Increasing your occupancy rate should not be an expensive task. Most companies try to use SEO freelance consultants in an attempt to build up their search visibility, and while this works to some extent, in today's competitive digital marketing sector within the travel industry, it is unlikely that you are going to overtake the likes of Airbnb or Agoda in the search-engine rankings.
Of course, local SEO is going to work to some extent because your hotel, property management business, or your holiday home website has every chance of showing up on Google maps if your SEO is correctly configured. You can even try Google Ads as a side option, but if you do try this latter route into gaining leads online, be very careful with the budget you set on your Ads campaign. You do not want to start to compete with big companies and end up paying a fortune when there is a slim chance of a booking being the end result of a click.
My Experience With SEO Within The Travel Industry
For some time I worked with a digital marketing company as an SEO in Thailand. There certainly was no shortage of inquiries from companies in the travel industry. In fact, around 50% of our client base for SEO, social media, and Google Ads came from small hotels trying to increase their occupancy rates by advertising their brand independently of sites such as booking.com, Expedia, and so on.
Now, for around 10 percent of clients - which made up for at least 80 percent of our SEO and other digital marketing income - our campaigns were successful. They were successful because the companies we were working for already had well-known brand names. (As I signed a non-disclosure agreement aka NDA, I cannot reveal these companies). Nonetheless, additional advertising helped their websites gain an increase in direct bookings. Achieving this feat took teamwork, and it is something I could not achieve as a lone SEO freelance consultant.
For the remaining clients we had I can't help but feel that they were sold digital marketing services for the sake of a short term gain for the business. At the time I was relatively inexperienced, and so I tried my best to help the smaller clients, but in the end, the work we did from an SEO perspective only helped their local SEO, but on a global scale i.e. people searching for hotels in Thailand from outside of the country, the SEO and Google Ads did not work do well.
That said, the social media campaigns the company provided were great and helped the companies with repeat business, brand management, and corporate social responsibility (CSR). The main issue at large was how to help these companies bring in new leads whereas the social media was geared towards those that had already had an experience with the hotel or property management vacation rental company.
Now just quickly rewinding back to the SEO. The campaigns were not a complete failure because some of the sites I did manage to get content placed on brought traffic and inquiries directly from those sites. This is because I chose websites that a high number of visitors, and we already knew this was working for some of our bigger clients. Even today I still stay in touch with those website owners because I have a few friends that are SEO consultants in Thailand helping travel business, so I always do my best to help.
Although, the return on investment (ROI) for the entire digital marketing campaign was not worth it for our smaller clients. Maybe had they just focused on local SEO and social media, then the budgets they spent could have been justified. Today, these have been my most valuable lessons learned while working as an SEO freelance consultant within the travel industry.
OK, so the background story has been laid out for you. It's not overly detailed, but you have already probably gained an insight into SEO and the travel industry. I think to cut a long story short, if you are a small new and up and coming travel establishment, the extent of your SEO budget should only stretch as far as local SEO. Social media will always be important, and Google Ads should be a very small campaign that targets locals.
Local SEO will always be important because people that live locally in a tourist area will always have family and friends coming to visit, so if you can capture their attention with your accommodation, then you could be gaining a long term client with repeat business for life. Honestly, the ROI from this is priceless as the years go on.
If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them!
In an upcoming post, I am going to explain how you can increase your occupancy rate using a very simple strategy. This is a strategy that has worked for friends, and a couple of clients of mine in Britain's tourist areas. The investment is low, the man-hours are quite high, to begin with, but the end result can double or even triple the number of bookings a property management company responsible for vacation rentals or a small hotel can bring in.
Until then, I hope you found my tips useful here. I will also be creating another post about my latest trip to Koh Chang in Thailand. For those of you looking for a business angle on my posts, then look out for marketing related posts. For those of you that will be following for travel exploits in South East Asia, then I will make sure the title is very clear.
Thank you for reading!