Finding the Best Travel Keywords
We recently launched our Live Case Study with The Travel Aisle and we’ll be using this as a vehicle to share our best SEO tips and knowledge in a live environment that you can follow along.
The first stop for any website should be keyword research. Travel is a highly competitive industry and it’s important that you identify which areas to target before you build your site (and even launch your business) so you know what is achievable and realistic in attracting customers from search.
This post aims to give you the lowdown on which keywords are best for travel companies, and how to go about finding them so you can leave with an actionable plan to go and put in place.
- 1 Keyword Research for Travel – How to Find the Best Phrases for SEO
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is all about identifying how your target audience search for your product or service and then using that information to inform your on-page targeting for SEO purposes.
If you design and build a website without this information it’s highly likely you won’t target the right areas and won’t get found by the right people as a result. This means less of your target market find you and you sell less stuff. That’s bad.
Keyword research is strongly associated with SEO, but it is also a fantastic way of gaining insight into your audience and your market that you may not otherwise know.
In travel this might be that more people search for ‘burma holidays’ than ‘myanmar holidays’ or hostels are more popular than boutique hotels. It’s not just about updating your title tag and the text on your site, it’s much more valuable on that for wider business insights too.
Overlook it at your peril.
The Impact of the Longtail
One of the key areas people go wrong when choosing keywords is exactly that. They choose a small set of phrases that they see as the be all and end all. Rank for those or bust.
You should discard this mentality right now. Or stop reading, because you’re not going to like what’s coming.
Keyword Research is about finding all the phrases (or topic areas at least) your audience is searching for, and then mapping those findings onto your site. It will inform your site architecture, the pages you have on your site, the text you use: everything!
People are always drawn to the phrases that have the highest search volume which is a natural reaction. You want to target the phrases that people search for the most right? Well, kind of, but it’s not as simple as that.
You definitely want to have pages on your site that target the most searched-for terms, but those phrases will often be extremely competitive and difficult to rank on page 1 for. The real wins, particularly for new or smaller sites, are in the longtail phrases that your audience is searching for.
The longtail is made up of a huge variety of different phrases, but when added together these phrases usually result in a much larger volume of traffic than the headline phrases that most people focus on.
For example, consider the hypothetical scenario below:
- The phrase ‘spain holidays’ gets 22,000 searches per month.
- There are 22,000 phrases which include ‘spain’ that are about travel (e.g. ‘best time to visit spain’)
Even if the phrases in the second option only have 1 search per month each, it adds up to the same amount of searches. Guess what? Usually they have more than one so they add up to much more.
You can also rank for the majority of these phrases much more easily than the headline phrases like ‘spain holidays’. Would you rather try and rank for 22,000 different phrases that are less competitive and each bring one visit to your site, or put all your eggs in the basket of the one phrase which is the most competitive out there.
I know which I’d go for.
Google has also recently shared that 15% of the phrases they see every day are completely new, so you can see that the longtail is constantly growing, and the opportunity is huge if you set your site up to capture that traffic.
So how do you do that?
Topics vs Phrases
The best way to target the longtail is to do keyword research that identifies all the different topics that are relevant to your site. Start by finding individual phrases, but then build that list out so you can see all the different phrases that exist which are relevant to you.
We have launched The Travel Aisle site with our initial pages focused around where to travel throughout the year. We did our keyword research and found there was a good amount of interest for phrases like ‘where to go in November’ and ‘where to go in March’.
But we didn’t stop there, we kept digging, and found a huge variety of phrases in those same topic areas that we could target:
- where to go in march – 900 searches/month
- best places to visit in march – 500 searches/month
- where to go on holiday in march – 600 searches/month
- best holiday destinations in march – 300 searches/month
There’s plenty more where that came from.
Your task is to look at your particular niche, whether it is a particular destination, type of travel or informational topic and build out a comprehensive list of phrases and topics that are relevant to your site.
Only then can you map it on to your site with the content you produce in the most effective way when you have the full picture laid in front of you.
The Keyword Research Tools You Need
There are lots of useful free and paid keyword research tools out there which you can use to find this information.
If you really have no budget to work with then check out:
Soovle – Add a phrase and let this tool throw loads of suggestions at you based on a variety of sites.
Answer the Public – nicely presented information based primarily on the questions around the topics you search for.
Keywords Everywhere – A plugin for Google Chrome that highlights lots of options when you search in Google (and other places).
These tools can give you a good start if you’re prepared to put in a lot of hours, trawl through a lot of data and truly have no budget to work with (here are some other free SEO tools you might find useful).
However, I’d suggest that for a job this important it is worth investing some budget. There are lots of good paid keyword research tools out there, but having used many of them my recommendation would be Ahrefs.
The great news is that you can use this incredible tool for just $7. That’s just for a 7-day trial, but if you really are strapped for cash then you can spend $7 and do all your keyword research in those 7 days and give yourself a fantastic action plan and set of data to work from.
The even better news? It’s not just a keyword research tool. So as well as getting your keyword research data in those 7 days you could also get loads of link data, do competitor analysis and much more.
I expect you’ll end up wanting to use it for longer, but the option is there to just get all this information for the handsome sum of $7 (£5.34 in real money) if you dedicate a week to it.
And whilst I’m not getting paid anything to say this, I’d highly recommend it. And if you want to follow the tips and advice in the rest of this post, you’ll need access to it.
If you’d prefer to go the free route, here are a few excellent posts that show you how to do that without paid tools:
Finding Keywords and Topics Using Ahrefs
Ahrefs has a number of fantastic ways of finding good target keywords that you can then incorporate into your site structure and content.
The Keywords Explorer Tool.
This allows you to put in ‘seed’ words and surfaces all the top phrases which include those words. My favourite approach with this is to use the most pared back set of words to start with, then filter on the ‘Having same terms’ report.
This highlights all phrases that include that combination of words, in any order:
Another interesting thing you can gain from this report is in the ‘Parent topic’ column. This tells you the topic Ahrefs perceives this phrase to be part of. Click it and it will lead you to another treasure trove of keyword options to add to your list.
You can then take these new phrases and feed them back into the ‘Having same terms’ report and rinse and repeat.
Doing this process on its own can leave you with more than enough information to make an excellent go of the keyword research process and develop a site into a really strong position.
But if you’re the kind of person who just won’t quit, then you’re going to want to have a sniff around some competitors too.
The Site Explorer Tool
If we search for ‘best places to go in March’ the top result currently is CN Traveller. I can take that URL and put it into the Site Explorer and then view the ‘Organic Keywords’ section:
This page alone ranks for more than 1,000 phrases in Google.com. And Ahrefs is estimating it gets nearly 11,000 visits/month! Remember what I was saying about the longtail…
The main thing you can take from this report at page level is that if this page ranks for one of the big competitive phrases, it will probably rank for a lot of the longtail variations too. So all you have to do is sift through the list and add those phrases to your list.
You can also do this for lots of people on page 1 for your target phrases, which will only increase the pool of phrases you have even further.
The example above is doing this at page level, but you can also do this for an entire site to see where your competitors are getting the most traffic and which phrases that traffic is coming through.
You can do this with the ‘Organic Keywords’ report shown above for an entire domain, but I also like using the ‘Top Pages’ report, which shows the pages on the domain which Ahrefs estimates are getting the most traffic from search:
You can then click through to each one for the more specific breakdown of each page and the phrases it is ranking for.
As you can see, we’ve chosen a nice easy set of initial target pages to go after with the case study ;)
How to Judge Keyword Difficulty
Many people will ask how hard it is to rank for certain phrases or how long it will take to reach page 1.
The honest answer is you will never know for sure. The keyword tools can give you an estimate, but I don’t really trust these figures. You see small sites ranking on page 1 for phrases with high difficulty scores and then phrases with low difficulty scores that appear almost impossible to break when you look at who’s on page 1.
My advice is always that if the topic is relevant for you, you should create great content for it that matches up to the people ranking on page 1, and ideally is even better. If you do that consistently you will start to see success with some of those posts and your traffic will grow through longtail phrases.
Here’s what happened with our client Roma Experience when we started putting this approach into practice:
And I’ve only done this in a minor way with the SEO Travel site, but we’ve still seen solid growth as a result:
If you only take one thing away from this post, it should be that keyword research is crucial to the success of your website, and potentially your business too.
My advice would be to spend $7, dedicate a week to this process, and come out the other side with a proper action plan in place that you can use to shape your site’s growth for years to come.
I’ll be following this post up with a guide on how to take the findings from your keyword research and truly maximise them with the structure of your site as a whole and at individual page level.
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