Tour Operators, have you gone local yet?
“Local searches” are perhaps the most important search queries that any local business (including in-destination tour operators) should compete to win.
Why are these search queries so important for a tour operator? And what’s a quick way to start ranking for these queries?
Before we start answering these questions, let’s define the term “local search” or “location based search”. These are searches where a user either explicitly enters the location into the search query (Scuba Diving in Goa, Italian restaurant in Patong, Phuket) or the Search Engine returns the results by implicitly picking up the location.
Here is an example of a local search. Below are some screenshots of such queries on a mobile device using Google Local and Google search:
Why is local search important for a tour operator?
Let’s just browse through some numbers:
- One out of every five searches on Google is a local search?
- The latest travel study released by Google, The 2013 Traveler, says – “Once at a destination, 58% of leisure travellers rely on online sources to evaluate local activities”.
- Over 50% of travellers use their mobile devices to find and search for things to do in destination while on vacation.
Bottom line – travellers are increasingly relying on local searches to explore in-destination tours and activities. The numbers above clearly indicate that local search queries are the most important queries that a tour operator should target to win (that is, rank high on Google’s Search Engine Result Pages). If you manage to secure one of the top positions for relevant local search queries, chances are, that it will be your single biggest source of leads, enquiries and bookings.
Another important aspect is that the conversion rates for local searches are staggeringly high. When a user searches for a specific activity at a specific location, the intention is, in general, to make a purchase. Sample this – in case of restaurants, conversion rate has been found to be as high as 60%!
What’s a super quick way to win these local search queries?
Google Places. If you haven’t already done so, go ahead and create your business listing on Google Places. If your place is already listed, you will have to claim your listing. For local searches, Google shows the list of businesses/places (listed on Google Places) that match the search criteria. And the good news is that this list is shown at the
top – usually after 2-3 organic results and, at times, even before all the organic results. On mobile, they usually take precedence over everything else.
Technically, this is not SEO and should definitely not replace your overall SEO strategy. But it will serve your purpose, at least for local search queries. A listing on Google Places will ensure that your business shows up across the web – Google Search, Maps, Google+, and mobile devices. Do not underestimate the importance of Google Maps. Interestingly, Google Maps account for 70% of mobile usage during travel!
So now that you have figured out a way to crack those local search queries, you must be itching to get started. Well, it’s not that simple! Keep in mind that your local competition is also be vying for that top spot. So, just like SEO, you will have to put in some effort behind your places profile. More on this in our next post.