Search Engine Optimization is a critical asset for the success of a DMO website and there is plenty of information on the web for optimizing your site for search. As a digital destination marketer, it’s easy to get caught up in all the buzz about the latest in content marketing, the newest social media channel or the characteristics of the latest algorithm update.

Let’s take a closer look at 5 less-glamorous items that are often overlooked when optimizing your site for search. If you're in charge of a tourism website make sure that you have your SEO bases covered on the following items. We've included some helpful links for you as well.

  1. Sitemap.xml file

    A sitemap.xml file is a file that lists all the URLs for a particular site. This file alerts the search engines to pages that have been added, updated and their priority (value of each page in relation to other pages).  This information allows search engines to crawl your site more intelligently and helps your site’s pages get indexed faster.

    Most content management systems will build this file dynamically for you. If it doesn't (or if you're a total SEO snob and prefer to manage this yourself) you can create this file with help from an online generator such as: http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/

    Don’t forget to submit your sitemap.xml file in your Google and Bing Webmaster Tools accounts.

  2. Robots.txt file

    A robots text file gives instructions to web robots telling them what to and what not to crawl on a particular site. Think of these as instructions or guidelines for a web crawler. Some crawlers will obey these instructions and some simply will not. If your site has information you want to keep private, a robots.txt file is NOT the way to secure this data.

    We're reviewed multiple site where former developers forgot to update the robots.txt file when taking the site live and none of the pages got indexed by Google. If the search engines can't access your site, it might as well not exist.

    Information on the robots.txt protocol and some SEO best practices when using it can be found on moz.com.

  3. Site speed

    Mouth-watering photos are a cornerstone of any tourism or travel website. Having said that, please make sure these beautiful (and often full-screen) images are optimized properly. The same can be said for your JS and CSS files as well - make sure they are minified and optimized. Google can penalize you for a slow-loading site, so fully-optimizing your site assets is a very important process that should not be overlooked.

    Hosting is another consideration to think about. Budget hosting is great for small businesses that get little traffic, but when your website is your most valuable marketing asset it might be good to go with a premium provider that can handle large bursts of traffic.

    You can do some speed tests and compare your site to your competitors using either the Pingdom Website Speed Test or Google's PageSpeed Insights tool.

  4. SEO-optimized URLs

    It’s amazing that even today with all the SEO knowledge on the web that we run across sites that are still using IDs and long URL strings.

    Of the two URLs below, which do you think gives a search engine (or a user) a better idea of what the page is about:

    www.myawesometravelsite.com/attractiondetail.html?attractionID=430  vs
    www.myawesometravelsite.com/attraction/craters-of-the-moon-national-monument-and-preserve

    If you are serious about Search Engine Optimization you should be using a CMS that allows you to optimize your URLs. Keep  them short, use relevant keyword separated-by-hyphens (see what I did right there? boosh!) and avoid excessive parameters.

  5. Microformats

    Microformats are simple conventions used in HTML code to describe specific types of information.  For search marketers, microformats provide a handy tool for enhancing search snippets. DMO sites should look to format the following schema types: events, organizations, places and reviews. Rich snippets have shown to have better click-through rates as well...so there's that.

    For more information, check the getting started section at http://schema.org and for testing your code take a look at Google's Structured Data Testing Tool.

    Tourism SEO success

    If you are looking to have greater success in your tourism search engine optimization efforts or need help optimizing your site for SEO please contact us.

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