The Tour Operator’s Guide to Mastering Google Search
Getting to Know Google’s Search Engine
Google is at the very core of the digital world and if you are an online travel business knowing the basics of it is a must to grow your travel website traffic. The internet giant has multiple products but none are more influential than its search engine. Google accounts for more than 90% of the search market in India and more than 70% globally.
Search engines like Google have two components: one is organic, and the other’s inorganic. Organic results are driven by Google’s patented search algorithm. Meanwhile, inorganic results are driven by Google AdWords, the company’s advertising branch.
Why do search results matter for online travel business?
Google is often the first place people go to search for a person, business or service. It’s how potential travel customers become actual travel customers, where people go to see reviews of your travel business, and how people know where to find you. And the list goes on.
When users type in their search, Google’s algorithm scours the web, then displays results in order, from most to least relevant. Research indicates that more than 60% of users click on one of the first three search results and more than 90% click on one of the first ten. What does this mean for your online travel business?
If your travel website doesn’t show up on the first page of Google search results, less than 10% of your online travel customer base will see your name when they search, and even less will actually click through to your travel website.
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a combination of best practices and specific techniques you can implement to make your travel website rank higher in search results. Be it hotel website or tours and activities website or a rentals website or a holiday package website, there are many experts in the field who specialize in getting travel and hospitality companies to achieve higher rankings.
SEO can be divided into black hat techniques and white hat techniques. Black hat techniques typically aim at tricking the Google algorithm into giving a web page more weight than it deserves in the rankings. On the other hand, white hat techniques make an honest effort to work within the parameters of Google algorithm. White hat techniques should be your bread and butter.
Google continuously updates its search algorithm—between 500 and 600 times a year—to protect from black hat techniques that give unfair weight to certain websites. This means that even if these tactics boost your initial ranking, they will not result in long-term success. The moment Google finds a site that violates their organic ranking system, they downgrade the site’s ranking immediately.
Adwords and the Ad Display Network
While great SEO is key to achieving long-term Google search success, it’s often not as simple as you might think. For instance, it’s difficult for new websites, or websites that are new to SEO best practices, to rank as high as well-established sites that have been optimized for years. And that’s where Google AdWords comes in. Google Adwords displays ads on the top and side of the organic results when users perform a Google search. Though the print is fine, you can see that they are labelled as “Ads.”
Here’s how it works. You choose certain keywords that are commonly associated with your business. You bid against other ads that have selected the same words. You pay on a cost per click basis, meaning Google only charges you when someone actually clicks on your ad. This results in a fair system that gives you a good deal of control over your spending.
AdWords is an extremely feature-rich advertising platform that lets you dramatically reduce possible negative outcomes associated with more traditional marketing avenues. You can bid on exact phrases or use keywords that are broader. You can even choose to avoid certain negative words or phrases that don’t match your business. Furthermore, you can choose where the ad will be displayed geographically, demographically and technologically. Combined, these features let you zero in on a very specific target market.
If you want to take it a step further, you can create banner ads that Google will display across their vast network of millions of websites. Banner ads let you drive traffic to your site, brand your business or remarket by targeting people who have visited your site in the past. You might notice an ad that contains the best prices for a product that you’ve recently viewed. This is one form of remarketing.
Tour operators can research more about SEO by reading SEO company blogs and following updates from Google. Or, hire SEO professionals to get the job done for you. Because SEO best practices are constantly changing as the Google algorithm does, we recommend reviewing your website on a regular basis to maintain high rankings.
If you’re looking for a boost from inorganic results, Adwords has a very helpful FAQ and support database that tour operators can use to learn everything they need to know. Google even has a division that helps India-based SMEs get set up with AdWords with a consultation over the phone. There’s also the option to work with Google-certified AdWords professionals who help perfect your AdWords campaign for a commission fee typically equal to 15% of what your spend on Google Ads.
Even if you seek professional help to optimize your site, we recommend you take a look at this checklist. to make sure you’ve got it all covered. Happy optimizing!