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Tourist SEO or how to make the most of droplets

In the digital age, an online presence is crucial for any successful business.

Oh how disappointing that you searched for tourism SEO on Google, that you got this far thinking about how to position your business in the best possible way and things start out like this, absolutely discouraging.

Sorry, but it’s better to get it right, and in tourism, getting SEO results is not easy.

And not because it means you’re not riding the euro/dollar wave, you’re not a big travel agency (OTA) and you don’t have a domain that has more inbound links than Wikipedia.

Still, all is not lost.

If you stick around a little longer and take a look at the next few thousand words – I won’t venture to say how many at the time of writing this article – I guarantee you’ll come away with at least an idea of what you need to do to get more organic traffic for your tourism business.

Because SEO for tourism is difficult, but not impossible and with the exception of ultra-competitive keywords, you can still do something.

Let’s start.


Quick benefits of tourist SEO

I imagine you already recognize them, but just in case, here is a brief list.

The first is the advantage that makes the following possible.

Increased traffic from Google: the free one, the one you don’t pay for every time someone clicks. What will work better, a website that gets 5 visits a day or one that gets 400? Well, that’s what tourism SEO does.

Increase bookings through the direct channel: if you are in the first group of protagonists that we are going to see, you have a direct channel that must be promoted, since it is basically the most profitable.

More opportunities for improvement: with more money, more opportunities to do things: invest in content so that your website converts better? Invest money in advertising so that, in addition to SEO, you have SEM under control? Get into the game and ask for what you want?

Peace of mind: knowing that you have a constant flow of visits to your website from potential customers looking for a product like yours guarantees you at least a sense of peace of mind. Sleep easy at night, because things are really bad.

After all, in tourism it’s all about SEO: it gives you Google rankings, which in turn brings visits, which in turn brings peace of mind and bookings, which means money and, if we want to be superficial, complete happiness.

Costa Rica Playa

Tourism SEO: the main players

- You, who offer the product

First of all, let’s start with you.

I’m guessing you’re a tour guide, own an accommodation or sell some kind of tourist experience.

Your concern is that your service is delivered well, that you are well rated, that you are found on Google -and here you are, reading about SEO for travel agencies-, that you appear in all possible distribution channels.

- Travel Agency

Travel agencies are not the owners of the product they offer, they are intermediaries.

If you are a travel agency?

I mean the more traditional travel agencies, right? The ones you find in your neighborhood and that are now starting to move online.

They are not booking agencies and others; they are still agencies, but they are the real sharks.

The ones today are companies that talk to the travel suppliers I just saw and say, “Hey, I want to sell one of your services to tourists:

Hey, I want to sell one of your services to my clients, do you think you can pay me a percentage for each sale?
Of course I can.

And that’s it. Repeat this conversation with a hundred salespeople and you have a service set up.

To the end customer, the traveler, they sell a trip with tourism products and services managed by others: accommodations, flights, experiences, tours, insurance and more.

It’s their business model, so they live off the margins negotiated with their previous group companies.

It’s not easy for them to do tourism SEO either, because the small group coming in now is an unpleasant partner.

- The operator who helps you at the beginning ...

Travel agencies (OTAs) are online travel agencies, i.e. organizations that do not physically market to the end customer.

Paradoxically, it is a giant that manages to control everything.

Paradoxical, because it is not the supplier of any of the tourism products it sells to the end customer and, at the same time, it is the one that controls the negotiation of the commissions it takes.

It is as if a travel agency in your neighborhood asked a guesthouse to sell them rooms, but with a 30% commission, and if not, “let others market them to you, or sell them yourself …. if you can”.

OTAs are like that, at least the giants: they will sell your tourism product on their platform and for every booking they get they will charge you a commission.

They have been small at the time, but they have allocated a lot of funds to these two things, with wonderful consequences:

Massive content production.
Advertising on all channels

After all, they practiced aggressive tourism SEO and created huge projects with tens of thousands of URLs, knowing it would bring them the glory they enjoy today.

So, don’t be surprised that when you search for “hotel in Costa Rica”, the first organic appearance is an OTA operator, and in terms of ads… most likely in terms of advertising as well.

Search organic results:

Buscador Google - primeras posiciones orgánicas

Search advertising results:

Buscador Google - primeras posiciones publicidad

They have monopolized the first organic positions -SEO- and part of what they earn, they reinvest in advertising to take almost all the visitability offered not only by Google, but also by our next protagonists.

Before we get to them, although I talk about Booking as the most popular OTA, you should know that there are also OTAs for activities and transportation services.

Examples of OTAs:

  • Booking
  • Expedia
  • Tiqets
  • Civitatis
  • Viator
  • Rumbo
  • Atrápalo …

Attention: OTAs, although they impose their own rules, if you accept them, they give you much needed visibility – within their platform.

Especially at the beginning, if you’re just starting out, they can be extremely good at bringing you revenue. It’s a necessary evil, they say.

So, in conclusion: yes, OTAs, but only at the beginning. Don’t get used to them, because one day those commissions around 15-30% will sting too much and you won’t be able to get rid of them.

- Meta search engine

In addition, a metasearch engine is a directory that can also serve as an exhibitor, often with better conditions than those of OTAs.

The difference with them, beyond these conditions, in principle more advantageous, lies in the business model.

The metasearch mechanisms can allow you to appear on their platform in three ways:

– You appear without paying and if someone clicks on your company and accesses the website, the metasearch engine charges you.
– You appear on their website for a fee
– You appear without paying on their website, and if someone clicks on your website, you are not charged and you only pay the cost when that person makes a reservation on your website.

The most common is the first option, the PPC or pay per click model.

Tourism metasearch engines have very good scores, with very good SEO positioning -they have invested in their time and in tourism SEO- and with reasonable terms.

The most famous metasearch engine of all time is TripAdvisor, followed by Kayak, Trivago and Skyscanner.

- Destinations

In the case of destinations, they are something like the friend’s help that does not play an important role.

They represent public authorities, which generally do not market the tourism product they promote, but only give it visibility.

It is not usual for them to do tourism SEO, but they position well because they are public areas with a lot of authority.

If you have no idea of the destination you are going to travel to and you still need information, where do you go?

Well, to the official website of the locality, where the information is undoubtedly truthful, since they do not get a profit in return.

But I put them here because, watch out, you may get a link from them pointing to your website, a fundamental pillar when doing SEO for tourism …. as we will see below.

- Tourists

The central element of this tourism SEO is the tourist himself.

The traveler: he is the one who has the money in the bank that will help feed you, as a business, and the OTAs, as well as the search engines, as intermediaries.

The tourist, is the protagonist of the trip, is the figure that will find you on Google if you do the SEO that we are going to talk about now …. and that will book directly with you in the best case scenario.

Hotel Arenal Volcano Inn
Hotel Arenal Volcano Inn

How to perform tourism SEO if you are like 99% of tourism companies?

In other words, if you are a travel agency or a service provider that is a reasonable intermediary.

Below I will give you some useful recommendations on how to use tourism SEO in the best possible way, but first a wake-up call.

- Call to attention: it is NOT always possible

Although Booking has recently received a legal correction, in reality, their SEO positioning works and Google is not listening to anyone.

You cannot do tourism SEO thinking that you will be able to position your accommodation for the keyword “Hotel in Costa Rica”, because it is too ambitious and you will spend your life looking for such a goal.

When an SEO agency promises you that with a few months campaigns you can be successful, the most you will get is a position at the end of the first page -being very optimistic- only for certain Internet users.

After having spent a lot of money on this, be careful.

Is it really worth it?

I would say no, but this depends on each travel agency.

For hotels it is very difficult, OK. But what about for travel agencies?

How important are their keywords? “Travel to Guanacaste”, “travel to La Fortuna”, “travel agency in Costa Rica”, etc.

They are more feasible than those of hotels, so good!

Tour guides – “tour guide in San Carlos”, “guided tour in Monteverde” – and companies that sell experiential activities and tours – “hiking in San Carlos”, “private tours in San Antono park” – also manage to rank more easily than hotels than accommodations.

So the first tip for tourism SEO is dedicated specifically to accommodations, but anyone could apply the same story:

- Search for less competitive keywords

These keywords are known as “long tail”.

We have two types of keywords:

The premium ones, like “hotel in La Fortuna”, difficult to rank for what I just told you.
And the long tail, which would be more like “hotel in downtown La Fortuna”, “3 star hotel in La Fortuna”, “hotel in La Fortuna main street”, etc.

Search traffic is sacrificed, but positioning possibilities are gained.

The basic strategy of tourism SEO: select keywords of lower volume but more specific and accessible.

If you want to know if a keyword belongs to the first or second group, regardless of the type of tourism business you have, do a simple Google search and see what results appear.

If only OTAs and metasearch engines appear, you will have a hard time with that keyword. If you see companies like yours showing up, go for it!

Also, I would like to add that the keywords I have chosen as long tail in the example – “3 star hotel in La Fortuna”, one of them-, are already halfway between one group and the other, because they also come through the arms of the OTAs.

A very clear long tail would be “hotel in La Fortuna for pets”.

- Put copywriting on your side

In recent years, Google has been saying less keywords and better UX.

Getting a user to come to your website and browse through it has a price, and content… well, basically me, if you read me regularly, you know that it achieves that goal, among others.

Using copy as part of your tourism SEO strategy, besides attracting traffic, will also help you get the most valuable thing: conversions.

Bookings: Can you imagine having a website that attracts traffic and converts that organic traffic into bookings or direct channel queries?

That’s right, this is the power of copy together with SEO, and it is called SEO copywriting, in this case tourism copywriting.

You can apply it to the front page of an accommodation, to the sales page of a tour, to a page where you want to sell a tour or private activity, to a generic page of experiences ….. Does it apply to everything?

Here is an example of tourism SEO with copywriting. It ranks very well for searches related to tourism in La Fortuna, Arenal National Park and then the landing page convinces well:

turismo en La Fortuna, Parque Nacional Arenal
turismo en La Fortuna, Parque Nacional Arenal

- Protect your brand

If you have a tourism product that is mediated by others, be careful because they may want to promote your brand at an organic level.

That is, if your name is “Esencia Arenal”, chances are that one day an OTA will appear and try that when someone searches for “esencia arenal” in Google, the first thing that comes up is your result.

Because no, I’m not making this up, it’s a situation I’ve been seeing for a long time, and the accommodations know it all too well.

It follows that travel companies are branded; that is, their names are searched in Google.

For example, searching for hotel Arenal volcano:

Keyword Variations hotel arenal volcano
Keyword Variations hotel arenal volcano

Here, are you producing searches or not?

And no more searches for “hotel volcán arenal”, “4 star hotel in La Fortuna” or any other that may refer to any accommodation of these characteristics.

These are searches specific to your accommodation.

Do you know how valuable this is? There are several hundred people a month in this country searching for you.

OTAs are aware of this, so they create outrageously optimized tourist SEO tabs to see if one day they don’t manage to find you.

Look at this example:

Faq Arenal Volcano
Fragmento de la página de Booking, hacer SEO con tu marca

So now you know: when you do tourism SEO, optimize your brand on the homepage, because it will become a very sweet cookie for more people and, lucky for you, organically, Google respects what belongs to everyone.

- Use all small resources

The guerrilla SEO for tourism is also useful.

It’s about using little tricks that, in the end, if you add them up, they work.

Any resource is good. Here are a few:
– Sign up for Google Search Console and detect errors – 404, for example – and fix them, so that Google will see you in a good light.
– If your travel site is in multiple languages, use hreflang tags.
– Also, use subdirectories and not subdomains.
– Orient your site to the country of your choice.

- Local SEO is very important

Whether your business is dedicated to domestic or foreign tourism, a presence on Google Maps should be a priority.

Let’s imagine you sell leisure and hospitality experiences and you have an address in La Fortuna.

If a tourist arrives in the area and searches for “hotel la fortuna” on his cell phone, it would be a mistake not to appear, because it is very easy to do so.

All you have to do is register in Google My Business, adding a name and a physical address.

Once registered, it will appear in generic searches on Google Maps:

Maps Hotel La Fortuna
Empresas hoteleras con ficha My Business

- Place your link where you can

Tourism SEO does not escape the onerous task of establishing external links.

If other pages have links pointing to yours, Google says: “Yes, that page must have something, there are many linking to it. I’ll rank it better.”

So the general tendency is that you get referrals (links) from there.

But be careful: the links must come from sites that must be consistent.

If you have a travel agency, it is not normal to be linked by the decoration company, and if you sell guided tours, it would be strange to be linked by a funeral services company.

Valid compatibilities:

– Accommodations with tour guide blog.
– Guided tours company with travel magazine.
– A company that sells guided tours in a destination with a travel blog for that destination.

Of course. If the link looks forced and out of place, the use of links can carry a totally nasty penalty from the big G.

Aware of this, remove everything you have:

– Government websites. Destinations, let’s face it. They usually link to local tourism businesses for nothing.
– Family and friends. If they have a website more or less related to the tourism sector and use a blog, they can surely give you a little link at some point.
– Industry magazines or media of the destination you are in, there are always some.
– Guest posting: write an article on a website of your destination and offer that content in exchange for a link or two pointing to yours. This is a very common practice;
– Eliminate local directories in which companies are listed, but which are not inappropriate. Nowadays most of them are, so be careful.

And if this problem is driving you crazy, you know what to do: find a good SEO who pilots link building well, and voila, generate a link profile that attracts Google’s attention and ranks well.

- Target objectives are essential

When we create a website and we have no idea about SEO, we usually leave the taxonomies/targets blank and in the end they are filled in by default.

This is a mistake.

Mistake because they are very important elements for Google when ranking a page.

Title – The most important SEO tag of a website, in tourism and in any field.

Meta – If it matches the title and gets clicks in Google SERPs, it becomes a great resource.

URL – I did an experiment on the blog a few months ago and I’m still waiting for the results, but until proven otherwise, what you write in the URL helps you rank.

H1 – This is a goal, I’m including it in the group because it’s kind of important.

When you write the page objectives of your tourism website don’t lose sight of the keywords you have chosen and if you want to experiment with something different, you can also use emoticons.

- Blogs are your new favorite friends

Here is the main tourism SEO good deed: turning your travel company’s blog into your new business partner.

If you do your keyword research correctly, you will find hundreds and hundreds of keywords that could eventually lead to bookings by users, but you can’t use them all on your homepage or subpages.

Where will you rank for “San Carlos in 2 days”? In a blog post.

And “what to do in La Fortuna”? Yes, in the blog.

And “best time to go to Costa Rica”? The answer is also in the blog.

Then you have to do it, there are keywords you can search for:

Developing a blog from scratch can be daunting, but if you work hard and manage to turn it into a source of organic traffic, you’ll thank yourself later.

In fact, you’ll thank yourself a lot.

I get people coming to my site every day with searches like “tourism promotion”, “seo movill”, “ecommerce” and others, and these are the topics I worked on once and that’s it.

To test it, two previous steps:

Make an editorial calendar.

Then, do some SEO copywriting, highly optimized.

In tourism, SEO is inconceivable without a blog, which is the organic traffic engine par excellence of any web project.


Be patient, God didn’t make the world in two days.

Tourism SEO is not just a matter of arriving, working and getting traffic at full speed.

You have to do things right and you have to be patient.

But you have to do it, and it’s worth it because, of course, imagine that every day you get those crumbs with which I started the article: first 5 daily visits, after a few weeks 20, then 50, in a few months 300, then 1000….

What a big difference between the initial times and the future ones, isn’t it? Several hundred visits per day, even if not 50,000.

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