With the likes of airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair resuming flights, the potential for the UK ban on non-essential travel being lifted for up to 90 countries, and some countries even offering to refund holidays if travellers catch COVID – it’s clear that there is a lot being done to encourage wary consumers back to the travel sector.

But with social distancing rules continuing, and fears of spread still unabating, the realistic likelihood of the masses being drawn in by the typical summer holiday is still very low compared to this time last year.

Whilst we’re all in agreement that this is a challenging time, there are strategic marketing investments that travel brands can make now both to provide reassurance to prospective travellers and to boost interest in new holiday ideas. In particular, brands should be using the quieter periods to invest in the foundations of their digital strategy – SEO and content marketing – to be the trusted source of travel information and build brand equity in order to ultimately attract custom later in the year once people feel safer.

The more useful and closely aligned to user queries a travel brand’s content is, the better that content will perform in becoming visible across search engine results pages (SERPs), which should ultimately increase your site’s visibility, traffic and sales. This all starts with rigorous keyword research from as many data points as possible, and analysing the queries for:

  1. Relevance to your brand – i.e. do you sell holidays abroad or only in the UK?
  2. Competition – is there an element of low-hanging fruit you can easily target?
  3. Volume – what will drive the highest volume of sales for your business?

From analysing search data, we have seen a number of trends that travel brands can capitalise on.

Information and reassurance are key

Recent search data is showing that the phrase “travel quarantine” is picking up interest, showcasing an appetite for understanding where and how feasible overseas holidays are.

Google Trends graph showing interest in the term 'travel quarantine' between June 2019 and June 2020. The graph shows a reasonably-sized peak around March of 2020, followed by a dip in April, and then steadily climbing interest from May onwards.

Consumers need advice, and will search to find specific answers to their travel pain points that they may not be receiving from the government or the media. Therefore there is an opportunity for travel brands to step in and provide that to them; information for the consumer equals great brand equity and trust for the business for when mass travel resumes.

How can travel brands do this? With research last year showing that 50% of Google searches end without a click to other content, brands need to write content in a structure that enables them to leverage as much real estate on the SERP as possible through owning rich snippet boxes – particularly for long-tail terms. Create content that could easily be used in a featured snippet by answering core questions concisely, such as “where can I go on holiday during lockdown?”

As consumers are looking for ‘where’, ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions, make sure the content is written in a succinct fashion, with clear heading labels and answers given in a structured format to ease the understanding for search engine crawlers on the relationship between the query (the heading) and the answer (content).

This type of content will provide greater exposure in the SERP, can increase awareness of the brand, and enables businesses to share information that is useful to the user, building familiarity and connection with the brand.

Capitalise on rising search interest in new areas

Brits are looking to find out where they can go. The phrase “where to go for winter sun” has seen a peak in interest at its highest level in 12 months, aligned to the relaxation of lockdown rules and the first Easyjet flight leaving Gatwick.

Google Trends graph showing interest in the term 'where to go for winter sun' between June 2019 and June 2020. The graph has various peaks and troughs, with relatively flat interest from February to May 2020 followed by an uptick in interest that is predicted to trend much higher, as indicated by a dotted line.

Along with providing current information on which destinations are safe to travel to, this sort of search provides brands with an opportunity to promote slightly more ‘off the beaten track’ destinations, and drive tourism to quieter spots. To ease uncertainty around safety, and reassure people that they can successfully social distance even while abroad, travel brands can look to tailor advice to help encourage travel to new and unusual destinations.

Pre-lockdown, around 2.3m Brits flocked to Majorca every year, accounting for over a quarter of holiday-makers. Post-lockdown, behaviour is likely to change, with more people shying away from regular hotspots for fear of being too close for comfort. Yet many people may not know of the many other destinations they could try, away from the crowds, for newer experiences. If relevant to your business, create content to inspire adventure to areas that won’t have as many people and will likely be safer to travel to.

Structure pages to drive visibility and showcase topic authority

Perhaps unsurprisingly, search interest in “staycation” has risen by 200% year on year and is at its second-highest peak since November, when it likely rose due to Brexit uncertainties.

Google Trends graph showing interest in the term 'staycation' between June 2016 and June 2020. The graph shows a particularly high spike in November 2019 before dipping in December; the graph displays a gradual trend back upwards from roughly March 2020, and is on track to reaching a higher peak than in November if the trend continues.

How can travel brands target consumers making specific searches like this?

Ensure that content designed to target these terms is baked into the architecture of your website, and isn’t simply added on as an afterthought. If you place these posts deep into your website with little consideration for how they interconnect with your site, you won’t get the visibility you want.

The more equity you funnel to new content, the stronger the signals to Google that this is valuable content you want viewed.

Ensure that internal links from existing content pieces are placed, and that there are clear calls-to-action from the content to push your audience to a conversion – whether that be further information, your product offering or enquiries.

This can be achieved by leveraging the hub and spoke model (diagram below). Using this method, a brand can showcase its authority on a given topic (the hub), by answering the long-tail queries from consumers in dedicated content pieces (clusters) that all provide internal signals (spokes) back to the hub. This provides a clear understanding of the content relationships to search engine crawlers, and showcases the depth of content, and therefore expertise, a business has on a given topic.

Diagram illustrating a model with 'pillar content' at the centre and lines, representing hyperlinks, radiating out and connecting to 'cluster content'. The title at the top of the diagram reads 'Topic Clusters'.

While uncertainty reigns we can expect to see unprecedented consolidation in the sector, alongside rapid shifts in consumer behaviour.

Those brands that can answer the many questions travellers have about their holidays and provide inspiration for safer travel will be the ones that drive bookings for the late summer and winter months and beyond.