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An obsession with SEO is preventing travel websites from concentrating on building vital trust with potential customers.
Mark Hodson, co-founder of 101holidays.co.uk declared ‘the age of the keyword is dead’ at a members’ forum in London last night.
“Stop worrying about SEO keywords,” he said. “Dropping in keywords does not work anymore. The age of the keyword is pretty much dead.”
Hodson said this was all to do with Google making increased use of semantic analysis of natural language and its Hummingbird algorithm updates.
He added that the way people are asking questions is changing, with Apple’s Siri voice search a prime example of that.
He also added that research that shows that people most trust information sources like emails from people they know and consumer reviews and ratings underlined how it’s about people.
“Sites across all sectors, not just travel, that have user reviews tend to have 5% to 7% higher conversion rates than sites that do not.
“Harness the power of people - your people are your biggest asset. Does your ‘About Us’ page reflect that? It must make you trust them as a company.”
Hodson highlighted Audley Travel as one travel company that does this really well, with detailed pages for each employee which encourages engagement and trust before the customer calls.
Sailingholidays.com was also picked out for using the increasing power of video to showcase its client testimonials, while Expert Africa has generated its own reviews both good and not-so-good.
The virtues of highlighting negatives was also a factor in boutique luxury hotels website i-escape.com which details the ‘Highs’ and ‘Lows’ of each property, said Hodson.
“When I see that it make me trust that website more because they have got the nerve to say what’s wrong with it.
“So many companies are scared of saying anything negative, even if it might be a positive in disguise.”
Awards and ‘medals’ should also be prominently featured, as should social buttons, which subliminally boost trust, added Hodson, as well as good web design.
A project he recently worked on with inspa-retreats.com to tidy up their site resulted in a 38% increase in average visit duration, a 20% reduction in bounce rate and 40% increase in pages viewed per visit.
Finally, Hodson also advised companies to make sure their content is seen as authoritative by Google by creating and then linking Google+ accounts to their sites.
He said the search engine is currently removing authorship from the bottom 15% of sites it does not trust.
“It’s going to be quite important to be active on Google+,” he said.
Hodson added: “It’s easy to lose sight of customers’ problems, which is where can I find the best deal and, crucially, who can I trust.
“Sometimes I wonder if people focus too much on SEO and less on how people find the site when they get there and how they trust the site.”
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