Homing In On Every Search-Led Travel Buying Cycle Touchpoint

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This post was originally published on Momentology

Today’s travelers enjoy more choice than ever, with numerous ways to search for and book their journeys. How do you do the best possible job of catering to travelers’ needs from a search perspective, at every search-led stage in the buying cycle? It’s all about being there every time there’s a touchpoint.

Why Is The Travel Sector Different?

Most experts agree the best way to drive loyalty in the travel sector is to deliver the best possible user experience, information, and updates – not just during the investigation and booking process, but also before, during, and after the trip itself. According to John Wallace from VP Business Consulting:

“Customer recognition across the growing number of possible channels/interaction points is extremely important, not only for optimising marketing strategies/tactics for each customer, but also for enabling the travel provider to correctly value both the absolute and relative financial value each customer brings to its business.”

In other words, to do a proper job of travel marketing, you need to interact with a prospect at every possible touchpoint.

The travel industry buying cycle comes with a large number of touchpoints, beginning very early in the process when someone decides they want to book a trip and ending at the stage when they finally return home. It’s clear you need to consistently reinforce your brand promise across every customer touchpoint.

Focusing on search, the questions becomes, how do you make sure you reach people at every possible stage from a search perspective?

How To Hit Search-Related Travel Industry Touchpoints

People typically search for information in different ways depending on what stage they’re at in the buying process. They might use your brand name, carry out a destination search or a flight search in the early stages, moving onto more specific search queries the farther they get down the sales funnel.

This means the target audience can use any number of relevant key terms, including more generic head terms as well as long-tail search queries to find what they want. Most people use a combination, which means it’s your job to harness the search element of the buying cycle at multiple touchpoints, remaining visible throughout the process and keeping your brand right at the front of users’ minds.

How To Make Sure You’re Visible To Searchers At Every Touchpoint?

What should you do to ensure you don’t miss a crucial touchpoint along the travel industry sales funnel? As with so much in digital marketing, you need to understand what your user is looking for and create the best content to answer it.

Touchpoint: Search queries based on destination

Type of content needed: Imagine that thousands of users a month search Google for “holidays to Spain”. It makes sense to write content that goes into detail about holidays to Spain, looking at all the different angles that the user might be interested in. This could include the different destination airports to choose from, regions, cities, resorts, weather, attractions, nightlife… you get the picture.

Touchpoint: Long-tail searches that go into deeper detail

Type of content needed: If a good number of users search using the long-tail term “Buy the cheapest direct flight to Barcelona in November 2014″, their intention is as clear as a bell. Google’s Hummingbird update means it’s easier to make plain English, conversational search queries, and people are doing it more and more often.

Can you deliver a piece of content that directly fulfills their needs? If so, and assuming you do a good enough job of it, your content should be rewarded by search engines in response to the query, and your brand will appear in front of people at the exact point they’ve made a clear buying signal.

Touchpoint: Search queries based on price

Type of content needed: Because travel is often bought on price and the price differences in the industry can be subtle, popular price-led searches like “cheapest Europe flights” or “low cost holidays in Scotland” deserve appropriate content. You might talk about your flight prices as a whole, why they’re such good value, what added value/extras you deliver above and beyond great pricing, why you’re the [best / most efficient / reliable / trustworthy / knowledgeable], and so on.

How To Prioritize?

As you can imagine, the touchpoint potential is endless for search, never mind for all the other online and offline touchpoints. You might decide to prioritize the content you create to fulfill searches that are further down the sales funnel, toward the buying end, rather than in the early stages where it’s much more of a challenge to compete for popular, high-level head terms.

Never Create Content For Content’s Sake

There’s a caveat, of course. It’s no good just writing content for content’s sake, just so it’ll be picked up by search engines.

While it’s important to take search engines and search term popularity into account, it’s more important to put people first. Genuine relevance and real value are vital.

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How are you engaging your users during the search buying cycle? Do you feel that you should be in front of the user throughout the buying cycle, or just at certain times? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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