Time was, travel website marketing, let’s call it 1.0, was all about keyword stuffing – that is – sticking a bunch of keywords into a page to trick the search engines into really thinking that your website knew what it was talking about. You’d bring people to you site which was loaded with the logos of vendors and suppliers and travelers would have to sift, search and self-serve to figure out what kind of trip they were looking for. Don’t get me started on Titanic music in the background – is that really an incentive for someone to BUY a CRUISE??? I’ve looked at thousands, literally, maybe even tens of thousands of travel websites and that’s the worst. You know who you are, and you still owe me some money, by the way.
The next version was all about booking engines, content from other sources and duplicate content – which also got everyone nowhere. Everyone had the same website and only the names were changed to protect the not-so-innocent. More herd mentality – one guy at lunch says he gets some leads from his website and everyone copies what he’s doing. Guess what? They’re the same 100 travelers shoppping multiple websites and that means you’re getting the SAME LEADS and the guy you had lunch with. Oh, and BTW – they’re all Carnival 3/4 night sailings.
So then we come to travel web marketing 1.75 – google adwords. Buying placement with keywords which essentially promised to level the playing field. It did – but still brought visitors to a couple of roadblocks – the same crappy websites, loaded with the same duplicate content and the same real estate devoted to the same vendors – or – the mega players like travelocity, vacationstogo.com (who I see EVERYWHERE), Orbitz and the like.
Still, doesn’t help the average travel counselor, right?
Now, its all about the “2.0” craze of marketing – and travel marketing is leading the charge. 2.0 is all about social marketing. Putting reviews, polls, commentary, blogs, forums and wikis in the hands of the travelers that are either at the destination, going to the destination, using the vendor, product or service. Opinions matter, labels matter and simplicity matters. Travelers are more savvy, more connected – and more in need of travel agents than ever. Good ones, with good websites with good content. Come on folks, we can do this. Let’s commit to revamp our websites this year with great stuff that people really care about – not the same old star ratings, the same old deck plans, the same old schlock. Shock people with your own opinions -and ask for theirs! Make it easy for them to connect to you. Write your thoughts down about great trips, ask them for input on the best places to journal, to get a cup of non-Starbucks coffee (although I love a good Cinnamon Dolce latte, don’t get me wrong).