One of the biggest challenges facing Travel & Hospitality companies is delivering an outstanding and personalized experience for the customers, according Deloitte’s 2016 Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook. The number of Travel & Hospitality companies that made it onto the Inc. 500 list in 2015 is down from the previous year. However, in the latest iteration of the Inc. 500 list, no Travel & Hospitality companies had made it onto the list. If SEO performance is hurting the industry, we hope that our study can help point out how to overcome the common pitfalls affecting Organic search.
The Vector Report reveals that most Inc. 500 companies in this vertical are doing well with spam, however struggling with link popularity and trust. There are very few high authority links and links pointing to many pages, showing a low link equity.
InvitedHome (SEO #188, Inc. 500 #28)
InvitedHome is bringing revolutionary changes to the Travel & Hospitality industry. Unlike unicorn Airbnb, InvitedHome provides only luxury vacation rental homes with 24/7 personalized guest services – there are no couch rentals here. Additionally, the customer-centric culture differentiates InvitedHome from ordinary hotel providers. In terms of SEO, InvitedHome outperforms most of the competitors with a more diverse link profile and is crowned as the top performer in the Travel & Hospitality vertical. However, in the competitive digital space, the ranking of InvitedHome skews towards the lower end with a C grade in our Vector Report. Let’s first focus on where InvitedHome is doing well and then discuss how to make future improvements.
InvitedHome has 384 referring domains and around 19k backlinks, which are mostly linked to homepage and featured listings. The link visualization below illustrates that InvitedHome has a decent distribution of links and just a few pages that attract high quality links. One good example of a high quality backlink in this case is InvitedHome’s recommendation by travelandleisure.com as one of the Best Villa Rental Agencies. This piece of content earned more than 7,000 social shares across various platforms with 80% of them on Facebook.
It won’t be a surprise that most travelers expect crisp pictures of their vacation homes and helpful reviews. InvitedHome is on the right track of catering to the customers’ needs by showcasing the details of each home with photos, descriptions and guest reviews. In additional to that, image-rich pages are more shareable on social media.
Compared to other companies in this vertical, InvitedHome has more diverse referring domains which contribute to higher domain profile influence. The domain TLD distribution plot below shows that of all referring domains, 69% have .com extension, 9% have .org extension and 3.2% have .net extension.
While InvitedHome celebrates domain diversity, it fails to add value with limited links from quality sources. The link influence chart indicates that the majority of pages linked to InvitedHome have low authority. The trust of domains linking to InvitedHome distributes towards the average and low end with few domains as highly trusted sources.
Similar to e-commerce websites, marketers in the Travel & Hospitality industry want links to house rental pages, but those pages are not necessarily compelling or linkworthy from an editorial standpoint. InvitedHome is no different as its homepage and listing description pages are getting the most links. On the other hand, their visually appealing and high quality travel guides are not garnering any links. We’d recommend that InvitedHome continue creating rich content and use this content to support a targeted link acquisition strategy.
Utopian Luxury Vacation Home (SEO #194, Inc.500 #350)
Utopian Luxury Vacation Homes focuses on high end inventory in luxury markets offering lodging and services. Although the site only has only 495 backlinks from 64 referring domains, Utopian successfully managed a clean linking profile with no links being flagged as spam or unnatural. The anchor text pointing to the site is 43% branded with the other 57% being mostly miscellaneous — a good signal for Google’s algorithms.
Utopian Luxury Vacation Homes is doing well at creating diverse content, not only limited to listings but covering topics including top local events and attractions, guest service, customer testimonials, etc. Introducing a local event and providing the nearby accommodations is a good way to capture travelers who are interested in the local events to your site. Utopian’s most popular content was Desert Trip generating 57 social shares on Facebook, however, we think it could have performed even better with some content promotion.
Utopian’s strategic use of customer testimonials further increases their credibility. The positive customer feedback supports their claims of top-notch, customized services, and drives potential customers down the funnel.
Often overlooked by hotel chains, video content can be a good medium to attract customers to your business. One study showed that customers are 67% more likely to book an accommodation when a video tour is available (source). With more than 1 billion unique users visiting YouTube, spending more than 6 billion hours watching videos (source), Utopian made a smart move in adding over 60 high-quality videos to the site. The most popular video that shows a luxury mountain top residence had over 700 views. Authentic and compelling video content will entice travelers and can be what sets their property apart from other destinations.
To enrich content and promote online engagement, Utopian may consider adding a Q&A section to the site to proactively address anticipated customer questions. For example, questions about recommended packing list, amenities, cancelation policy and rules are sure to make the frequently asked questions list.
Although Utopian is making an effort to put out good content, they are lacking in overall volume across the board and haven’t been able to consistently maintain their link velocity. Number of links significantly decreased after May in 2015, which also coincides with the last update to their blog. We’d recommend that Utopian perform a detailed backlink audit and ramp up their content promotion effort to keep up with the link velocity.
Easton Porter Group (SEO #325, Inc. 500 #452)
Easton Porter Group is a hospitality company managing high-end boutique hotels, restaurants, event venues and event management companies. Easter Porter Group has 2322 backlinks from 28 referring domains – 5 of which are links from its own properties. Their backlink profile indicates that the homepage gets most of the links from websites with .com and .org extension, which is a signal of little diversity. Additionally, such a small number of links and types of referring domains makes it hard to gain online visibility.
On the other hand, Easton Events, an award-wining planning company managed by Easter Porter Group, has an abundance of positive coverage and 8K backlinks from 479 referring domains. The link profile is made of a large number of high quality domains such as vogue.com, marthastewartweddings.com, brides.com etc.
Similarly, the hotels and restaurants under the management of Easton Porter Group enjoy high online visibility. We’d recommend Easton Porter Group enriching their site by including a collection of event photos and press coverage from E&P family to increase online influence of the overall brand.
The Travel & Hospitality industry is one of the spam-heavy industries. However, the data in our Vector Reports indicates that most Inc. 500 companies in the vertical haven’t been flagged for spam, but still lag behind with link popularity and trust. Improvements on credibility and link profiles of the sites will be extremely helpful for the site to stand out in the competitive landscape.
Creating rich content is the first step: contents based on seasonal trends, local events and attractions will allure potential visitors to Travel & Hospitality sites. While using content in more visual formats, such as video tours and infographics, and customer testimonials can convey emotional touchpoints which drive conversions. To support the content marketing effort, a content promotion and outreach strategy should be developed to support link acquisition. A combination of these efforts is a great starting point to increase organic visibility for companies in this industry. We hope to see many of the Travel & Hospitality companies return to the Inc. 500 list next year.
To read our SEO study of the Inc 500 in its entirety, request your copy of The Vector Report.