According to figures released by StatisticBrain, a little over 148 million travel bookings are made online every year, or 57% of all travel bookings. How many potential customers are you missing out on by having a mediocre travel content marketing strategy?
Having a successful digital marketing strategy isn’t just about having an exceptional website. Even mastery of individual disciplines in online marketing isn’t enough.
You need to put the pieces together to create a coherent brand that carries your message to your customers, your investors, and everyone within your organisation.
The glue that holds everything together is your content. Here’s are seven areas to focus on:
1.Brand story: Take your customers on a journey
If you’re going to convince your web visitors to book their holiday, activities, flights or accommodation with you, you’re going to have to take them on a journey of the mind first. There are a lot of travel firms of all flavours out there – why should they trust their precious money and leisure time with yours?
The most effective way to differentiate yourself from your competitors is to have a compelling and authentic brand story. That brand story should combine your USPs, your history, and your overall vision – and it should talk directly to your ideal customer.
According to a recent Forbes article by George Bradt, there are three imperatives of authentic branding:
- ‘Honour the brand heritage’ – If your brand has a long history, leverage it in your brand story to boost your credibility. “People want to know WHY you do what you do before they will pay attention to WHAT you do and HOW you do it,” says Bradt.
- ‘Live in the present’ – Emphasise what is special about your travel brand today – what makes it special and how will travellers benefit from this?
- ‘Create the future’ – “Make sure everything you do and say reinforces the values you and your customers will hold most dear,” Brandt says. “You can’t make up the past but you can create your own brand heritage going forward.”
In applying a holistic brand story like this to your online presence, you should endeavour to ensure consistency across all platforms (website, blog, social etc). Once you have created a compelling story, you then need to ensure that everyone who works with you and for you understands it, particularly your content creators.
2. Copywriting: Employ travel copywriting best practice
The content on your website, aligned with your brand story, is one of the most powerful digital marketing tools at your disposal. But not all web content is created equal, and for maximum potency, it should follow web copywriting best practice.
- Be concise – According to usability expert Jakob Nielsen, “On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.” That means that you need to engage them quickly and concisely – lose the fluff and get straight to the point.
- Talk benefits, not features – As Elmer Wheeler once said, ‘don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle’. People are far less interested in the specifications of your holiday than they are in what it will do for them. Will it excite them, relax them, broaden their horizons, give them a tan, enable them to understand the local culture better? Whatever it is, make sure you emphasise it.
- Break up your content – Reading on a screen is more difficult than reading in print. On top of this, people tend to ‘scan’ for specific information rather than read the whole piece. On both counts, you should break up your content with plenty of subheaders and bullet points that ‘signpost’ each topic. Shorter paragraphs will also aid clarity.
- Know your audience – If your holidays are aimed at middle-aged couples, it’s no good pitching your content as if you’re talking to twenty-somethings. Create the personas that best represent your ideal (most profitable) customer then talk to them in a way that will appeal specifically to them. Knowing your audience will also affect the details you include and those that you omit in your destination guides.
- Use a consistent tone and style – Once you’ve determined what tone and style of writing will play best with your audience, you need to take steps to ensure its consistency – particularly if you’re outsourcing. Creating a style guide which will keep all of your writers on track and on message is highly recommended. If you require a particularly high volume of content then outsourcing to a professional copywriting agency is often the most effective solution. Having a style guide will help them to write content that is consistent and true to your brand.
3. Mobile: Get into people’s pockets
Today a rapidly growing number of holidays are being booked and researched via mobile or tablet. It’s an irreversible trend.
In the US for example, 40% of travellers booked their holidays online during the first six months of 2014, according to a report by Criteo. The way that people consume and assimilate information is changing. This applies even when they’re NOT on a mobile device.
The two key changes are:
- Brevity – When someone looks for information on their smart phone, it’s often in response to a sudden thought that they’ve had or a conversation that they’re having. They’re not looking to read anything lengthy, they’re looking for specific answers as fast as possible.
- Information Infidelity – Today, web users are far less likely to turn to a preferred source of information for their travel needs. They will instead opt for the content which is the most convenient, the most valuable and the most relevant to them. When they’ve absorbed that information, they may well turn to an entirely different source for their next query.
To make the most of this shift, travel firms need to be thinking ‘mobile first’ with all your content.
That means creating short, snappy pieces of content which are laser-focused and get straight to the point. Think about the kind of things that people search for on a whim: ‘What’s the weather like in Algiers in June’, ‘how many beaches are there in Ibiza’, ‘what are the best attractions in Rome’.
If you can create content that targets these needs, you can drive extra traffic and conversions.
4. SEO: Put your brand on the digital map
Before people can choose you, they have to find you. In order to compete at the top level, your brand needs to be at the cutting edge of search engine optimisation practice. In 2015, that means:
- Having a responsive website which works equally well on mobile and desktop
- Offering users a large amount of high quality, relevant content
- Subtly using the keywords that people are searching for, eg. ‘flights to Athens’, ‘holidays in southern France’
- Creating content which is will be frequently ‘liked’ and shared on social networks
- Creating a ‘buzz’ around your brand that will help it thrive as ‘non-linked brand citations’ come to the fore in SEO.
5. Destination Guides: Guide your customers’ expectations
As the saying goes, it’s all about ‘location, location, location’ when it comes to travel copywriting.
But there are myriad ways to paint a picture of any location or vacation, and so it’s important to consider what style of destination guide will work best for your brand.
Most importantly, you should avoid clichés – they don’t really tell the reader anything about the destination, and more importantly they make your holidays seem boring and ‘samey’.
In an excellent piece on this topic recently, eConsultancy’s Dan Brotzel points out that, “A Google search on the phrase ‘unspoilt beaches’ yields 242,000 results… it’s a phrase so overused that it’s become meaningless.” Likewise, he says, you should avoid phrases like ‘stunning vista’, ‘hidden gem’, ‘city of contrasts’ and that ever-popular ‘rich cultural heritage’.
So what should you be saying about your destinations instead?
- Research. You need specific detail so your travel copywriters can actually tell the reader something useful and interesting about the place, rather than trying to dazzle them with superlatives. Your guide should be exactly that – a guide which sounds like it’s written by someone with in-depth knowledge of the location.
- Headlines. Use headers to give your guides a familiar structure that can be repeated over and over, so people can quickly find exactly what they’re looking for (‘eating’, ‘activities’, ‘key attractions etc).
- Add Value. If you really want to provide your customers with added value you may want to present a series of ‘curated’ travel guide experiences, in which you suggest in-depth itineraries and insider knowledge such as where the best places to go river swimming are, or where you can go to get the most authentic plate of local paella.
- Write for your customer. Consider what kind of holiday people are looking for – if they’re on a family break they’re going to be interested in different things than if they’re looking to indulge in a romantic weekend away.
In an interesting article on curated content in EyeforTravel, Andrew Lacy, founder of travel personalisation service Zaptravel, says, “Our belief is that we need less, not more choice. Curation is key… at Zaptravel, we are highly focused on curation to the point where we don’t even want to tell you what we left out… People are overwhelmed, and we need to use technology to make life easier.”
To give you more of an idea of what curated travel means, Zaptravel’s content titles include:
- ‘I would love to go to a beach’
- ‘I fancy discovering top hikes’
- ‘cool tech events’
By curating useful travel content you can not only make your site more useful to web users but also build your authority as a top travel brand.
6. Social: Go beyond web content to generate interest
Social signals are of growing importance when it comes to SEO.
According to Moz’s Search Engine Rankings 2015, ‘page-level social metrics’ (defined as being ‘Quantity/quality of tweeted links, Facebook shares, Google +1’s etc to the page’) were rated as having an influence factor of 4 out of 10 by a panel of more than 150 SEO experts.
While not the highest ranking factor, this places it at 9th. It highlights the growing importance of social.
To benefit from this new paradigm, you need to be creating social-orientated content that people will actually want to share with their friends. This in itself increases brand exposure and drives additional traffic to your site.
So how can you use social content to achieve this?
- Create valuable blog posts – A valuable blog post is one that teaches the reader something, inspires them, solves a problem or entertains them. You might create a series of posts that provide inspiration for would-be travellers by highlighting aspects of specific destinations. Or your blog copywriters could generate useful guides on things like, ‘how to survive a family holiday’, or ‘The top five culinary destinations in the world’.
- Get social – All of your blog posts should be promoted through an extensive range of social channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. You should also increase engagement with your customers by sharing interesting external links to relevant travel news and other useful information.
In bolstering your social strategy, it is important to ensure that you maintain a consistent tone in line with your other marketing channels. As we discussed earlier, a brand style guide can be distributed to all content creators to this end.
7. Internal communications: Strengthen your brand’s internal connections
All your staff, your partners, your agencies and your suppliers are ambassadors for your brand.
Communicate to them the same ideals and messages that you are trying to get across to your customers. For example, your customer service staff are much more likely to stay on message when taking a phone query if your staff newsletter and other internal communications are communicating these brand values to them effectively.
To strengthen your internal communications and increase their impact upon the overall success of your travel firm, you should ask yourself three questions:
- What values and ideals are we communicating to our staff?
- Are these in line with the values we wish our customers to perceive?
- What can we change in our internal communications to align the two?
If you need help putting your brand jigsaw together or with high-quality travel copywriting, get in touch with Big Star Copywriting now. We’ve written for a diverse range of travel companies including Hotels4U, Hilton Hotels, FlyThomasCook, Visit Devon and the English Riviera Tourism Company.