Inspiring Keyword Research Ideas For Travel Brands

Brands must under­stand what peo­ple are look­ing for and pro­vide con­tent that inspires them.

Jose Truchado By Jose Truchado from Expedia. Join the discussion » 0 comments

I’ve always liked the trav­el sec­tor. My favorite books when I was a lit­tle kid were “Trea­sure Island”, “Robin­son Cru­soe” and “Gulliver’s Trav­els”.  All of these books made me want to trav­el and have adven­tures abroad. Yet, sad­ly, almost none of the con­tent trav­el brands are cre­at­ing share this inspi­ra­tional facet – and I’m sure many con­sumers feel the same way. This is a direct con­se­quence of the peren­ni­al mis­use of the first step for every SEO strat­e­gy: key­word research.

There is huge poten­tial to win trav­el­ers with amaz­ing con­tent. But because the trav­el indus­try is incred­i­bly com­pet­i­tive, we’ve tend­ed to cre­ate key­word-rich “robot­ic” types of con­tent rather than con­tent users will find excit­ing – or at least infor­ma­tive.

Why wouldn’t we do this? Opti­miz­ing con­tent for Google, rather than peo­ple, has always worked. Until now.

Keyword Research Is Evolving

Ever since there was a need to opti­mize our pages for search engines we all have advo­cat­ed that “con­tent is king” in one way or anoth­er. We sur­ren­dered our­selves to the pow­er of the key­words we were opti­miz­ing our pages for, some­times so much so that it sound­ed like our con­tent was writ­ten by the robot from “Lost in Space”.

We opti­mized our pages for Google and it worked. We used key­words Google itself pro­vid­ed to us through many dif­fer­ent tools (e.g., Key­word Plan­ner, Ana­lyt­ics, Trends, Web­mas­ter Tools) to cre­ate con­tent that essen­tial­ly told Google, “Hey, our con­tent is exact­ly what your users are look­ing for.”

We thought that’s what Google want­ed. But by doing this, we com­plete­ly ignored what real peo­ple want­ed. Users weren’t hap­py, and Google took notice.

For the past few years Google has tried to put its users first, through a series of algo­rith­mic and tech­no­log­i­cal updates, and by remov­ing key­word data from Google Ana­lyt­ics.

Goodbye Keywords, Hello People

One of the final blows to our old style key­word research was Google’s Hum­ming­bird update in 2013. Google now looks at the user intent when per­form­ing a search rather than the seman­tic mean­ing of the words used in the search.

This means that when the user types “Hotels in Lon­don” Google ana­lyzes sev­er­al fac­tors to deter­mine whether the user is look­ing to book a hotel, a list of all the hotels in Lon­don, or even what type of hotel they are look­ing for in Lon­don. Search results may dif­fer from one user to anoth­er as long as their per­ceived search intent is dif­fer­ent.

In 2014 Google took the unimag­in­able step of reduc­ing the organ­ic vis­i­bil­i­ty of some of the biggest sites includ­ing some in the trav­el indus­try. These sites all had one thing in com­mon: thin con­tent.

The mes­sage to brands and busi­ness­es was clear. You have to cre­ate con­tent for peo­ple, not for key­words.

And brands got the mes­sage. No site is infal­li­ble. You have to take Google’s rules seri­ous­ly.

Google is push­ing us to actu­al­ly lis­ten to our users/visitors to under­stand what they are real­ly look­ing for.

What Is Inspiring Travel Content?

You can find plen­ty of exam­ples of unin­spir­ing trav­el con­tent. For instance, almost every major trav­el brand uses the fol­low­ing tech­nique, illus­trat­ed by Sky­scan­ner, to pop­u­late the web with thou­sands of pages of unin­spired con­tent.

So, what is inspir­ing con­tent? It answers a ques­tion, cre­ates an emo­tion­al response, or trig­gers an action from the per­son con­sum­ing it.

One great exam­ple is Samsung’s cam­paign for the Gear VR, a cool, futur­is­tic device that seemed to have all the chances of end­ing up in the Google Glass cor­ner. I failed to see the prac­ti­cal use of Samsung’s Gear VR, but a few days ago this cam­paign caught my atten­tion.

Imme­di­ate­ly I was inspired to think of the thou­sand pos­si­ble uses for it (hint: it would go per­fect­ly well with the project I’m going to men­tion next).

One of my ulti­mate attempts to cre­ate inspir­ing con­tent while work­ing for Expe­dia was the Expe­dia Pio­neer Project, where we select­ed peo­ple to trav­el around their own coun­try for a year. They had to cre­ate arti­cles, take pho­tos, and make video con­tent at each des­ti­na­tion they vis­it­ed.

Their itin­er­aries were defined pri­mar­i­ly by a key­word research, which defined which des­ti­na­tions were pri­or­i­ties.

This inspir­ing con­tent has worked real­ly well for Expe­dia and has been extreme­ly well received. There’s noth­ing more inspir­ing in trav­el than see­ing some­one expe­ri­enc­ing what you would like to expe­ri­ence.

Take, for exam­ple, Albacete. This des­ti­na­tion in Spain has a rep­u­ta­tion of being some­what bor­ing. Look at the fol­low­ing video cre­at­ed by Raul, one of the two Pio­neers for Spain:

After watch­ing the video, Albacete seems like a des­ti­na­tion worth vis­it­ing. In fact, after pub­lish­ing this video both the offi­cial tourism orga­ni­za­tion of Albacete and a local music group asked Raul to col­lab­o­rate with them in their video con­tent.

What Is Proper Keyword Research Now?

Key­word research starts with you lis­ten­ing to what the users are actu­al­ly look­ing for. Not any user, but the users who might con­sume your prod­ucts or the infor­ma­tion that you pro­vide on your site.

Peo­ple are no longer cryp­tic when search­ing in Google. They use com­pli­cat­ed sen­tences that may not amount to a big search vol­ume but, when added up, they become the actu­al qual­i­ty traf­fic you’re look­ing for.

If we go back to the pre­vi­ous exam­ple, Sam­sung answers one impor­tant ques­tion (what’s the use of the Sam­sung Gear VR?) with inspir­ing con­tent that trig­gers an emo­tion. But how do we find out about those ques­tions?

Social media is one way of doing key­word research. Up until now we have either mis­used or dis­re­gard­ed social media’s part in our SEO strat­e­gy.

Social media is gen­er­al­ly used either as a cus­tomer ser­vice out­let or as a way to spread author­i­ty about a sub­ject. But social media is the most direct way to find out what your users expect from you by sim­ply ask­ing them direct­ly. Be active, not just reac­tive, in social media.

Keyword Research Tools

There is still some use for the usu­al tools such as Google Key­word Plan­ner, but only as the start­ing point of a much more sophis­ti­cat­ed process.

Once you have a tar­get list, find out what kind of con­tent your tar­get users are real­ly look­ing for, which brings us to the rela­tion­ship between social media and SEO:

  • Social media is the new Key­word Plan­ner: Trav­el con­tent is heav­i­ly shared on social media. Mon­i­tor the hash­tags of your top tar­get­ed key­words, both in Twit­ter and Google+, to get a bet­ter under­stand­ing of your users’ intent. Build the con­tent they are actu­al­ly look­ing for and again lis­ten to what they have to say about it.
  • Google pre­dic­tive search and relat­ed search­es: Google pro­vides this infor­ma­tion to pro­vide users with a more pleas­ant and effec­tive search expe­ri­ence.

The Content Beyond Words

The results of this research might give you infor­ma­tion beyond the sub­ject of the con­tent but also pro­vide the type of con­tent your users are look­ing for, whether this is text, video, or images. Let the research tell you what they need.

As a con­se­quence of this new approach to your research, you will have to involve who­ev­er builds your con­tent more than before. Help them under­stand what your users need rather than pro­vid­ing them with just a bunch of key­words to play with.

Always remem­ber: poten­tial trav­el­ers are look­ing to be inspired and expect a cer­tain type of expe­ri­ence. Whether it’s for leisure, busi­ness, or anoth­er type of trav­el, you need to under­stand what your poten­tial cus­tomers are look­ing for and pro­vide con­tent that will inspire them.

Per­haps we all should bet­ter go back to read­ing those old inspir­ing books and learn from them. Cre­at­ing inspir­ing con­tent can no longer be done by using the same old key­word research tech­niques of days gone by.

Are you try­ing to inspire your con­sumers with con­tent?

Jose Truchado

Written by Jose Truchado

Director, SEO & Global Operations, Expedia

Jose Truchado has spent over 17 years leading, training and mentoring teams in a variety of business sectors, including his own European technology company in the travel sector which he lead for more than 10 years. He combines his experience in Online Marketing and leadership with his passion for team dynamics and performance to help professionals maximise their working relationships. After working for several years advising multiple companies on their online marketing strategy, Jose joined Expedia, where he managed its European SEO team for 4 years. He regularly speaks at international conferences on Online Marketing and the importance of relationships in business development and marketing. Aside from his expertise in Online Marketing Jose is an accredited Executive Coach and Myers Briggs practitioner.

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