Online marketing is doing wonders for hundreds of businesses worldwide, and the travel industry is no exception.
An effective online travel marketing strategy helps travel companies position themselves out there, gain a good following, get more customers, and thereby, increase their revenue.
If you are in the tourism business, online travel marketing can do a lot for you with a little investment of time and effort.
In this article, we outline the different steps that need to be followed to craft a successful online marketing strategy.
Define Travel Marketing Objectives
Before beginning any kind of marketing for your travel business, it’s essential to identify what your objectives are. What do you hope to achieve through online travel marketing?
Your answers might look similar to the following:
- Build a recognizable travel brand
- Get more travel leads
- Sell more tour packages
No matter what your objectives are, it’s essential to make them as specific as possible. Have a clear picture of the outcome you envision.
- Have the company come first in search results for a specific keyword.
- Reach a particular number of social media followers.
- Get 50 enquiries through the website in one month.
- Sell 10 tour packages in one month.
Being specific of what you want to achieve through online travel marketing will help you craft a better and more effective strategy.
Identify the Travelers and their Needs
Once you’ve outlined your marketing objectives, the next step is to identify the type of people you are trying to reach through your business.
The audience for your travel business is obviously people who want to travel, but there are so many sub sections based on their budget, who they are traveling with, and their interests.
Create an ideal traveler persona based on several parameters such as:
- Relationship status
- City and/or country
- Preferred travel location (beach, hill station, forest, etc.)
- Type of holiday (family outing, couple’s getaway, friends’ hangout, etc.)
- Travel activities (spa, adventure activities, water sports, etc.)
Identifying specific characteristics of your ideal traveler will help you customize your marketing strategy to suit them.
The next step is to find out what it is that particular traveler may be looking for. What are their needs? What aspects of traveling do they need help with?
- Hotel bookings
- Travel itineraries
- Popular tourist spots
- Famous sights
- Recommended activities
- Travel tips and resources
- Real life travel stories
This will help you gain a unique perspective of what your customer wants, and gives you insight on what kind of information you need to be providing when you are marketing to them.
Marketing is most effective when you market to an individual rather than a mass of people. So, take time to find out who that ideal traveler is for your business, and what kind of information they may be looking for.
Finalize Marketing Channels
Once you know who your ideal customer is, the next step is to find out the possible places they may be looking for a travel business like yours.
For the travel industry, people typically look for information through three different mediums.
- Search engines
- Social media
- Travel review websites
Let’s take a look at each of these three channels individually.
Imagine a typical person who is planning a vacation. There is a very good possibility that the first place they look online is a search engine.
They type in a search query with the place they are interested in visiting, and voila… They are presented with numerous search results, each leading to different options they can choose from.
If the search volume for keywords related to your business is high, there’s no doubt that a search engine is the most preferred way to market your travel company.
Just recently, we wanted to go away for the weekend as a family. Sometime back, my husband’s friend had mentioned a holiday destination on his Facebook profile that seemed interesting.
The thought of going to the same place lingered in our minds and we eventually made it happen. That’s the power of social media!
When people who have used your travel services mention your business in their social media profiles, people in their circle of influence get to know about you.
Social media can be quite persuasive, especially when someone we trust posts something. It could be:
- Photos of the places they traveled to
- A check-in at a hotel or resort
- Status updates of how much fun they are having
- A review of a particular tourist spot
If your travel business has an active presence on social media, people start associated your brand with the fun their friends/family had. It stays at the back of their minds until they plan to visit the same place too.
There’s no doubt they’ll trust their friends’ recommendations and seek out your travel company for their next trip.
Travel Review Websites
Travel review websites are also among the top places people stop by online when they’re planning to travel. These websites give them detailed information on specific hotels they can stay in at their holiday destination, along with the price involved and user reviews.
Most review websites also allow travelers to upload their own location photos which give a real feel of what the place looks like, apart from the staged photos of the business itself.
Having your travel company listed on review websites is a great way to get additional exposure, and gain new customers.
The task at hand is to finalize which avenues you will be focusing on for your online travel marketing efforts. Search engines, social media and travel review websites are all great options. You can choose any one, or all three based on the resources you have in hand.
Create a Strategic Action Plan
Once you’ve finalized the marketing channels you’ll be focusing on, it’s time to create a strategy and action plan for each of them.
Here’s an outline of what that will look like, with respect to Search Engine Optimization, social media and review websites.
Crafting an SEO Strategy
Search Engine Optimization is a huge topic by itself. But there are a few basic things you can do, to ensure that your travel website is optimized for search engines.
The preliminary step in SEO is to find out the keywords relevant to your travel business. You will basically be identifying terms that people are searching for online, that could lead to your business. We have an entire article related to keyword research that outlines the process in detail.
Once you’ve got a list of search terms, it’s time to optimize the website for those keywords. This can be done through the following steps.
- Include the keywords in the title, URL, meta description, and content of specific web pages.
- Ensure that the keywords are present in the names of relevant image files and in their alt text.
- Plan to publish interesting content that incorporates these keywords.
I have a detailed post on How to Write an SEO Friendly Article in 6 Simple Steps. It has a step by step play on how I optimized a travel website. You should check it out!
Planning a Social Media Strategy
Social media is ginormous and it’s easy to get lost in it without a plan. So, before you even set out to map a social media strategy for your travel business, it’s essential to identify which platforms you want to be active on.
It’s not enough to just create profiles on every social media channel out there. For social media marketing to be effective, you need to build engagement across the networks by being active on them.
The best way to find which social media networks you want to be active on, is to identify where your audience will be hanging out. So, when you build your presence in that place, people are more likely to find you online and seek out your business.
Each platform has its own pros and cons, and the purpose of each may be different.
- Facebook is used to build a rapport with followers and get more visibility for the business.
- Twitter is great for connecting with other businesses and people who could influence your work.
- Pinterest is more visual oriented, and people tend to pin locations they’d like to visit.
- Instagram is great for sharing pictures of what your tourism company has to offer.
- LinkedIn helps you build partnerships with other businesses online and offline.
Based on what your objectives are, and based on how much resources you have, you can choose two or three social media channels to be active on.
Then you can start planning what kind of content you’ll share there, and how you will build interaction with followers.
Positioning on Travel Review Websites
The strategy to get listed on travel websites would vary based on the type of business you run. But they usually include the following steps.
- Reach out to the travel website and provide them with information about your business.
- Follow the outlined protocol to procure a listing.
- Keep the page updated with relevant information.
- Provide offers, discounts and packages to entice travelers.
- Engage with people by responding to queries and comments.
The key to getting good reviews on travel websites is to obviously keep customers happy. With just a little prompting, or a kindly worded follow up mail, guests are usually more than happy to leave a good review. This in turn boosts up your ranking on the travel website, and more people are likely to engage with your business.
Build Brand Trust
Building trust with existing and potential clients is absolutely crucial for the growth of any business. With respect to the travel industry, there are three particular ways to build trust with your audience.
1. Build Trust through Quality Content
When your provide well-crafted, quality content related to the travel industry through the website, blog, and social media, it makes you an authority in the eyes of the people who read it.
Relevant, helpful content speaks to the audience. It inspires them, solves their queries and gets them interested in what you have to offer.
Here are some examples of content you can share with your audience.
- Walk-through of a holiday resort
- Traveler stories
- Video blogs of locations
- Tips on how to plan a trip
- Popular activities in a particular location
- Recommended tourist spots
- Must visit places in a city
- Cuisines to try
- Map with tourist spots
- Traveler photos
- Captivating landscapes
- Pictures of fun activities on location
When good content is presented to the traveler, they are more likely to trust your intuitions and follow your recommendations.
2. Establish Authority through Social Proof
People are more skeptical of trusting a company they have not heard much of. For this reason, it’s essential to have proof of your authority displayed for all to see.
This can be done on your website or travel sites in the following ways:
- Social proof listing the number of followers on different social media channels
- An updated number of email subscribers or happy travelers serviced
- Customer testimonials and reviews
- Proof of standards met and accreditations gained
Having this visible proof, either in text format or as images, will encourage more people to trust your travel company and do business with you.
3. Exclusively Brand the Travel Business
Branding is absolutely essential to position your travel business and make it stand out from the myriad other similar companies out there. Branding can be established in the following ways:
- Professional website and logo
- Consistency in how you interact with customers on the website, on social media, or in real life.
- Staying true to the values and mission of the company
When trust is built through any of the above means, it’s easy for your online marketing efforts to reap a greater conversion rate.
Analyze and Refine Strategy
Analytics is the science of analyzing how your online marketing efforts are panning out. It’s essential to periodically take stock of how things are going, and identify what’s working and what’s not.
Some ways you can analyze your online marketing are:
- Check website traffic and statistics through Google Analytics
- Refer to social media insights through in-built or external tools
- Cross check how many leads and conversions have happened due to online marketing
By analyzing the analytics, you get a clearer picture of areas that you might have to refine. This is an ongoing process, so continually keep reworking on your online marketing strategy to make it work better, bring in more customers, and build a better profit margin.
We hope this article has given you a clear outline on all the steps involved in crafting a successful online travel marketing strategy.
If you need help with online marketing for your travel company, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d be happy to assist you in any way we can!