Reputation is important in the world of travel. It's what inspires loyalty or drastically reduces return customers. If your agency or platform is known for a certain something: unbelievable customer service, poor value for money, once-in-a-lifetime experiences... that's going to directly impact your bottom line, for better or for worse.
Which brings us to PR, Public Relations - essentially the art of reputation management. We're talking about handling the press, reaching out to journalists in the right way and promoting your platform or agency in a manner that highlights your positive values and attracts the right kind of attention.
Aside from dictating the state of the intangible - your travel company's reputation - PR has a more direct influence on your business because of how closely it ties in with SEO. Allow us to explain.
In our business - empowering online travel agencies - SEO is fundamental. No matter how great your travel products, services and prices are, if customers can't find you on the internet, you're going to miss out on bookings. The end result of a great SEO strategy is being discoverable. More often than not, travellers do their research through search engines. You want to be at the top of those search results for your chosen niche.
A key part of any SEO strategy is backlinks, powerful little links that point from another website to yours. As well as sending relevant traffic in your direction, the quality and quantity of these links act as a barometer for your platform's relevance.
In the eyes of Google and other search engines, the more high quality links you have from appropriate sources, the more relevant your content must be. The more relevant it appears to be, the more likely these search engines are to push you up the results rankings. It's a cycle of reinforcement: the higher you are in the rankings, the more likely it is that you'll be cited as a source of products, insights, or whatever it is you're selling.
So where does PR fit into all of this? Why should travel marketplaces consider PR as part of their SEO strategy? Well, when you think about it, it's very simple. PR refers to how your travel platform deals with and uses journalists and their publications first and foremost. If you can get your company in the news, either with a quote on a current topical news item or a feature/interview with a senior management team member, any link from you get from that is worth its weight in gold.
That's partly because established publications have incredibly high domain authority. And, while some are better ranking than others, most news outlets are trustworthy in the eyes of Google: what they say is relevant is relevant.
Of course, good quality backlinks don't only have to come from journalists and positive PR campaigns. Recent years have seen the rise of bloggers, professional social media influencers and websites dedicated to all manner of travel exploits. These can also be valuable backlink sources. Getting exposure in publications reinforces your SEO in the same way that usual backlinks do. The only difference is that other publications will catch on to the fact that your platform offers interesting quotes or analysis on your chosen niche, and they may come to you in future.
So, without further ado, here are a few strategies your travel company can employ to get more PR exposure and, in turn, better SEO...
Have you ever heard of or used Google News? Essentially, it's Google's way of sorting out news articles from the rest. Publications can sign up and their articles will be featured when you hit the 'News' section of the search bar. Much of the Google News category is made up of press releases or rewrites of press releases. This remains the best way for companies to publicise announcements and news related to their business.
Which brings us to an obvious suggestion: Why not write some press releases? At worst, your release will be picked up and republished by some industry-specific publications. At best, it could travel much further than that - depending on how interesting your news is, of course.
Almost without fail, republished press releases improve your SEO because they ( more often than not) feature a link to your website. Better still, they are published or rewritten on websites and publications who hold high domain authority.
It's a no brainer, particularly if you have exciting partnerships, announcements and stories to share with the wider world about your travel platform.
Have you ever been scrolling through Twitter and noticed the hashtag #JournoRequest? Essentially, it's a quick and easy way for journalists to connect with PR agencies and companies, whether that's as part of a search for original stories, quotes or comments. An example might be this:
Looking for comment from small biz or entrepreneur about importance of client retention, and how to do it, when your biz is expanding. will be published as part of website article. #journorequest #prrequest #entrepreneurs— Jess Unwin (@JessUnwin) April 18, 2018
And it works both ways. Journalists looking for help with a particular story will write out their request in search of a company that can help. And travel companies can use the same hashtag, or something like #PRRequest, to tweet out to journalists about stories in their field.
So why not try searching for that hashtag along with a few terms relevant to your company? Who knows what might come of it.
You can really look at this technique as reverse engineering a press release. When done well, your travel company will see all of the same SEO benefits. It's possible that you'll work out a much more specific, more personalised publicity because of it.
All types of companies rely on reviews to get positive publicity in the press and boost their SEO. No matter what they are selling, from mobile phones to bananas to hotel rooms.
If you're a small travel provider, you may not be in the position to give away trips for free to members of the press. But remember, a single article in a major publication could go a long way, both in terms of SEO and name recognition.
It's certainly worth considering, particularly if you're looking to build a travel brand in a specific niche.
This point can be seen as an extension of tapping into social media to boost your travel site's SEO. Let's imagine that there's a breaking news story that's related to the travel industry or, more specifically, your chosen travel niche.
You might be an adventure travel startup, and new data might reveal that your sector is becoming increasingly popular. Findings like this hit the news all the time. So why not get ahead of them and have comments/insights ready to share with journalists at leading publications?
All you need to execute this PR strategy effectively is an up to date database of journalists who cover yours and related industries. Oh, and a willing executive who can share insights at short notice. This strategy is all about speed, so you have to be prepared to be proactive and approach journalists before they've even realised they want your input.
Journalists will run with stories and comments that are well written, insightful and show personality without losing professionalism. The more work you can do for the journalist, the more likely they are to publicise your business. Which brings us to...
Any travel company should be featuring their products and services with beautiful, inspiring images. If you can, why not make these images available to publications and journalists in return for a backlink or a mention.
More often than not, publications will use stock photographs or those that have been attached to press releases. Make sure your travel business provides high-quality images every time you share comments or stories with journalists.
The more striking the better!
Now that's a bold statement. What does it mean to become your own publication? In our experience, becoming your own travel publication is about going the extra mile. It's about doing more than offering tours, trips and accommodation. It's about becoming a tourism hub in every sense of the word.
Prospective travellers and people who have already made bookings want the same things: inspiration and information. Not copy and pasted nonsense. They want genuine, thoughtful guidance on how to make the best of their holiday.
Unsurprisingly, if you do this well, people are going to notice. But why does that translate into a good PR tactic in terms of SEO? Well, as we mentioned earlier, it's all about backlinks and growing the relevance of your domain. If other publications and websites are linking back to your informative blog posts and articles, search engines are going to start pushing you up the rankings.
Your foundational posts are going to become the go-to articles in your chosen niche. People will discover your publication first and make a booking second, rather than the other way around.
Now, if you think about it, this isn't really something you can do without investing a lot of time and resources into building a dynamic publication. You'll need to hire journalists and content creators. People whose sole purpose is to create informative, interesting reads about your chosen travel niche.
This is where we do things differently...
We've written before about the power of community-driven content. It's central to the Travelshift platform and provides the secret sauce behind our success. As a marketplace software provider, we know better than most that content generated by users and customers is the best kind. Naturally, it's the most genuine. There are no lies, no bias, just honesty from people who have been there and done it.
For that reason, it's also great for SEO. If people find an article informative, original or inspiring, they are far more likely to share it with their peers or quote it (and link back to it) in their own work. That's why we build the capability to create a community of writers, bloggers and locals into our software solution.
So if the prospect of becoming your own publication is daunting, consider driving your community-driven content.
So there you have it. Good PR strategies lend themselves wonderfully to effective search engine optimisation. If you handle the press well and dabble in social media, reviews and publishing effectively, there's no reason why you can't put in some really solid SEO foundations.
And it's worth remembering that good PR snowballs. Just like throwing a pebble into a pond, making the right moves in the PR world will send out ripples and increase the reach of your travel company even further. The same goes for positive SEO strategies. The more great content you create, for example, the more people read it.
The more people read it, the higher you get pushed up the rankings. And the higher you are up the rankings, the more people will discoverable your website will become. This is the fundamental truth of good PR and good SEO. Just keep plugging away. With a bit of patience and no small amount of flair, you'll get noticed.