Thursday, October 23, 2008

Travel SEO – How to Target Searchers at the Right Stage of the Buying Cycle

First of all how we interpret the typical search behaviour of online travel customers when looking to purchase a holiday online:

Get Holiday Ideas – At the initial stage the travel consumer has a reasonable idea about the type of holiday they are looking to go on, but will still be looking for inspiration. They will go straight to a search engine to find further information about the destinations they can visit to meet this requirement. They will try to identify the holiday via a series of searches such as “summer holiday 2009”, “beach holiday”, narrowing down towards the location with searches such as “beach holiday in Europe” etc.

Destination Research – The type of results users will be looking for at these stage are generally travel guides, they have a budget in mind but the most important goal is to identify the location. Users will continue by performing informational searches such as “Climate in Greece”, “hurricane season in the Caribbean”, “best Mediterranean beach holidays in September”.

Confirm Location – In order to find a suitable destination which meets the user’s needs they will perform queries such as “summer holiday in Italy”, “weekend in South of France”, “self-catering holiday in Tenerife” or “all-inclusive honeymoon to the Maldives”. Once comparing multiple destinations a decision is made to confirm the destination. Next they are likely to research deeper into the more specific locations via various research and long-tail queries such as “beach holidays in the South of France”, “best location in the French Riviera”, “hotels in Nice”, “where to stay in Monaco” etc.

Compare Packages & Transport Options –The next stage is to identify the preferred mode of transport, this will include various comparisons for flights, trains or driving. Users will look for a range of travel related queries such as “cheap flights to Nice” and “Eurostar to Nice” as well as considering holiday packages which include transport. These are still mainly research based queries, but the user now has a clear idea about where, when and how they want to go on holiday.

Select Hotel – Ok, they’ve found a cheap flight to Nice, which is the best travel option so far, now time to find a hotel which matches up with this or perhaps a holiday package which combines both at a cheaper rate. Back off to Google searching for “hotels in Nice” this time. They will scan for the best option to find the most suitable hotel features/location and at the most reasonable price. Again more research, checking out the hotel review websites.

Decision Time - Once they’ve read the reviews and found the perfect holiday, will they add this to a shopping basket and order like you would with any other e-commerce website? No, probably not. Some travel websites you may have to enquire to confirm pricing details and then book over the phone, others you can check for availability and book there and then. But instead they’ll probably think it over one last time, just to make sure.

Revisit Website to Book - Ok, they’ve thought it through, decided it’s time to get away from the UK’s glorious grey summer skies, booked the dates off work and got their creditcard ready, great! So back to find the holiday previously selected. If they’re clever this would be saved as a bookmark, the problem is many people won’t have remembered to have done this and even if they did there’s a good chance it’s a dynamic URL which may no longer work. So instead you perform a brand query “Expedia” or “Expedia holidays to Nice”, for example. Eventually browsing to the correct listings and hopefully finding the price hasn’t shot up considerably!

Purchase – They’ve reassured themselves (several times) this is the holiday package they want to purchase and they proceed to complete the transaction either online or over the phone.

After Sales – The buying cycle will continue following the sale with customer service and support involved, hopefully with the opportunity for repeat business in the future. This means it’s important to ensure you dominate all brand queries, both paid and organic. Making sure that when potential customers are searching for your brand they only find you and the glowing reviews and PR you want them to, without a competitor in sight!


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