Travel SEO
The Ultimate Starter Guide

Who can benefit from this Travel SEO guide?

This SEO guide is for you if you want to improve your organic search engine positions for your travel website. 

Whether you’re an independent travel advisor, a marketing director, part of a travel marketing firm, or an in-house SEO specialist within a travel agency who wants to improve your travel SEO skills, this guide will serve as your compass.

And whether you focus on luxury travel, adventure tours, beach getaways, cultural explorations, honeymoon packages, vacation rentals or hotels, or any other facet of the travel industry, this guide will be invaluable.

This is your hub for travel SEO. We’ll cover everything in subsequent chapters.

Many travel professionals bookmark this page, returning to it as a trusted reference. We encourage you to do the same.

We won’t promise instant top rankings on Google, but it will teach you how to increase your travel website’s positions over time.

Let’s start with the very basics.

What is Travel SEO?

Travel SEO involves improving travel-related websites’ organic (non-paid) positions on Google and other search engines when people look for things like vacation rentals, hotels, flights, and activities.

Ultimately, it helps travel businesses get more website visitors, customers and increase their profit.

Why Is SEO Important?

If you are reading this you probably know the value and power of SEO but your boss may not.  

In short: SEO provides an amazing ROI.

SEO Provides an amazing ROI

Is Your Travel Site on Google?

To see if your site is on Google, go to https://www.google.com/ and do a search using the “site:” search operator.

For example, let’s take our site as an example: travelseopros.com. We would type in
site:travelseopros.com (you’d simply swap out our domain with yours)

If your website comes up, it’s in Google’s index.

travelseopros on google

Can’t see your pages on Google?

Here are some reasons for it:

  • Your site is probably new, and Google hasn’t discovered it. You can submit it via Google Search Console. Remember, just because your website is indexed, it doesn’t mean it’s going to rank. More on that later.
  • Your site is blocked by the robots.txt file. Go to your website /robots.txt. For example: travel.com/robots.txt – If you have “Disallow: /”, it tells all bots that they should not visit any pages on the site.
  • Your server sent Google an error when it tried to crawl it.
  • Your site is penalized. Sign up your site on Google Search Console and see if it’s showing any penalties. 

In most cases having your site indexed won’t be an issue unless your website is new or penalized. Ranking it is the real challenge.

How to Rank Your Site Higher on Google Search?

travelseopros rank on google

Now that we know Google indexes your site let’s see how to improve its keyword positions. 

The most important ranking factors

At the very core, the top 3 ranking factors are:

  • High-Quality, Relevant Content
  • Backlinks (Quality and Quantity)
  • On-Page SEO, User Experience and Technical SEO
most important ranking factors

There is also Local SEO but it’s a slightly different beast. 

Everything else falls into one of these three categories. 

And it’s also important to mention that many sub-ranking factors overlap. For example, high-quality content also belongs to the On-Page SEO and User Experience.

Let’s unpack the more specific ranking factors for travel websites.

High-Quality, Relevant Content

What does this mean exactly? 

High-quality content fulfills the users’ search intent and provides valuable, trustworthy information laid out in a clear and easy-to-understand format.  

In other words, your website visitors shouldn’t need to go to a different website to find what they are looking for. 

Value and Relevance:

Value to Users: Your content should provide answers, insights, solutions, or entertainment that your website visitors are looking for. 

It should fulfill their search intent and help them achieve their goals.

Relevance: When creating content, consider the keywords people might use to find information related to your topic. 

Incorporate these keywords naturally into your content, so it’s clear what your page is about. 

Don’t cover multiple unrelated topics on one page. 

E-E-A-T 

An “upgrade” from E-A-T in December 2022. 

E-E-A-T stands for (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) and it’s part of Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines

Showcase your experience, expertise, establish authority, and build trust by:

  • Creating high-quality, valuable content
  • Attributing content to credible authors
  • Providing accurate information
  • Referencing relevant and authoritative sources

Having a detailed About page

Search Intent:

Google wants to provide users with the right results to solve their search requests, along with a positive online experience. 

Tailor your content to provide solutions and insights aligned with searchers’ specific needs. How?

Look at the top 10 results on Google and see the type of articles ranked for the keyword. Use the same type of article. For example, if you see listicle articles, you want to write a listicle article. 

Comprehensive and In-Depth Coverage

Cover the topic comprehensively. Provide detailed information, explanations, and examples that leave no significant questions unanswered.

Formatting and Readability

Clear, Logical Structure: Organize your content with headings, subheadings, and bullet points to make it easy to skim. 

Use short paragraphs, just like you see on this page.

Visuals and Multimedia:

Incorporate images, videos, infographics, and other visual elements to make your content more engaging and easier to understand.

Visuals should tell the story on the page. 

In other words, if you only saw the graphics, images, they should cover most of what’s in written format. 

Readable Text: Use clear and concise language. The average reading level in the US is 7th- to 8th grade. 

So don’t try to impress your reader with your vocabulary. 

Avoid jargon that might confuse your audience.

All these will help users quickly find what they’re looking for and keep reading your pages.

Credibility and Authoritativeness

Ensure that the information you present is accurate and supported by reputable sources. 

This builds trust with your audience and the search engines.

Content Freshness and Updates

Regularly update your travel content to ensure it remains relevant and accurate. This is especially true for non-ever-green pages.

Search engines value fresh and up-to-date content, enhancing your website’s authority and search visibility. 

Audit your content at least quarterly. Then refresh event information, destination guides, and travel tips to provide travelers with the latest insights.

Backlinks (Quality and Quantity)

Backlinks, also known as inbound links or incoming links. Essentially, they are links from other websites that point to your website. 

Search engines like Google view these links as votes of confidence and credibility. 

Backlinks influence your website’s authority, credibility and position on search engines.

Quality vs. Quantity

Quality: High-quality backlinks come from authoritative and relevant websites. 

One link from a respected source, such as Travel + Leisure or Condé Nast Traveler, carries more weight than several links from less reputable sites.

Relevance: Backlinks from websites in a similar niche or industry are more valuable because they show that your content is relevant to your field.

Quantity: While quality is essential, having a reasonable amount of backlinks will also contribute to your website’s credibility. 

However, a few high-quality backlinks are more valuable than many low-quality ones.

Natural vs. Unnatural Backlinks

Natural Backlinks: These are earned organically because other websites find your content valuable. 

They are as good as they come and are highly encouraged by search engines.

Unnatural Backlinks: These are often acquired through tactics like using automated comments or buying links. Search engines can penalize such practices.

How to Build Quality Backlinks

Create High-Quality Content & Promote It: Valuable, informative, and unique content is more likely to attract natural backlinks.

For example: publishing original research, statistics or data. 

Cover Newsworthy Events First: Act quickly to create relevant and valuable content related to the event. 

For example, covering a Hurricane and the reopening of an island in the Caribbean.

Create Link-Worthy Assets: Develop valuable resources such as comprehensive travel guides, packing guides, virtual tours, or interactive maps. 

These assets serve as authoritative references, attracting natural backlinks from other websites seeking reliable and informative content or tools in the travel industry.

Guest Blogging: Write articles for reputable websites in your niche, and include a link to your site.

Collaborations: Partner with influencers or other websites for content collaborations.

Broken Link Building: Find broken links on authoritative websites and suggest your better content as a replacement.

HARO (Help a Reporter Out): Respond to media inquiries in the travel niche, and share your experience and expertise. 

When journalists use your insights in their articles, you gain authoritative backlinks and exposure in reputable publications.

Competitor Analysis: Analyze and reverse-engineer backlink performance and competitor strategies.

Podcast Link Building: Participate in relevant travel-focused podcasts as a guest expert and share valuable insights and experiences. 

Podcast show notes often include links to back to your website.

Digital PR: Get your brand noticed by journalists or bloggers who would mention and link to your content.

Monitor and Disavow

Monitor Backlinks: Regularly check who links to your website using tools such as ahrefs’ backlink checker or Semrush’s backlink analytics tool. Ensure the links are from reputable sources.

Disavow Unwanted Links: If you find low-quality or spammy backlinks, you can ask search engines to ignore them using the Disavow tool. 

This is an advanced strategy and should be used with caution. We’ll cover this later. Semrush Backlink Audit tool is the best for identifying toxic incoming links.

On-Page SEO: User Experience and Technical SEO

This category also covers On-Page SEO, and in some cases, separately discussed.

You want to make the website as a whole, and the web pages individually appeal to both users and search engines.

The main ways you want to do this:

  • Optimize the structure and content of your website.
  • Improve user experience by improving page speed and navigation.
  • Establish relevance through the proper use of semantic SEO and structured data.

 Let’s take a look at these below.

Core Web Vitals & Page Load Speed

Google sums it up really well: “Core Web Vitals is a set of metrics that measure real-world user experience for loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability of the page.”

3 Main Core Web Vitals Metrics 

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  • First Input Delay (FID)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures the time it takes for the largest visible element in the viewport of a webpage (aka the above the fold) to become fully rendered and visible to the user.

First Input Delay (FID)

First Input Delay (FID) measures how much time the website needs to respond when you try to do something on it, like clicking a button.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) gauges how much the elements on a webpage unexpectedly move around while it’s loading and you’re trying to use it.

LCP FID CLS

So prioritize quickly loading stable pages for your travel website. How? 

Here are a few recommendations: 

  • Compress images; use WebP if possible
  • Enable server and browser caching
  • Minimize and combine scripts and CSS 

Utilize tools like PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix to identify optimization opportunities.

Intuitive Navigation & Site Architecture

Aim to design or update your site’s architecture to be clear and organized.  Categorize travel content into relevant sections. 

Utilize a hierarchical structure with main categories and subcategories for easy navigation. 

We recommend using silos that structure content around a main topic. For example, a destination, such as Turks and Caicos, on a travel site. And under this, you’d have things to do, restaurants, accommodations, etc. 

hierarchical site structure

This ensures travelers can find information intuitively and enhances search engine crawlability.

Internal Linking

Strategically link relevant travel content within your website to guide visitors to related information. Don’t overdo it. 

Link to internal pages when it helps the reader, but be sure to link from more pages to your most important pages

Use descriptive anchor text that communicates the content’s relevance. Tools like Screaming Frog can help to audit and optimize internal links.

Internal Linking

Page Title Tags

Craft compelling and relevant page title tags for each piece of travel content. 

Include target keywords near the beginning and accurately summarize the content’s essence. 

Aim for around 50-60 characters to ensure optimal display in search results.

title tag

Meta Description Tags

Although meta description tags will not help you rank directly, when done correctly, they will help users to click through to your travel pages.

Create concise meta-description tags that briefly summarize the content’s value and relevance. 

Use action-oriented language and relevant keywords to entice people to click on your link in the SERP. 

Keep descriptions within the 120-158 character range for optimal display.

meta description

Header Tags (aka Heading Tags or Headings)

Implement a hierarchical structure of header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) to organize your travel content. 

Use H1 for the title of the article, followed by relevant subheadings. This not only aids readability but also signals content structure and importance to search engines.

header tags in SEO

Structured Data Markup

Implement structured data (schema markup) to provide search engines with context about your travel content. 

Use schema types relevant to travel, such as reviews, location, phone number, pricing information, and events, to enhance the search results appearance.

Tip: use TouristTrip schema markup for tours and include information such as arrival and departure time, itinerary, etc. There are also other schema for BoatTrip, BusTrip, Flight, and TrainTrip.

Clear Call to Actions (CTAs)

CTAs help direct website visitors’ behavior. One of Google’s main goals is for people to find on one page what they are looking for. 

So by using clear CTAs, you can prompt travelers to take desired actions, such as booking, subscribing, or exploring further. 

Use contrasting colors and compelling language to attract attention.

cta example

Crawlability & Indexation

Optimize your travel website’s crawlability by using a sitemap and a robots.txt file. 

Fix broken links, avoid duplicate content, and ensure search engines can efficiently navigate and index your website.

Google Search Console is also helpful in ensuring Google indexes your content properly.

404 Errors and Broken Links

Monitor and address “404 Page Not Found” errors and broken links on your travel website. 

Create a custom 404 error page to guide website visitors back to relevant content.

404 error good example
404 error bad example

Regularly audit and fix broken links to maintain a smooth traveler journey.

For broken links audit, use Broken Link Checker (free up to 3000 URLs), Ahrefs, Screaming Frog or Semrush’s Site Audit tool.

Secure Website

This is very basic but we still want to mention it, as it’s important. Over 90% of websites run the HTTPS (secure) protocol.  

Be sure to secure your travel website with an SSL certificate (HTTPS) to protect users’ data and build trust.

https icon

Responsive Design

Another fundamental user experience aspect. 

Ensure your travel website adapts seamlessly to various screen sizes (aka it’s a responsive site) on smartphones, tablets, and desktops. 

Test your site using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to identify and rectify any mobile usability issues.

responsive design

If you signed up for Google Search Console, you can also look at the Mobile Usability report and get alerts if something is not up to par.

The End…Not Really, There’s More!

So, in short, the keys to improving SEO for travel websites are simple:

  • high-quality content tailored to search intent 
  • Building and erning natural backlinks from authoritative sources
  • optimizing on-page elements

Together, these will enhance your travel site’s authority and boost rankings. Specifically, focus on guides, tools and insights that add value for travelers. 

Then, promote that content and collaborate with influencers to earn relevant links. 

And don’t forget SEO done right provides the best ROI from any other marketing channels.