31 Jul

The importance of user intent in search marketing for travel businesses

With a huge 81% of people booking their holiday online*, a visible presence in the search results is more vital than ever. Nowadays, customers are savvier in the way they search. It’s essential to truly get to understand your users and how they are searching online. 

According to Google, it can take users 3.7 months to decide on a destination, 2-3 months to book a flight and two months to choose a hotel, with various touchpoints throughout. Travel brands must ensure they have a clear presence at each stage with inspirational content and smart search strategy in place to address user intent.

Evolution of SERPs

First of all, it’s important to take into account how SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) have evolved over the past 12-24 months. The rise of the featured snippet and improvements to Google’s knowledge graph hit every industry and fundamentally changed the way that we, as users, retrieve information from a search engine. Instead of clicking through to sites to find the answers to our queries, we’re now presented with answers in various formats in the SERPs. This can be in the form of a featured snippet or “People also ask” accordions. Your goal should be to have your informational content displayed in these formats in results.

To do this:

  • Ensure your content is formatted
  • Remove ambiguity and confusing pronouns
  • Directly answer the query

Focus on user intent

As search engines are becoming more sophisticated, they’re moving towards ranking pages that best match the intent behind a keyword. In previous years, the travel market has been guilty of focusing less on user intent and more on gaming elements of Google’s ranking algorithm. This simply won’t work anymore. Having content on your site which answers their search intent is key. For paid search, this is a great opportunity to expand your campaigns.

If you can write keyword targeted content which answers the user’s search query, your brand can play a key role in their decision-making process, building up trust with your business as you help address their pain points with the information they need. As a result, this could lead to the user coming back to your website to book. The copy on your landing pages should reflect your brand charm and experience, whilst including relevant keywords to their search intent. Although, a keyword-first strategy isn’t optimal in today’s search landscape – the only way to succeed in this regard is through an understanding of natural language processing.

In today’s financial climate and the level of saturation in the market, it’s not enough to focus on purchase intent – this only works if you’re price-driven. Instead, we’d recommend creating an experiential journey for users through more in-depth research into content and keywords/topics which will build a rapport with users. Immersing users in the experience that your travel brand can provide through carefully researched keywords, topics and content pieces is the way to do this. This will also open up external and internal linking opportunities, which can be used to bolster the performance of the main pages on your site.

Travel businesses tend to leave SEO and PPC to the experts – believing it is too technical an area to dare to be involved in. Although search marketing does involve much data analysis it is essentially about getting under the customer’s skin. To hear more from Clicky Media and learn from other marketing experts, attend ABTA’s Search Marketing for Travel seminar taking place on 16 October in central London.

To find out more, download the agenda and book your place please visit abta.com/abtaevents 

Laura Hothersall, Agency Director, Clicky Media

*ABTA Holiday Habits Report 2018