Found: The Travel PR’s Guide to SEO

by Neil MacLean

There has been discussion on Twitter over the last few days on the role of SEO in contemporary Travel PR. I am massively biased in this; my reflex action on opening a new travel site is to view source code. And I have a keyboard shortcut which turns H and 1 into <h1></h1> in a nano second.

I believe an understanding of how to be more easily found online is vital to travel PR.

At the very least, if you are a travel PR and you want to get your client’s story across to the widest possible market, you need a basic knowledge of SEO.

I don’t necessarily mean the shady and complex world of buying authority links without Google registering the acrid smell of cheque book – although, wait a minute that sounds like a better reason than most these days for a press trip.

I mean the business of making sure everything you publish on behalf of your client is useful, easily found and as widely distributed as possible.

Is there a place for the various PR wires in this? Absolutely. I’ve seen time and again the advantages of making sure a news release was published on the right list.

But don’t just post your release off to a press wire service and sit back waiting for the rankings.

That is just part of the strategy. I believe more travel PR agencies should publish ongoing news themselves – and not static rehashes of their latest releases. These should be on their own sites, properly optimised to make sure they appear on the search engines.

SEO tips for travel PR’s

You are aiming for three audiences: the media and the public and your client.

There are far more journalists out there researching stories than you will ever have in your little black book, so make sure they can find your client’s latest news.

As for the consumer, we are talking about public relations here and there is a strong case for going direct to the person buying your client’s holidays.

Is that beyond the brief? Outwith the contract? Perhaps. Call it a little extra something – something which might keep you employed and prevent the client switching their PR budget over to a search company or digital agency instead.

Let’s get practical here with some quick top level SEO tips for a travel PR agency wanting to create an online media room for its clients’ news.

1. Set up a WordPress blog. It is cheap and easy but needn’t look cheap and easy. Then link it to the navigation on your corporate site.

2. Write short useful news posts about your client’s new hotel, destination, cruise ship, daily life. Avoid the stilted, verbal straight jacket of the formal release. Let’s have a bit of genuine enthusiasm and puff-free excitement. If it doesn’t excite you, don’t bore us with it.

3. Link out, generously – obviously to your client (first link) but also to other useful resources. Pay attention to the link text and don’t overdo it

4. Write an informative eye-ctaching headline for humans, a concise tag line for search engines, and a useful address slug for good for navigation.

5. Use your PR skills to compose a decent meta description. The kind that people will click on if Google decides to show it within the search results. Google says it doesn’t bother with meta keywords anymore but I still think you can throw seven or eight into the mix.

6. Link to your online media room in every communication you despatch, including your business cards.
7. Leave relevant, useful, friendly, helpful comments whenever you come across an appropriate online conversation, including Twitter, with your link.

8. Set up Google analytics to help measure traffic and so you can respond to trends such as what is popular, how do people find you. When something works, do it again.

Anything else? Yes, lots, that is just a start. But it is an important start and something which can be done right now.

You may not be able to waggle a Google-approved search professional certificate under the noses of your clients but at least you can tell them you optimise their releases and  ensure their news is more widely read online. And in an age of struggling newspaper figures, that can only be a good thing for a PR business.

I shall cover more specific SEO issues as they relate to travel PR in future posts.

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