Travel & Hospitality In The Holiday SERPS: How To Take Advantage Of Trends [Data]

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The U.S. holiday season is upon us, and that means travelers are gearing up to go home, find weekend getaways and participate in winter activities. And if you market a travel or hospitality brand, you’re likely gearing up, too.

In this post, we’ll look at three ways your travel and hospitality brand can align its organic search strategy with trends, research and opportunity this holiday season.

Holiday Tip 1: Create Content Based On Seasonal Keyword Trends

We know that keyword trends can be seasonal, and the travel and hospitality industry is no different. Your job as a marketer is to uncover those trends and create strategic content campaigns around seasonal keywords.

At BrightEdge, we tapped into our massive data repository (the Data Cube) to unwrap in-demand topics that people are searching for based on U.S. Google search query data going into the holiday season.

This research allowed us to pinpoint the top 10 searched phrases in travel and accommodations. I’ll share that with you now:

Travel & Accommodation: Deals & Offers

Our research shows that travelers search for seasonal deals and promotions around the holidays. (It is worth noting that the travel and hospitality industry is not immune to the demand for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.) Many businesses in these sectors participate in seasonal offerings just like those in the e-commerce world.

As uncovered by the Data Cube, here are the top 10 searched phrases on Google related to seasonal deals and offers in the travel and accommodation vertical:

  1. Flight deals Cyber Monday
  2. Winter getaways in New England
  3. NYC winter weekend getaways
  4. New York winter getaways
  5. Cyber Monday flight deals
  6. Black Friday flight deals
  7. Winter getaways near NYC
  8. Winter weekend getaways in New England
  9. California winter getaways
  10. Michigan winter getaways

Travel Only: Air Transportation

This portion of the research looked at air travel only to show where searchers were focusing their efforts when thinking about taking a flight:

  1. LAX airport
  2. Flights to Florida
  3. Cyber Monday fight deals
  4. The fight deal
  5. Hotels near Miami airport
  6. Flights to Phoenix
  7. LAX fights
  8. Black Friday fight deals
  9. Flights to Colorado
  10. DFW fights

Accommodations Only: Destinations & Landmarks

Following are the popular queries from our Data Cube related to destinations and winter activities:

  1. Open ski resorts in Colorado
  2. Biggest ski resort in U.S.
  3. Largest ski resorts in the U.S.
  4. Hotels near Time Warner Cable Arena Charlotte
  5. Hotels near Pepsi Center Denver, CO
  6. Hotels near O’Hare with free parking
  7. Hotels near the Alamodome
  8. Hotels near Sleep Train Arena
  9. Hotels near Las Vegas Motor Speedway
  10. Top ski resorts in the world

You can use Google Trends to unwrap seasonal trends for in-demand content and promotions around your particular sector. It’s worth doing so – according to Google’s report, “The 2013 Traveler,” researching and uncovering the best deals before booking was a top priority for those surveyed.

Statistical Chart

While we’re still waiting for the official 2014 version of the previously cited study from Google, the website Tnooz.com says it obtained a copy of the report ahead of time.

Tnooz revealed that, according to the report, search engines were the starting point for 18 percent of U.S. airfare research in 2014 (up five percentage points from 2013). It also showed that 24 percent of travelers used search engines to research overnight accommodations (up from 18 percent in 2013).

Holiday Tip 2: Optimize Your Content To The Fullest

The first part of your organic search strategy is simple: create useful content around demand. (This content could come in the form of landing pages, a series of blog posts, or informational pages on the site.)

The second part of your organic search strategy is making sure the content on your site is findable. We know that Google is working hard to create a useful experience when it comes to booking travel (Google.com/flights); in fact, the travel and hospitality industry saw a boost from Google’s newest local algorithm update, Pigeon.

While Google is making travel and hospitality a priority for its search engine users, brands in that space should be aligning with those efforts, too. One of the simplest ways to further communicate to the search engines what your content is about (aside from Meta data) is structured data markup.

Markup not only facilitates communication to the search engines but also creates a richer experience for your users. That’s because structured data markup can affect how your listing is displayed in the search results, making it stand out more and making it more useful to your target audience.

Markup can be in many forms – the schemas at Schema.org are recognized by all the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Yandex), and you can explore markup for flights, hotels, reservations, and beyond.

While you wouldn’t use markup on every page and every type of content (for example, it makes more sense to use it on a landing page where a user can perform an action versus an informational blog post), there are currently many options – and that’s a good thing.

Google offers a introductory tool, the Structured Data Markup Helper, which can help webmasters ease into structured data markup. That tool currently has markup for emails where emails about flights and hotel reservations are enhanced in Gmail:

Flight Details

Holiday Tip 3: Ensure A Fast, User-Friendly Mobile Experience

So, now you’ve planned to create useful content around demand and make it more findable by the search engines. But how about when they land on your site – what next?

Remember that your mobile audience is growing. Google research highlighted by Tnooz (linked to previously) shows that the 2014 traveler is increasingly using smartphones and tablets to research and buy:

Travelers did about 45% of their searches on smartphones and tablets – not just on desktop computers, says Google’s travel study. This trend in “cross-platform” researching and booking was true regardless of the type of travel being purchased, such as airfare, hotel stay, car rental, or cruise trip.

It’s often suggested that, while travelers may often snack on travel information on smartphones, they almost never actually purchase travel via smartphones. Yet Google’s travel study found that US travelers in spring 2014 did, in fact, book on the tiny devices in significant percentages: car rental (20%), air travel (15%), lodging (19%), cruises (25%), and vacation packages (21%).

So, to get your brand’s website ready for the influx of mobile users this holiday season, consider the following:

  • What type of mobile configuration works best? Read more on the research here.
  • Is your site free from mobile errors? Find out fast with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, and by digging into your Google Analytics under Behavior > Site Speed.
  • Can your site handle the traffic load in general? Make sure your servers can handle incoming traffic this holiday season – especially if you’re running Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.

This holiday season, let your travel and hospitality brand shine by implementing the three tips in this post to wrap up your organic search strategy with a bow.

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