If you are in the travel business, simply having a website may be all well and good, but are you making the most of its potential?
Your website is, quite literally, your window on the world – and the looking-glass through which your customers pass through to enter the world of travel opportunities you have to offer. Your website, in other words, is likely to be your biggest and your most critical marketing tool.
This guide offers a few suggestions about making the most of this effective marketing tool, in a way that catches a visitor’s eye, interests them, draws them in and, ultimately encourages them to make their travel arrangements through you – rather than one of the countless other travel websites out there.
The guide offers a focus, therefore, on the types of content travel sites should be using;
- content is everything as far as any website is concerned and that includes:
- written content;
- image based content; and
- interactive content.
For your further reading, we have also suggested a few directories of useful links about travel websites and what marks out the more successful and appealing from the run of the mill.
Types of content travel sites should be using
The travel business makes an ideal candidate for internet marketing. Through a carefully and imaginatively crafted website, you may breathe a taste of reality into your customers’ yearning for adventure, for the exotic, for travellers’ dreams to come true.
The content of your website is able to achieve some or all of these objectives through the words you choose, the pictures you show and the interactive opportunities you present.
Our own research, for example, revealed that:
- the majority of holiday bookers said both the holiday / hotel description and images were equally important (81% and 80% respectively);
- over a third (37%) said a video of a hotel helped with the decision to book.
No longer is it possible simply to string together a few descriptions of destinations and illustrate them with picture postcard snapshots. Technology has provided a whole array of new ways to paint tantalising scenes designed to make potential travellers reach for their passports and arrange their next trip.
The secret, of course, lies in harnessing these possibilities and showcasing them on your own website – because, make no mistake about it, if you’re not doing it, someone else’s website is almost certain to be doing so. Today’s travel business is nothing if not competitive.
Here are a few suggestions, therefore, about choosing the content most likely to catch potential visitors’ eye, seize their imagination and hurry in their rush to be become your next customer.
There might seem to be little to say about the written content of your website – but just how wrong you may be.
There are many different and more interesting ways of conveying a written message than simple descriptions of the destinations on offer:
- from governments, to corporations, businesses and even the smallest of clubs, there are blogs about practically every subject under the sun;
- there are literally millions of blogs online and blogging has become one of the most widespread means of communicating and spreading information and news;
- blogs are central to internet marketing – or to use the words of the recent UK Blog Awards, they “define and represent the epitome of all digital content platforms”;
- travel site blogs may cover a huge range of topics – some of the more popular being listings of the “top” 5 (or any other number), more generically based themes, or relevant travel tips;
- when creating your blog, remember that it needs to be kept thoroughly up to date with recent posts, for there is nothing worse than a visitor being invited to read those which might be several years old;
- a step by step guide to creating your blog – and some of the traps and pitfalls to avoid – may be found at Blogging Basics;
- articles may be a more traditional way of getting information, news and travel ideas across – but they need to be interesting, grip the reader’s attention, be entertaining, and of course be relevant;
- articles also need to carry some weight of authority – at the very least, authored by someone with a first-hand knowledge of the place or subject;
- if you are able to persuade a local celebrity – or even a national celebrity, if you have the right connections – this might lend an added level of interest for readers;
- whoever writes your articles, however, make sure that they are thoroughly proofed and spell checked – careless mistakes and typos give your website a shoddiness you certainly want to avoid – and, as in the case of your blogs, try to keep articles as up to date as possible;
- there is a host of facts and figures, information, events and dates on which they are held, that are frequently sought by travellers;
- you might develop a searchable database of key information, such as the dates of local festivals and holidays, local attractions worth a visit, average bus or taxi fares (to get and from attractions), banking hours, and the nearest emergency doctor and dentist;
- in addition to making them searchable, you might also want to think about internal links within your various banks of information – along the lines of the London Knowledge Bank launched by Knowledge Quarter;
- these speak for themselves, of course, but it is important to make them attention-grabbing, interesting and relevant, in a way that sets your own guides apart from the many others likely to be on the market and online;
- travel company Marco Polo makes describes how much care needs to be taken when writing a destination guide and suggests a few approaches you might take to the task;
- as a standalone feature or for inclusion within your destination guides, you might also consider putting together guides to the local attractions found at the destination;
- attractions might include local beauty spots, historic sites, museums, bars and restaurants;
Downloadable guides and resources
- for the more serious of your website visitors, you may want to include downloadable guides and other travel resources, which are then accessible to your customers and potential customers whenever they are offline;
- where your blogs and articles might be time-sensitive – and all the better for being up to date, because it reflects whatever is in the news at the time – it is also worth including written material that remains “evergreen”;
- this is information, opinion and background which remains true and relevant at any time your visitors choose to read it;
- an article on The Balance website, dated the 17th of March 2017, suggests that examples of commonly used evergreen content include frequently asked questions (FAQs), “how to” advice and articles, glossaries of terms used in the travel industry, and reviews and testimonials (provided, of course, that they remain relevant to your product offering).
Image based content
A picture tells a thousand stories – and never more so than when depicting practically any travel-related content.
Pictures taken at travel destinations help to bring places alive and convey a far more vivid impression than any amount of text.
But the pictures you use on your website also need to be relevant and professionally taken. Preferably, they are going to be unique, rather than relying upon stock photos, which may too often appear unimaginative picture postcard lookalikes.
Here, then, are a few ways you might give your pictures more relevance and interest:
- social media platforms abound and offer a dynamic way of linking back to your main website;
- the various platforms are immensely popular and are capable of carrying a large amount of information, which may be presented in novel and imaginative ways, yet still follow a basic format likely to be familiar to any visitor;
- the website Adventure Travel News discusses some of the benefits that might be enjoyed by employing this popular marketing channel;
- your social media listing is able to borrow photos and videos from your own website and – provided you ask first – those from other travellers’ social media accounts;
- by using virtual reality technology and 360º video clips you may create travel scenes in which your visitors become thoroughly immersed;
- images, videos and text may all be used in innovative and imaginative ways of showing your customers just what they might expect when they arrive at any given destination;
- your social media pages may also be used to inspire further trust and confidence in the success of travel you have arranged for other customers, through their opinions, reviews and illustrated experiences;
- social media is also an excellent vehicle for those frequently asked questions – or FAQs – which you may be able to list and answer here, as well as on your main website;
- this is also a convenient way to prominently display the extent to which you keep right up to the minute with travel conditions in various parts of the world by publishing the latest travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO);
- if you have a relatively complicated subject or array of data you want to turn into a much simpler and friendlier way to convey, an infographic – combining both text and design – may be your answer;
- as this example from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) goes to show, an infographic makes much shorter work of quite a lot of interesting data:
Thanks to the technology now available, visitors may place an active part in reacting with your website. Interactive browsing allows existing and potential customers to immerse themselves more fully with the content and subject matter of your website, through the following types of device:
- your website’s use of virtual reality video provides an excellent opportunity for bringing the experience of any foreign destination straight to the visitor’s computer, tablet or smartphone screen;
- on the 25th of January 2017, Forbes magazine bemoaned the relatively scant attention paid to virtual reality technology by many travel websites to date – but forecast its more widespread use in the immediate future;
- similar technology also allows you to introduce your website visitors to 360º virtual tours of any destination in question;
- virtual tours give you the opportunity of incorporating up to the minute photography and images – in place of the kind of stock photographs which may very quickly and easily give your website a dated and out of touch feel to it;
- the widespread use of bots is also likely to gain ground during the coming year – indeed, they have already acquired a somewhat questionable reputation when used by online pressure groups in recent and forthcoming elections in Britain and Europe;
- bots are pointing the way to more pervasive use of artificial intelligence (AI) and the more realistic and complex they become, the more they enable a computer program embedded in your website to generate words and reactions as if it were human;
- only a short way off, therefore, is the prospect of the online, bot-based travel agent;
- CNET magazine has published a more detailed consideration of the way bots are being developed and used across online platforms;
Tools and calculators
- so that visitors do not have to leave your own website to make comparisons, calculations or conversions, it is easy enough to embed these tools in your own site;
- you might include conversions from imperial to metric weights and measures, for example, foreign clothing and shoe size converters or tools for calculating the distance from one destination to another;
- another facility likely to be prized by anyone planning to travel is to know what the weather there is going to be like – you might want to provide a link to or your own tool that draws on the updated international forecasts by the Met Office.
Directories of Useful Links
Every travel company is different and every travel website needs to be unique – that’s the way you aim to stand head and shoulders above the competition.
The following links, therefore, are intended simply to spark ideas and suggestions when building your own website, rather than any step-by-step guide.
The list is by no means exhaustive and you may find many other links useful to your particular business through further online research.
If you are thinking about creating your own blog, for instance, you might want to consider the ideas and examples suggested by:
For lists of ideas about social media content, you might want to take on board the suggestions at:
Tips and suggestions about writing a destination guide are given by travel specialists Marco Polo:
An informative illustration about creating and launching a knowledge base may be found at:
If you are wondering about some of the distinctive features of evergreen content and how to keep certain content relevant for the longer-term, why not take a look at:
Pay regular visits to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice centre, which is constantly updated and has entries for practically every destination on the globe:
want to know more about bots and how they work? CNET magazine has an easy to read description here:
If you are taken with the idea of using infographics to make statistics and other data more digestible, the examples posted by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) are likely to help:
If you are looking to boost your online marketing by building or remodelling a website, technology has gifted you more exciting, interesting and useful tools than ever before.
The trick, of course, lies in deploying these tools in a way that truly showcases your travel business. They help you to catch the eye of potential visitors and, once they have arrived, your aim is to hold their interest and navigate from one page to another in the search for informative and entertaining content.
This might be achieved through well-written and engaging text, eye-catching imagery, links to your social media platform or platforms and interactive content which immerses your visitors in the kind of virtual reality which you may then offer to turn into actual travel plans.
The more imaginatively and creatively you employ some of the tools available, the better your chances of standing out from the crowd – and boosting your business as a result.