So you’ve done everything you can think of to SEO your travel site—you’ve researched keywords, put them in all the right places, added a blog, and made it mobile friendly. Yet your website still isn’t getting much love from the search engines. Why?
At this point, the problem might not be on your website. It might be your off-site SEO.
What is off-site seo?
All that work you’re already doing to optimize your website, that’s called “on-site SEO” and it lays the foundation for your website’s SEO. But there is another facet of SEO that you have less control over. It’s called off-site SEO and it takes into account the rest of the Internet.
Off-site SEO exists because search engines need a way to determine which sites are the most authoritative on any given subject. Because when you have dozens … hundreds … thousands of web pages all talking about the same topic, you need a way to decide which one deserves to be ranked number one.
Ideally, the number one ranked result would be the most interesting, accurate, and trustworthy source of information. Unfortunately, the search engines use popularity as a proxy for “interesting, accurate, and trustworthy.” This gives large, well-known brands a big advantage, while making your job that much harder.
How does off-site SEO work?
To understand off-site SEO, it helps to understand a little about how the search engines work.
Search engines, like Google, use software programs called “bots” or “spiders” to catalog the Internet. These spiders crawl across the World Wide Web doing nothing more than locating web pages, scanning their content, and reporting back what they find. The information is entered into a giant database of all the web pages that could possibly show up in search results.
The “web” on which search spiders crawl are the hyperlinks between pages. This is where off-site SEO comes in. Hyperlinks (which you may hear referred to as “backlinks”) are counted as votes in the search engine popularity contest. The more links a website has, the more authoritative it looks to the search engine, and the better its chance of ranking well in search results. This isn’t the ONLY factor taken into account for off-site SEO, but it’s the biggest.
About off-site SEO link building
You may be thinking “So all I have to do for off-site SEO is get a bunch of links to my site.”
Because spammers have abused linking as a way to hack SEO results in the past, search engines have gotten a lot more sophisticated in how they count links, making it much harder to get SEO votes for your site.
For starters, shares on social media will have little to no direct affect on your website’s SEO. Similarly, links posted in comments or on forums tend not to count and may actually hurt your SEO if it looks like you’re engaging in comment spam.
Buying links is also a bad idea as search engines have developed ways to detect this activity and will punish sites that do it with lower rankings or outright removal from search results.
The idea here is that you need to obtain links from other websites organically, meaning the webmaster chooses to link to your site because they feel it offers real value to their audience.
To make life even harder, organic links don’t all count equally, and some aren’t counted at all.
A link to your website from a big, popular site, like National Geographic or Travel & Leisure, is going to have far, far greater SEO impact than one from a little-known travel blog. But even if you score a link from a big, popular website, they may use what’s called a “nofollow tag” to keep search engines from counting that link for SEO purposes.
In other words, link building is incredibly important for SEO, but also a difficult and time consuming process.
Off-site SEO techniques
In many respects, off-site SEO should occur as a natural byproduct of you marketing and promoting your business. But it pays to be intentional in your efforts. Some techniques for getting backlinks for off-site SEO include:
Media relations - anything you can do to get coverage by the media is going to help promote your business and boost off-site SEO. This could include getting interviewed by your local newspaper or TV station, holding an event and inviting the press, or launching a new service and sending out a press release.
Influencer marketing - working with travel influencers can be a great way to build your off-site SEO. Whether you’re sponsoring a travel podcast, offering free service in exchange for a travel blog review, or developing a long-term partnership with a travel vlogger, working with influencers can be great for brand exposure and SEO.
Guest writing - some websites accept guest contributions and will link back to your website from the author bio. Because this is such a powerful way to promote your brand, many websites will only accept paid articles, which may be worth it in some circumstances. But if you can, it’s much better to develop relationships with websites that will accept your submissions on a guest contributor basis.
Review sites - asking your customers to review your services on a site like TripAdvisor or Yelp! is both good marketing and good for SEO. Not only do reviews influence traveler choices, they can help search engines associate your brand with customers’ descriptions of you, like “best motorbike tour in Latin America” or “best Black heritage tour in Panama.”
Partnerships - if you work with industry partners you can always ask them to include a link from their website to yours (and offer to do the same in return). You can even provide a graphic or badge to make the link easy to incorporate and visually attractive.
Promoting industry experts - if you invite an industry expert to be interviewed on your blog, vlog, or podcast, you get great content, they get a chance to promote their brand, and you can ask them to link to the interview from their website.
Creating share-worthy content - Ideally, you’re creating content for your website that people naturally want to share with others. Great content positions you as an expert in your field, gives people a reason to visit your site again and again, generates social media shares, improves your on-site SEO, and attracts links for off-site SEO. It’s simply the best marketing tactic on the Internet.
Ask for links - it’s OK to tactfully ask another website to link to yours. For example, let’s say you find a blog post about how to be a more eco-conscious traveler. You might write to the author and suggest that your post on “10 things to pack for a more earth-friendly vacation” would be of interest to their readers. Just keep in mind that bigger blogs get these kinds of requests all the time and most are spam, so keep your request polite, personal, and highly relevant.