Looking to improve SEO for tour operators?
Then you’re in the right place.
Because today I’m going to show you exactly how to set up and optimize your Google My Business account, so you can generate more customers for your tourism business.
The best part?
Google My Business (GMB for short) is a free and easy-to-use tool to promote your business on Google – even if you aren’t a marketing or tech guru.
Let’s dive in!
5 Reasons Why You Need a Google My Business Account
#1 It’s possible for local travel companies to appear on page 1 alongside the major OTAs
When you do a search in Google, your results typically look something like this:
At the very top are the ads.
Followed by Google’s Local 3-Pack.
And finally, the organic search results.
Google’s Local 3-Pack is what we’re interested in.
In Google’s search engine results, the Local 3-Pack is a colorful, prominent map listing that presents the three businesses Google considers most relevant to the search query and searcher’s location.
Take this desktop search for “Tours in Austin,” for example:
If you were to click anywhere on the 3-Pack you would be taken to Google Maps where a list on the left-hand side displays all the businesses with a ranking GMB listing in the area.
Google determines local ranking primarily based on relevance, distance, and prominence. These factors are combined to help find the best possible match for the person searching.
For example, Google’s algorithm might decide that a business that’s farther away from your location is more likely to have what you’re looking for than a business that’s closer and therefore rank it higher in local results.
Because businesses can’t pay Google to appear in the 3-Pack, this means local travel companies can appear in search results alongside the major OTA’s who typically dominate paid and organic rankings.
#2 If you don’t have a Google My Business account you could be heavily impacting your in-destination sales
Smartphones are changing travel industry trends by enabling people to be more spontaneous when they arrive at their destination.
In fact, research by Google shows that 85% of leisure travelers decide on activities only after having arrived at the destination.
Online interactions are increasingly shaping how people make a plan for their next trip.
Almost every consumer is traveling with a smartphone in their pocket, which has lead to a greater propensity of last-minute bookings.
“One of the things that’s most valuable to us, in terms of mobile, is the opportunity to be there in the moment of intent.”
—Peter Giorgi, Global Head of Advertising and Content for Airbnb
In another Google study, data shows that travel-related searches for “tonight” and “today” have grown over 150% on mobile.
For example, someone visiting Austin may search for “cool things to do in Austin tonight”, or “best bbq tour in Austin today”.
What does all this research data from Google mean for you?
It means that your potential future customers are walking around town searching on their mobile phones for things to do right now, and your Google Business profile is a great way to reach them.
#3 To make it easier for customers to find your physical location
Great! Now that you know a vast majority of your potential future customers are in-destination searching for things to do.
You want to make it easy for them to find you, and an up to date and accurate GMB account will help them accomplish this.
GMB makes it simple for customers to find the exact location of your business in Google maps, without having to rely on dated word of mouth directions like…
“You want to take a right at the second light, go down three or four blocks, turn left on a street called Austin or Boston, one or the other, and it will be the second building on your right.”
Who can remember that?
#4 Google Business lets you display useful information and makes it easy for your customers to leave reviews
In addition to being easier to find you both physically and digitally, GMB allows businesses to add useful information like your name, what you offer, your location, phone number, website, hours of operation and photos.
GMB also makes it super easy for customers to leave reviews and for businesses to manage the reviews that are left.
As you know, customers will leave reviews whether they have a five-star or one-star experience.
It’s nice to have them in one easily manageable place where you can quickly respond professionally.
#5 A Google Business account is completely free
One of the best aspects of GMB is that it is completely free to use.
That’s right. It won’t cost you a dime.
If you are a travel business just getting your start in the local SEO (search engine optimization) game, GMB is an easy and extremely affordable way to get your toes wet.
But it’s important to note that in the future Google may decide to start charging a monthly fee to the current free service they offer.
How to Create a Google My Business Account
Now that you know the reasons why you need a Google My Business account, let’s talk about how to create your GMB account.
Step 1: Sign in to Google
Go to the Google My Business homepage and click “Sign In” in the upper right-hand corner.
Step 2: Add your business name
Type in the name of your business and click next.
Step 3: Tell people where to find you
If you have a physical location that customers can visit, like a store or office, click ”yes” and you will be asked to enter your business’s physical address.
If you do NOT have a physical location that customers can visit, click “no.”
For example, if you run your business operate 100% online or from a home office.
If you chose “yes”, you’ll then be asked to enter your physical location. Do NOT enter a pick-up point or meeting location here. This MUST be your main physical address.
If you chose “no”, you’ll want to select the areas you serve your customers.
Step 4: Select your business category
Next, it’s important to get as accurate as possible for your business category. This tells Google what specific customers should see your Google My Business info.
Step 7: Tell customers how they can get in touch
Enter your business’s phone number and website so people can get in touch with you.
Step 8: Verify your Google My Business account
Now, let’s move to the next section to verify your GMB account.
How to Verify Your Travel Business with Google
Verifying your business is an essential step in setting up your Google Business account. Google will not display your listing until your business has been verified.
Currently, there are five ways to verify your Google Business account:
- In bulk
Phone – Google will send you an automated message with your code to enter. Simply enter the verification code and you’re set.
Email – Google will send you an email with a verification button. Click the button and you’re set.
Postcard – Google will mail a postcard with your verification code, which you should receive in about five days. Once you receive the postcard, log back into your account and enter the code.
Instant – In some cases, Google may be able to verify you instantly using your Google Search Console data if you’re using the same Google account.
In bulk – If you operate your travel business in multiple locations, Google may allow you to upload in bulk. You’ll need to enter your business name, the destinations you operate in, and contact names for who will use your GMB accounts.
How to Improve SEO for Tour Operators
Now that you have your Google Business account set up, you need to optimize it.
You will want to add as much content, photos, and videos as you can to help attract and inform your potential future customers.
Plus, this will also help with your SEO!
Here are 5 actionable tips to optimize your GMB profile:
Tip #1: Add your full business details
You will want to make sure to add your business hours, contact information, attributes (e.g. has Wi-fi, outdoor seating, etc.), and any other information Google asks for.
Tip #2: Upload clean, crisp photos and videos
It’s no secret… photos and videos sell.
In fact, Google found that businesses with photos receive 35% more clicks to their websites and 42% more requests for driving directions than businesses without them.
Choose images and videos that best represent your business, are high-resolution and are inspirational.
These assets could be the first impression customers have about your tour, activity or attraction.
Tip #3: Add your top tours and products
When customers find your Business Profile on Google Maps on their mobile devices, they’ll see your tours under “Services”.
You should enter your top tours and products with prices if they don’t change often.
Tip #4: Encourage customers to leave reviews (and be sure to respond)
Customers trust reviews.
In a recent study by BrightLocal, a local marketing firm, they found that 91% of consumers regularly check online reviews and 84% trust them as much as a personal recommendation.
So, the more positive reviews you have on your Google Business profile, the more business you will drive.
Additionally, your review count and score are factored into Google’s local search ranking algorithm.
Meaning the more reviews and positive ratings you have, the higher the likelihood you are to improve your business’s local ranking.
Tip #5: Download the Google My Business app
Your GMB profile should be viewed as another social media account. It should be a living breathing extension of your brand.
Instead of wasting time logging into your laptop and making changes or updates, just download the app.
This will make it easier to add pictures, post statuses, and respond to reviews.
Now It’s Your Turn
I hope this guide showed you how to use Google My Business to generate more customers for your travel company in 2020.
Setting up and optimizing your Google My Business account is one of the most important steps to improving your website’s SEO.
Unfortunately, only a select few tour operators in each city are putting in the ongoing work it takes to create a profile that gets noticed and ultimately gets them more customers.
That presents a beautiful opportunity for YOU!