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SEO tips for your destination from the Digital Marketing Manager at the NewcastleGateshead Initiative.

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Lisa Kelly, Digital Marketing Manager at the NewcastleGateshead Initiative.

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Being visible on search results listings is vital for Destination Marketing Organisations, enabling the destination to be at the forefront when users have those ‘I want to get away’ moments.

Organic search is a more cost-effective and trust-worthy method of getting in front of prospective visitors online, and if done correctly, can become the main player in acquiring quality viewers who will ultimately drive forward the website’s business objectives.

So how do you make your destination website ‘Google-friendly’? As a destination that acquires 80% of website traffic from organic search, and has recently gone through the daunting, but rewarding task of a website migration, we share some of our top tips below...

The visitor experience begins before they’ve arrived at your destination

Half the fun of visiting a new place is the research, right? Then make the research process as user-friendly as possible to create a positive perception of your destination before visitors have even arrived at the train station.

Been faced with a slow loading page? Received a warning that the website your visiting isn’t secure? If you found these off-putting, then there’s no doubt Google will too. The main key questions to address when improving user experience are –

  1. Is it mobile-friendly?
  2. Does it load quickly?
  3. Does it run on HTTPS?
  4. Are there intrusive ads present?
  5. Does content jump around as the page is loading?

A new Google update is on its way in 2021 called Google Page Experience which will place even greater emphasis on user experience so it’s never been more important to get it right.

Allow your visitors to get lost when exploring your destination’s offering, not on your website

The more appealing your website is to users, the more it’ll be to Google, and metrics like a low bounce rate and a healthy time on page will showcase your website’s usefulness. This is where a logical site structure will come in. The better your site structure, the easier the crawlers can access and index the content. A strong internal linking structure will not only improve user navigation but also show search engines what pages are important and how to get there.

Going through a website migration? There’s never been a better time to get your site structure in order. Plan out your hierarchy and URL structure which follows suit. Try to map out a shallow navigation structure, where users can reach pages in less than three clicks, ensuring important content is not hidden away.

It’s understandable that it won’t be possible, or even in your best interests to transfer over all your existing content, so prioritise your content by identifying your hero listings, events, and categories in terms of traffic and visibility on Google. Ensure they are moved over first and are represented in your new hierarchy.

Make your content as unique as your destination

If you’re listing events and business listings on your website which might also appear elsewhere on the internet, it can be tempting to just duplicate the information, but try to differentiate your content where you can. For category content, always aim for at least 300 words of user-focused content, which provides interlinking opportunities to subcategories.

Don’t forget about your title tags, H1s, ALT tags, and meta descriptions too. These can be managed easily using a Craft plugin such as SEOMatic. Google is hugely intelligent and can understand the context of a page, but all these small elements will only help improve your online visibility.

Be there and be useful

Destination searches indicate that people are beginning to narrow down their travel ideas, even if they haven’t yet settled on the details. If your website is well optimised and offers useful content that answers questions visitors might have at each point of their travel journey, you’ll be able to help them decide on those details. This can be done via your blog, where you should aim to write at least two pieces of content per month answering longtail search queries about your destination. And if you have a handy tool like an Experience Finder, then it’ll be even easier to help then narrow down the experiences which meet their needs.

In the current climate addressing visitor concerns and pain points through content has never been more important as visitors may have reservations about travelling safely and understanding the local restrictions in place. Use Google Trends, Answer the Public, or your favourite keyword research tool to discover what people want to know about visiting your destination during these unprecedented times.

Build relationships, build links

As one of your key pillars of SEO, having a strong backlink portfolio is fundamental to getting your destination site ranking highly on search engines.

If you’re creating informative, useful content, you might find that you’re gaining links organically, but do always take time to build relationships with both local and international travel bloggers and press who may wish to visit and write about your destination.

Don’t forget that if you’re using a different domain when launching a new website you will lose your backlink portfolio, so ensure there is time allocated in your project plan to link building.

Review, report, revise

It’s important to monitor your website’s performance daily using Google Analytics, Search Console and Destination Core’s very own Insights platform, which will not only provide insight on website performance but bring together the performance data from all your digital marketing channels into a single location.

Use this information to educate your wider team and inform Partners about ROI. Identify your recurring hero events, listings and categories and keep them live all year round rather than disabling them to maintain a strong presence on Google, ensuring they’re regularly refreshed which may lead to more clicks and impressions. Similarly, if Search Console is showing up coverage errors or poor web vitals, it’s time to speak to your developers about making improvements.

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