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Create an effective SEO plan for your travel website

Shaping a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) plan for tour operators

  Written By Aaron Whiffin

  Feb 2, 2016

Any effective plan requires a sound strategy. Search Engine Optimisation for your tour website is no different.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe” – Abraham Lincoln

Taking the short time needed to sit down and research the best strategy will ensure all your future efforts and resources are effectively targeted and ultimately lead to increase bookings. The following is a guide to how you would go about constructing an effective SEO plan, including what you can do as the owner of the website to boost your rankings and where travel SEO experts, such as ourselves, can add further value.

What are your travellers searching for?

This is a very important question.

Remember, as someone who is immersed in the travel business you may not use the same language or lingo as a potential new customer searching for a tour operator. For example, if your tour company specialises in trekking the Andes, are users primarily searching for “trekking the Andes”, “hiking the Andes”, “climbing the Andes” or maybe something different?

The first step is to sit down and compile a list of phrases you believe potential customers would be searching for when trying to find a tour operator offering your services. You do not need a fantastically long list; 10-20 keywords should be enough, depending on the size of your website and the number of different tours you offer.

Next, you can use the Google Keyword Planner which will help you further refine your list, using actual Google search data. Select “Search for keyword and ad group ideas” and then enter each of the keywords and phrases from the list you compiled in the previous step. Next, choose “Tour operators” for the product category, “UK” as the location and then click “Get ideas”.

While the Keyword Tool is specifically aimed at AdWords users the tool also provides a great insight into what Google users are searching for, in what quantity and how fierce the competition is for a particular keyword.

You will be presented with groupings of keywords that Google believes are most related to your original list, based on actual search trends. You can use the information presented by Google to refine your list and better target your clientele:

Group / keyword – Here Google lists groups of keywords most related to your original list. You can select a grouping to view the specific keywords within it, including insightful search volume and competition stats. Taking time to properly browse through these lists can pay dividends later as you may come across popular search phrases which you hadn’t previously considered.

Search volume – Next to each grouping and specific keyword you will find data relating to average monthly searches for that item. This can be very helpful in determining which keywords are most popular and will ultimately attract the most amount of traffic.

Competition level – While the competition and suggestive bid are designed to help AdWord advertisers, they do offer a valuable insight into the level of competition you can expect to encounter if optimising for that keyword. The higher the competition, the harder it will be to rank highly.

Equipped with this information you are now better informed when it comes to deciding which keywords to target on your website. However, a level of pragmatism is required at this stage. You’ll no doubt find keywords which have a high level of traffic, say “Barcelona holidays”, but are simply out of reach for many small to medium sized tour operators given the level of competition and the resources required to compete for such a prized search phrase.

Instead, niche tour operators can use their nimbleness and unique services to their benefit. If you’re a tour operator that offers walking tours you’ll find targeting keywords relating to “walking tours” and “walking holidays” much easier to compete and rank for, and what’s more – you’ll be targeting the high-value users that are specifically looking for a walking holiday, not someone merely looking to travel to the tours location.

What are your competitors doing?

It’s a good idea to see how well your competitor’s websites are optimised for your chosen keywords. Remember, how well you rank for a given keyword is not only down to how well you optimise your own site, but also how well your competitors are optimised for the same keyword.

You should already have a general idea of the level of competition from using Google’s Keyword Tool, but manually performing a search yourself will uncover who your competitors are and how well optimised their sites are for your chosen keywords.

Generally, the things you’ll want to check are:

  • Does their landing page contain a suitable density of the keyword within the content, including the page title and headings?
  • Does the URL of the page (including their domain) contain the keyword?
  • Is the page user-friendly, adapts to smaller screen sizes (mobile-friendly) and contains useful content?
  • Does the navigation and internal links contain the keywords as the anchor text?
  • Do they have many links from other sites pointing at the page? You can check this by Googling “” – any sites linking to the page will be listed. Links from well-respected websites, say highly trusted travel blogs or online newspaper travel sections, will be regarded as a strong indication of good content by Google and will notably increasing the site’s ranking.

The above factors should offer some insight into how you can fully optimise your own site, but it’s also useful to see how well optimised your competitors websites are. You’ll then know how much work is required and what level of competition you will be up against if targeting that keyword.

Implementing your strategy

Armed with your effective keywords you can now begin to optimise your travel site.

Typically you’d want to ensure there is a page on your website targeting each keyword phrase. Tour pages will be the most effective place to optimise for specific locations and regions (e.g. “walking holiday in Rome”), and will ensure the target user is landing on the page that is most useful to them; reducing the “bounce” rate and boosting booking conversions. General keywords can be targeted on other important pages, such as the homepage, hub pages containing useful content (e.g. tips and advice for trekkers) and blog posts which can be great for regularly generating fresh, keyword-rich content.

By reviewing your competition you can also address any weakness your own site may have compared to theirs. If your site is neglecting a particular keyword you can ensure new content (or re-produced existing content) is now properly optimised for the keyword.

While adding more instances of your keywords and phrases to your website will usually help with your SEO, we should offer a word of caution here. Yes, your content should be keyword-rich, but it should NOT be keyword-stuffed. Write content for your users, not search engines. Focus on creating great content that your users will find helpful, but balance this with ensuring your content contains a suitable density of keywords so search engines know what your content is about.

Creating useful, link-worthy, content-rich content is the key.

Finally, it is always a good idea to record your rankings and traffic levels before you make any changes so you have a benchmark and can track how effective your Search Engine Optimisation strategy is performing over time. Remember, SEO is an ongoing endeavour.

Where The Travel Web Design Agency can help

While we think it is possible for most travel operators to create a basic SEO strategy in half a day, you may feel it is best left to the experts. At The Travel Web Design Agency we have lots of expertise and experience when it comes to SEO for travel operators and we’re here to help.

We’re able to thoroughly analyse your website, the service you offer, your target customer and your competitors to produce and implement an SEO strategy which will deliver the results you want – increased, high-value traffic leading to more bookings.

Did you find the above guide useful? You can browse through all of our blog posts about tour operators SEO.

We are The Travel Web Design Agency and we’ll get your travel website found in search engines.

 The Travel Web Design Blog

Article written by:

Aaron Whiffin

In his spare time, Aaron enjoys walking his dog Flipper with his wife Monika, training in the gym and dojo, and pursuing extreme sports such as downhill mountain biking.

If you are interested in a new website for your travel business, contact The Travel Web Design Agency.