You’ve probably heard that you need to have some type of blog, video content or audio content that you create. But have you ever wondered why?
It’s actually quite simple. All of those things, whether they’re blogs, videos or vlogs, audio or podcasts, all fall into the category of “content marketing”.
At its most basic level, content marketing is simply content created to generate interest in a topic without directly promoting a company.
In other words, content marketing for a travel agency is creating sample itineraries, blog posts with lists of places to visit, places to stay, things to do or things to eat in different destinations.
It’s content that is appealing to someone who is interested in travel, or a certain destination, without constantly marketing your specific services. It’s a way to develop the all-important “know, like, trust” factor with potential customers.
But it does more than that.
Content marketing is vital for your Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, efforts.
SEO is the ability for your website to rank well, preferably on page 1, of results on search engines like Google. Without good SEO, your website will never show up for someone looking for what you offer.
And that, my friend, is where content marketing comes in.
Getting started with content marketing
In order for content marketing to work for you, you need to do some research first. Before you know what type of content to create, you need to know what the people who are hoping to find you are searching for.
Step 1: Do keyword research
Words that people search for on Google (or any other search engine) are called keywords. They can be single keywords, like “travel”, or long-tail keywords, like “best places to travel in March”.
A great place to start finding out what people are searching for is Google Trends. This tool will give you the search volume of any keyword you enter, so you can see how many people are actually searching for it and if the trend is moving up or down.
This comes in handy because, while it’s great if you come up on page one for a keyword like “vacations in Jamaica for people who love corgis”, the fact of the matter is that no one is probably searching for that (you can check if you’d like, I must admit I just came up with it and haven’t).
Start by creating a list of 10-15 long-tail keywords (phrases of three words or longer) that you’d like to rank well for.
They need to be broad enough that there is a good volume of people searching for them, but narrow enough that you have a chance of ranking for them. If you think you’ll be able to rank for something like “travel” or “travel to Europe”, you’ll want to rethink that.
There is simply too much competition out there for such broad keywords. No matter how much content you’re able to create, or how good it is, you’ll never outrank large travel publications, who pay hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars per year to churn out fresh content and keep ranking well in search engines.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t rank well for other phrases. Think of what your Ideal Client would search for if they’re trying to find your services, and write that down.
Once you have a list of 10-15 long-tail keywords, start typing them into Google. After you type one in, scroll down to where Google says “people also ask” and see if any of those questions seem like something your ICA would be looking for. If so, add them to your list.
After you’ve gone through your list, you’ll probably have anywhere from 20-50 long-tail keywords.
I like to take those and write each one on a sticky note. Place them on a wall, and start grouping them together by idea or theme. Maybe several have to do with a certain destination, or a certain type of travel.
Once you’re done you should have all your potential keywords arranged into basic categories or themes.
Step 2: Determine your content pillars
Now that you have your keyword list, it’s time to start figuring out what type of content will speak to those keywords.
Overall content themes create what are called content pillars. Maybe you look over your keywords and determine that one of your themes is around cruises that will appeal to the whole family.
Voila, you’ve just created one of your content pillars. You can create content on the various family-friendly cruise lines and ships.
Suddenly creating content to go with that pillar just became easy. You could do a series of blog posts, with photos from your ship tours or cruises, highlighting different ships, cruise lines, and amenities.
Questions a potential client may ask could include things like “is there babysitting available?” “Will my kids be safe?” “Will my kids enjoy the children’s environments on the ship?”
You can address those questions with blog posts, videos, podcasts, or whatever other medium is comfortable for you.
After you’ve gone through your potential keywords you’ll probably have 4-5 broad categories, or content pillars, to work with.
Step 3: Create your content
Once you’ve determined your keywords and content pillars, it’s time to start creating content.
The first thing to do is determine how often you want to release new content. It could be anywhere from daily to monthly, but I find that weekly is about right.
Whatever frequency you choose, make sure you can maintain the cadence over the long term. It’s all about what works for you and your business.
If you have four content pillars and you want to post every week, that means that, on average, you’ll hit each pillar every month. Over time you’ll start to build up a body of content around those themes, and the search engine algorithms will start to notice.
Keep in mind, SEO results aren’t immediate. They aren’t even fast. Content marketing is a long game, played over months and years.
Step 4: Have a home for your content
Now that you have your strategy and some content, it’s time to give that content a home. This is where your website comes in.
If you create blog content or articles, that content needs to live on a website that you own. Your domain, your website, not one that belongs to a host agency.
While you can set up a blog site and post content, or create an account on a service like Medium, the point of content marketing is to drive SEO and traffic for your website. If your content lives on one site and your actual website lives somewhere else it’s like giving someone a stranger's address when you invite them to dinner and then being surprised when they don’t show up.
Maybe you prefer to have a YouTube channel or podcast instead of a blog. That’s fine, but you still need content to live on your website.
If you have a YouTube channel, create pages on your website with a writeup about each video and embed a YouTube video player directly into your site.
Prefer podcasting? That’s fine, but you’ll want to create a page for each podcast episode with notes, takeaways, etc. related to each podcast. That way any traffic searching for content you’ve covered is driven to your website.
Step 5: Let people know about your content
This is not a case of “if you build it they’ll come”. You need to let people know you’re creating content so they can go to your website and find it.
One of the best ways to do this is with social media. If you use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, or any other social media platform, use it to let people know about your new content.
Be careful not to constantly push your content on people, but do mention it. I like to do an Instagram story every Friday when I release a new travel blog post. I use a simple Canva template, update the graphic and text, and then drop the link in directly from Instagram when I create the story.
It stays up for 24 hours, and if it’s related to a destination that I’ve highlighted I add the story to my destination highlights so people looking for content about that destination can find it. They click through to the post, read it, see related posts at the bottom, click on another, and down the rabbit hole they go! All from a simple Instagram story.
You can also send a weekly email to your email list letting them know you’ve released something new. Create a catchy subject line, a few sentences of content that will grab their interest, and drop in a link to the post so they can read more.
At the bottom of the email add a simple PS with a sentence like “know someone who would like to receive content like this? Forward this email and they can sign up here”. Make “here” a link to a form to sign up for your email list, and you’ve just made it super simple for your raving fans to help you grow your audience.
Step 6: Analyze your results
If you don’t take the time to review your analytics, you won’t know if your content marketing efforts are working.
Keep in mind that results normally take time, but even without much traffic it’s important to review your analytics.
If your website isn’t already connected to Google Analytics, get it set up. If you’re not sure how, here’s a link to Google’s help page.
Google analytics will help you see who is visiting your site, where they’re from, what pages they’re viewing, and how long they’re staying. There’s a ton of information available in Google Analytics, but the most important if you’re just starting out is the overall traffic coming to your site.
What you want to see is gradual growth over time. Maybe when you start you’re surprised to see that you have basically no traffic. That’s ok, we’ve all been there!
Over time, what you want to see is slow growth. But Google will also tell you if you have a problem.
Maybe you’re getting traffic, but they’re not staying longer than a few seconds. That means your website or your content isn’t connecting with your audience. While that’s no fun to find out, it’s such valuable information because it allows you to do something about it.
Whether you need a full website refresh, simpler navigation, or copy that appeals to your ideal client, once you have the data you can start adjusting your website to appeal to your ideal client. Once you hit the right combination of design, copy and graphics, you’ll know.
The Bottom Line
Content marketing isn’t easy or fast, but it’s incredibly valuable when it comes to growing your business.
Are you ready to attract more of the clients you want to work with so you can run a profitable, successful travel business? If so you’re in the right place. Start by getting your free, personalized travel marketing roadmap.