Online travel content: two major challenges and how to solve them

29 Jun 2018

Online travel content: two major challenges and how to solve them

According to research from online booking software provider Trekksoft, a third of destination digital marketing officers (DMOs) name content-centricity as a department priority. However, the challenge of actually producing high-quality travel content at scale remains an intimidating one.

So, what are some of the major content-based challenges facing online travel businesses, and how can brands can address these issues to improve SEO, organic traffic and conversion metrics? We explore.

  1. The convoluted purchase journey

The purchase journey for holidays is famously convoluted. According to 2016 research from Expedia, the average UK jetsetter makes 121 visits to travel sites before booking, conducting research on hotel, airline, online travel agent (OTA) and ‘guidebook’ websites before making a decision. Nor is this tangled journey easily trackable: 94% of leisure travellers switch back and forth between devices as they plan a trip, interacting with as many as 700 digital touch points and conducting 52 online searches over the five months prior to booking.

Given the complexity of this travel purchase process and the fierce levels of competition in the market, how can online travel businesses maintain customer attention and direct users from consideration to purchase? The answer is content.

Deployed correctly, travel content can act as a compass –  streamlining the user experience, strengthening customer service and helping consumers navigate the path to purchase without having to leave your website. The core information that drives this journey is what we call Primary Content – that is, the accommodation descriptions, category descriptions and destination guides that help consumers make informed booking decisions.  

At the customer’s early ‘Where should I go?’ stage of the booking journey, in which they’re considering preliminary destination options that suit their desires and needs, destination and neighbourhood guides are essential.

The function of these guides is to inform users about the destination, covering relevant practical details such as currency, local transport options, airport locations and weather/climate, as well as more inspiring aspects such as cultural highlights, local sites of interest, key things to do and see, nearby amenities, recommended places to eat/drink and seasonal events.

These guides play a crucial role in helping the customer decide whether a particular destination is suitable for them – but they’re also a vital SEO tool, capturing traffic for high-volume searches relating to destination discovery and exploration topics, for example ‘things to do in Venice’ or ‘where to visit in Palermo’.

In addition, from a customer journey perspective, destination guides are an excellent platform for directing browsers onward to other relevant internal pages (including hotel and resort pages), nudging the browser closer to making a booking. Aside from the conversion benefit, intelligent internal linking strategies like this can generate organic traffic increases of up to 40%.

Next comes the ‘Help me plan my trip’ stage of the purchase journey, in which the customer has decided broadly where to go and needs to now consider the details of flights and accommodation.

Here, optimised category descriptions are vital, helping to capture organic traffic from high-volume, specific destination-related searches – for example, city break in Sweden’ or ‘Kos holidays’Category pages need to be optimised with high-quality, relevant content around the destination that includes associated keywords, phrases and synonyms. The pages should also feature auseful internal links to other category or accommodation pages; these will help keep the customer on your site and nudge them on to the next stage of their purchase journey.

Finally, at the latter stage of the purchase journey, once the consumer knows where they want to go and has a grip on the basic logistics of their trip, accommodation descriptions can act as the clincher – answering the important question ‘Where should I stay?’. While factors like price and convenience of location will always heavily influence consumer decision-making, accommodation descriptions are nevertheless incredibly important, providing the principle details sought by holiday bookers about a hotel, villa or resort to help them understand whether it meets their needs.

When producing accommodation descriptions, travel businesses should therefore go into depth about the features of the accommodation, with genuinely insightful travel content that covers common research queries. This could include the dimensions, features, style and atmosphere of rooms, dining and entertainment options, as well as logistical information such as check-in times, house rules and mentions of any inclusive perks such as free Wi-Fi.

As far as possible, hotel and accommodation descriptions should also be unique, rather than recycling generic travel content supplied by the operators, to avoid the issue of duplicate content – which could see your pages de-ranked in the SERPs.

  1. Demand for personalisation

In this new era of big data, many of the world’s biggest travel brands are now recognising the power of personalised content. By tailoring the end-to-end purchase journey to individual browsers, online travel brands increasingly hope to harness and maintain customer attention. And they’re not wrong: according to a 2014 study from Boxever and Skift, personalised marketing boosts conversion by anywhere between 10-20%.

Of course, this means that travel sites across the vertical are having to up their game where personalisation is concerned. It’s no longer enough to speak to your audience; these days, you have to speak to several at once. The differing needs of traveller personas vary significantly – and different customers demand different forms of travel content offering.

Take, for example, the business traveller segment; the Travison 2015 Business Survey indicates that these customers prioritise clean conditions, wifi and comfort above all else. To cater to this logistics-centric audience, content could be low in word count, high in information and simply presented for maximum impact. On the flipside, a millennial audience is more likely to be seduced by visual and user-generated content; according to Expedia, 42% of millennials are influenced by friends’ photos on social media when considering their next holiday destination.

How can brands cater to multiple audiences at the same time? In an ideal world, every time the customer accessed a piece of travel content, they would be presented with a version tweaked and optimised for their personal needs. For brands with the resources, this kind of personalisation could be of immense value – though few have the capacity to generate multiple versions of every content piece.

An alternative option is to tactically optimise content for certain destinations to particular demographics. For example, it’s a fair assumption that browsers reading clubbing guides for Ibiza represent – for the most part – a different segment to those seeking tranquil family villas in the Algarve. The content supplied for these two destinations could reflect this divergence – not just in subject matter, but in format, presentation, interactivity and social presence.

Of course, tackling these challenges is easier said than done; the requirement to produce original, high-quality tailored travel content at high volumes poses a major operational challenge. In these instances, outsourcing your content creation to experts who specialise in Primary Content production will save you both time and money.

To find out how Quill can optimise your travel content for measurably improved SEO, brand trust, customer service and conversion, get in touch below.

Susanna Quirke @ Quill ContentContent Marketing Manager at Quill, examining digital, SEO and e-commerce trends from across the web.

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