You've just had a new website designed for your tour company, that's an important first step, but the success of your business now depends on your online marketing. Hopefully your web site will have at least some basic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), but here are a few common areas that people overlook.
While SEO can be very useful and cost effective it's crucial to remember that you should never rely on a single method of increasing traffic to your site. If you've just launched your site, or it's currently not ranking well consider using advertising (especially Google AdWords) to get traffic, this is a great stopgap measure and, if carefully managed, long term source of traffic. There's plenty of other online marketing methods to increase traffic, from email marketing, link building and good old fashioned print advertising.
1. No SEO strategy
Optimising your SEO without having an effective strategy is just a case of throwing mud at a wall and hoping some of it sticks. It doesn't take much time to do a little research, the most important thing you can do is work out which 'keywords' (often short phrases) that your potential users are likely to search for.
Once you have researched your keywords and competitors you'll be in the perfect position to fill in any gaps in the search engine optimisation of your website. A good strategy will be used to inform the writers of new content to ensure they continue to build on your success.
To find out how to create a strategy for your tour website read our search engine optimisation strategy guide.
2. Duplicate content
Search engines will check your content against pages they've already viewed and if they find that your content is the same or very similar to others then it will be penalised, or, at best, ignored completely. With this in mind it should be obvious that you should never cut and paste content from other websites (even if they are your own). Each page on your site should be unique.
It's also possible that you are accidentally serving duplicate content, for example if your website appears on two domain names. E.g. tourcompany.com and www.tourcompany.com, in this case you should forward one to the other. It may also be possible to have two urls for the same page, e.g. tourcompany.com/trekking/kilimanjiro and tourcompany.com/tanzania/kilimanjiro. If you do have this sort of duplicate content you should use a canonical tag in the header of each page to say which of the two pages should be considered the main page.
A quick way to check if you have duplicate content is to copy half a sentence from one of your web pages and paste that into Google, surrounded by double quotes which tells google to only return pages with that exact sentence. If, at the bottom of the results, Google says that 'similar pages were omitted' click to show all instances of that phrase.
3. Dodgy links
Only a few years ago numerous dodgy SEO companies would spam links to a site they were optimising everywhere they could on the web. Despite being against Googles guidance it was effective, fo a while. Google has since wised up and recent updates are now actively penalising sites with links to them that they believe are dodgy.
If you've ever used a directory submission service in the past, or have paid an SEO company that wasn't entirely ethical then you should definitely check this. Even if you haven't there's still a chance that you have gained some links unknowingly or a less scrupulous tour company has done it to negatively affect your ranking.
It is easy to check who is linking to you, log in to webmaster tools on Google (you really should have this set up if you don't already). Then go to 'Search traffic' and click the 'Links to your site' link. Google will then list all the links to your website that it knows about. It worth having a quick look over these, any good website should accumulate links over time so don't worry if you don't recognise all the links.
The type of links that will count against you are websites that only contain content copied from other sites and adverts, typically they'll list your meta description and link to your website, or links from websites that are completely unrelated.
The sort of links that are valuable to you are ones related to travel and tourism, the regions your tours visit or activities you offer on tours (e.g. cycling, trekking, adventure, etc). This isn't an exhaustive list, but if the site looks like it has good quality, unique content and has some relation to your website then it should be helpful.
If you think there are websites linking to you that may be preventing you from getting a good Google rank then you can fix that easily. You just need to create a text file listing the domains you don't want to be associated with and upload it to Google web master tools to 'disavow' those links. https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2648487?hl=en
4. Your content
Okay, so that's a bit of a general statement but your content is the single most important factor when it comes to your search engine ranking. It's important to have good quality content that is useful to your users, Google has always stated its intention to serve the most useful content to searchers, by making your content useful Google updates will be actually help you rather than penalise you for using the latest trick to fool them.
On top of writing good quality, unique content it's important Google understands what the page is about and what search terms it applies to. You do this by using your keywords throughout a page, ideally focus on one main keyword per page. For example consider the following two examples introductions to a tour:
We travel this beautiful country visiting it's numerous historical sites.
Our discover Egypt tour travels from the historical site of Luxor up to the ancient city of Alexandria.
Which of those two sentences provides the most information? It contains the phrase 'Egypt tour' which is a common search term for egyptian tours, as well as the names of specific places so if someone searches for 'tours to Luxor' you both of those keywords within the page. Don't go over the top though, ensure your text reads well when humans see it – it's still your sales material and needs to convert visitors into clients.
Make sure you do a spelling and grammar check on your content, as many spam sites tend to have a lower quality of English Google sees this as a warning sign.
5. Not having a blog
Search engines like to see websites that are being updated and having new content added regularly, it shows that your company is investing in the website and t's not been put out to pasture. While you won't be adding new tours every week you can use a blog to give a bit more insight into a tour or country, and of course link it back to some relevant tours.
If there is a popular travel show on TV blog about this, just before I went to Ethiopia Joanna Lumley had recently visited it on TV and this had caused an enormous surge in tour sign ups. Make the most of TV and news and write about it to catch people searching to find out more about what they've seen.
Correcting any mistakes
Once you've found any holes in your SEO then it's important to fix them, most of these examples can be addressed by a non technical web owner. I'd be more than happy to help any tour companies that feel they aren't getting the traffic that they deserve, often it only takes a small change of direction to see big results.
Webbed Feet UK as well as being experts at search engine optimisation have a real passion for travel. I've personally been from Timbuktu, to the Andes and all kinds of places in between. So we know what your customers are looking for and we know how to make sure your website delivers it to them.