. A food tour company might appreciate the witty product descriptions of a snorkeling trip startup. Why not mention it and why you think it's so great in an article or social media post about marketing? Share the love and start building those relationships.
This also works with news publications and journalists of course. Which gets us to a key thing that travel industry companies need to appreciate when it comes to publishing content and posting on social media: it's not all about you. Not everything you throw out into the ether needs to be about your products and services.
The more you mention others and support your fellow travel companies and publications, the more you'll find that favour reciprocated.
So, to finish off this little section let's make one final thing clear. This link building strategy is not a quick fix. It will take time and effort. But it's also important to point out that relationship building comes in many forms. You might want to explore the potential of official partnerships. You might just want to mention other travel businesses in passing on social media or blog posts.
Put your company out there and see what sticks.
We mentioned above that it's a great idea to build relationships with journalists and publications - both in the travel industry and out of it.
Which brings us to the second way your travel business can secure vital backlinks from publications: become a go-to source. Whatever your travel industry niche, there's bound to be journalists out there interested in hearing about it, talking about your personal experiences and getting first-hand insight to support their articles.
If you've got the time and the patience, cultivating these relationships can be invaluable in the long term.
So start out with a speculative but interesting press release, build up a contact list of relevant journalists and media publications, hit send and make yourself available for further comments.
See where it takes you. At worst you'll get some easy publicity. At best, you'll become a go-to source for relevant publications, which could add up to countless backlinks with strong domain authority in the coming years.
Any travel startup - even those with just a handful of employees - have individuals with interesting stories, insights and expertise to share.
So just as you might send off regular press releases to the media in search of publicity and online traction, why not make your staff available for interviews? That way your team can effectively be the news.
The brilliant part of this strategy is that your potential publications are no longer limited to those dedicated to travel or your travel niche. Instead (or as well) you can target business-focused publications and those that cover startups, local news and something related to your travel niche.
The takeaway is this: just because you're buried in what you do, day in, day out, it doesn't mean there aren't thousands of people out there interested in hearing what you and your team have to say.
Again it comes down to building relationships. For example, your marketing manager can become the go-to source for journalists who write about online marketing, or your product manager could be a regular interviewee for a business magazine. Think outside the box and watch the high DA backlinks come pouring in.
It's also important to realise that getting interviewed is no longer something that's limited to written journalism. Why not reach out to radio shows, relevant Youtube channels and podcasts? All offer the chance for your travel company to gain publicity and awesome backlinks.
Lots of our marketing hints and tips for travel industry startups take the two birds with one stone approach. And that's a theme that crops up a lot when we're talking about SEO in general.
For example, if your team members do interviews as we suggested above there are two benefits. The first - from a traditional marketing point of view - is that your name is getting out there. Your products and services are being exposed to a relevant audience and you're generating leads organically.
The second part of the double whammy is that you're gaining backlinks, boosting your SEO and creating a virtuous circle or relevance.
That two birds with one stone approach also applies to the art of guest writing. It's not a new concept, but it is certainly an effective one.
It starts with a simple fact: publications, no matter the industry, are always on the lookout for interesting articles and content more generally. Sadly, the publishing industry isn't flash with cash and many editors work hard to put together features and opinion pieces alongside general news.
This fact represents a fantastic opportunity for any travel industry startup looking to gain credible publicity and solid backlinks. Instead of being the source or getting interviewed as we've mentioned above, why not pitch articles yourself?
The best way to do this is to get in touch with the editors at relevant publications and ask some genuine questions about what kind of content they are looking for. It's then up to you to pitch interesting ideas and convince them why you or a member of your team is the ideal writer for that article.
Before you know it, your company could be represented with regular guest post spots in a number of publications. Not only will this allow you to carve out a reputation as a thought leader and draw leads to your brand. It'll also get you a bunch of high domain authority links to boost your SEO.
Most PR is opportunism, pure and simple. It's about knowing how to be in the right place at the right time.
From an easy SEO win, there are some easy strategies you can use to get mentioned, quoted and featured by leading publications.
First up, keep an eye on Twitter trends such as #JournoRequest. These will link you directly to journalists looking for sources, inspiration and more. It might take a while, but there's bound to be a request related to something relevant you can bring to the table. Maybe a journalist is looking for interesting travel ideas or some insights from a startup CEO.
Once you've found an opportunity that looks like you could fit the bill, get in touch. It's as easy as that.
If you don't want to spend valuable time trawling through Twitter, keep an eye out for relevant stories that have already been published, and follow up on articles with the appropriate editor or journalist. They will always be open to hearing from an alternative source with a different side of the story to tell.
For the ultimate convenience, consider signing up for a press service like UK-based Response Source. They act as a go-between for journalists and companies, connecting publications to people and organisations that fit their query. For startups, the service offers a great way to connect directly with journalists who you know are looking for information and sources.
The only problem can be the expense: So consider signing up for a free trial to see whether it's worth the money in the long run.
All of these methods exist to help you get in touch with journalists and get your travel company noticed. There's just one thing to remember: All of these journalists will likely get multiple responses to their requests for comments. So make their lives easier and you'll have a great shot at being featured.
Whenever you contact journalists, include quotes that address their questions or topic in the first email you send. Outline why your company is best placed to be included.
Make yourself available to provide further details and don't forget to include an 'About' section that offers a quick overview of who you are and what makes your travel company noteworthy.
Moving away from traditional PR, you should never, ever forget the importance of content marketing.
Content marketing boils down to a simple, necessary truth for any travel company that wants to be successful these days: In the age of online connectivity, if you're not publishing content and building your brand for others to see, you're missing out on a vital opportunity.
You're also missing out on the chance to develop a community-driven platform that can inspire and entice potential customers - something we know a little bit about.
But getting back to content marketing: The whole idea is to create things that other people want to see. At an SEO level, that means creating things that are worth linking too, that people will willingly share and, if you're lucky (and highly skilled), content that has the chance to go viral.
Some ideas to get you started: An epic, in-depth guide to your travel niche; an online magazine packed with inspirational content; infographics, maps, useful tools that automate a usually tricky task, how-to features... that kind of thing.
A great way to develop original content and conduct vital market research at the same time is to get out there and survey your potential customers.
In the travel industry that's easy, because everyone is a potential customer. Why not explore demographic or geographical preferences to gauge who the ideal target market is for the kind of trips your company offers? Then all you have to do is publish your findings in a shareable, accessible medium.
You will quickly become recognised as a trustworthy source of primary data and your backlinks will begin to reflect that.
And it doesn't always have to be direct. You could explore social media trends or look at travel industry statistics as a whole. Performing research doesn't necessarily mean sending out surveys and hoping for the best!
Most people love to show off. It's human nature. Which is why when you mention someone online in a positive light - whether that's an individual or a business - they tend to respond.
That natural instinct translates well into SEO. If there's a particular piece of content out there that you think your readers will find interesting or valuable, don't be afraid to mention it or link to it.
As well as boosting your SEO by providing relevant external links, you can create posts on social media, tag the companies or individuals that you've referenced and watch as they go on to share your material.
A common format for this type of thing is Top X type articles.
For example, if you, as a travel company, put together a feature on the Top 10 places to get travel industry news, you can then share that article while tagging the sites you've mentioned. Watch as the backlinks come in.
In a way, this goes back to building relationships. Interact with other companies in the space and you will soon become a point of reference.
Newsflash: The internet is not a perfect place.
Some sites are old and broken. Some links don't work anymore because they point to sites which are old and broken. And some companies and individuals have gone ahead and mentioned you without providing a link for their readers. How rude.
The solution to all of these issues is good, old fashioned link reclamation. This can often be a tedious business, scouring the web for broken and missing links that could instead be pointing to your company website.
But there are some new tools that help speed up the process, including LinkClump and Buzzstream. In fact, for more information on link reclamation than we could possibly hope to provide in this post, check out this fantastic guide from Moz.
One easy thing you can do before starting any sort of link reclamation process is this: If your startup is starting to build a name for itself, consider setting up a Google Alert. This will ping you an email whenever people are talking about you online.
Then, all you have to do is check if they included a link in their article. If they didn't, drop them an email and ask nicely for a backlink. Chances are they won't protest, as they were kind enough to write about you in the first place.
But they might need a bit of persuading. Time is money after all. So try to entice them by sending a link to some extra content on your site that's relevant in some way to the original mention. Or send them some cookies. Either way.
The good thing about link reclamation in the travel industry is the sheer amount of travel writing and related blogs out there. Search for long enough and you will be able to build a huge collection of potential leads.
Just make sure the links you seek to reclaim are relevant to your travel niche. Spam will get you nowhere.
We already covered this to a degree in point 6. But here at Travelshift we take the notion of building content worth linking to very seriously indeed. In fact, you could say that user-generated content is the fuel that makes our marketplace software so successful.
Take our Guide to Iceland platform as an example. Since launching in 2014, our Iceland-dedicated travel guide and booking platform has become the go-to source for Iceland tourist information, with millions of visitors every year. In turn this has helped us to build a highly profitable marketplace with explosive growth and fantastic travel products and services.
Sure, it's all made possible by the solid foundations of clever marketplace software, but the main reason we are where we are is that we've encouraged travellers, local guides and vendors to create inspiring content that allows us to compete with (and more importantly, outrank) travel industry giants.
Want to find out more? Contact us today for more information.