SEO is no longer just a case of building spammy links with optimised anchor text and watching your site sail to the top of the rankings. Those days are gone and it’s becoming more and more important to approach your travel marketing in a holistic, integrated way. This means combining the efforts of your PR, social media, SEO and offline teams to make sure that your brand is appearing across the web and being referenced offline as well as online.
The key to this integrated approach is to become viewed as a trusted author in your field as people see you or your brand in various places interacting, creating great content and promoting other people’s quality content as well. The more you are viewed as an authority, the more trusted you become and the more likely people are to view your content and engage with it.
This all leads back to an element which Google, Bing and other search engines have started incorporating into the search results recently, and no doubt will continue to do so with increasing effect in the coming months and years. ‘Authorship’ is marking the content you write with your stamp so search engines and people know you created it. If you have created lots of content which they (users or search engines) like, then it’s likely they’ll look at other pieces of your work in a favourable light.
If you correctly add this ‘stamp’ to your content then Google and Bing will now show your image in the search results next to your content, and this can have a huge effect on your site’s potential to attract traffic from search engines. Some of the key benefits are:
- A face next to a photo can help increase click through from the search results. It attracts the attention of the searcher from the bland blue links above it, so if you are ranking lower on page 1 you can get a bigger portion of the clicks and more potential customers coming to your site.
- People can add you directly to their Google+ circles from the search results page, increasing your social following and reach on that platform for future content.
- Once you are in people’s circles, your content will gain preference in future searches if the user is signed in.
- If your image regularly appears in searches in your niche then it will reinforce your brand with potential customers. Studies have shown that customers on average need exposing to a brand seven times before making a purchase, if they see your face every time they’re searching you’ll hit this number much more quickly.
That’s just a snapshot of some of the clear benefits of authorship that are already present and in play in Google and Bing. Sounds good right?
That’s not the end of it though. Authorship is likely to play an even bigger role in search engines in the future as Google gains more data from Google+ and learns better how to use it. There have been a number of patents which suggest Google is working towards using this data to enhance the search results, moving away from what is currently a predominantly links driven approach.
The result of this will be something called ‘Author Rank’ or ‘Agent Rank’. This is where a particular author will be viewed as an authority and things they write will be more trusted than those with less of a following. It won’t matter if they are writing for the Telegraph or for a small travel blog, that content will be viewed with increased trust and therefore more likely to rank well in the search results. Established relationships and a strong standing in your niche will be more important than ever when it comes to ranking well and getting your content into a prominent position in the search results.
This sort of thing is much harder (impossible?) to manipulate and should lead to established authors and trusted members of a niche becoming more prominent in the search results, rather than websites which have built 10 thousand directory links to their site and just happen to have been around a long time.
Because of this, travel websites will have to take a more integrated approach to their travel marketing campaigns, not just building links or updating Twitter, but combining the many channels out there to establish a strong brand, a recognised personality and trusted content.
This isn’t something that you can put to one side and deal with when the changes appear, it will be too late at that point. Those who have been interacting on Google+, building ‘Agent Rank’ and developing a following will be way ahead and difficult to catch. The rich tend to become richer in these situations…
Creating an integrated marketing approach is more important than ever in order to gain success online. SEO is part of the wider picture and making sure all your marketing channels are pushing in the right direction. No longer can you look at each independently and pick and choose which channel you take part in. If you manage to do this well, then you can expect to be sitting pretty in the search results when Agent Rank comes around. If you ignore it and leave it until tomorrow then you might well find yourself with an uphill battle.