Internet, Marketing, Travel & Tourism

Marketing your small tourism business in the 21th century: #6: Be found in Search Engines

By William Bakker | 04.26.08 | 4 Comments

The first 5 topics have been focused on giving people a remarkable experience, encouraging people to talk about it, and give resulting interested consumers access to your website to close the sale.
And how will people find your website if there’s mention or link to your website? A Search Engine of course. Travel planning starts with a Search Engine. People don’t even bother remembering URL’s anymore (in the Japanese subway, they now advertise Search Terms instead of URL’s). You need to be found in Search Engines. The art and science of making sure you have good placement in Search Engines is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Paying for those little ads on the side of the results is called Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
The most important thing is when somebody searches for the name of your business, your website has to show up high. Start by testing this out. Just search for your name and check if you’re in the top results. Make sure you also check for other ways people might search for your name. Also search for your name plus the name of your city or community. Unless you have a common name, your business should be #1, #2 or #3.
If you don’t show up at all, you have a big problem. And if you don’t show in the top 5, you still have a problem. In most cases it means your web professional hasn’t considered Search Engines when building your website. For a list on how to make your website Search Engine Friendly, check our these guidelines from Google’s Webmaster Central (or send the list to your web professional). Start there, and in a later post I’ll share what else you can do to improve your SEO. If you can’t wait, check Search Engine Watch.
The second thing you can do in Search Engines is pay for placement. Create an ad in a Search Engine for specific keywords and you pay each time somebody clicks to your website (Pay Per Click, or PPC). Managing PPC campaigns is a specialist skill, but if you stick to the basics, you can experiment with this yourself. You can manage you Search Engine Ads in Google, Yahoo and MSN through self service and a credit card. There are four core tactics to consider; the keywords you target, your bid, the copy of your ad, and your landing page.
My recommendation is to start very specific and slowly broaden things out. Start with very specific keywords. If you are ACME Golf course in Someville. Target the keywords “ACME Golf” and “Golf Someville” for example. Don’t target “Golf”. If might drive a lot of traffic, but it will also drive up cost and it’s unlikely they will convert into a visitor. Choose the geographic area where your ads will show carefully. Where does your typical visitor come from? Start there. Be carefull how much you bid, and set limits so you don’t blow through your budget. And most of all, monitor the results. What’s working, what’s not working, and adjust frequently.
You probably realize that it can get complicated and time consuming quickly. So think twice before you engage in this and consider hiring a professional to manage your SEM. It’s worth it.
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