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Cruise SEO and online marketing – how should you measure your success?


From an online marketing perspective, the cruise industry is an interesting one. The generic search terms are dominated by the biggest providers and travel companies, like Royal Caribbean and Thomson, so it would be unrealistic for the average challenger brand to expect to claim first position for “cruise holidays” anytime soon.

So how can cruise companies (and their marketing agencies) measure the success of their campaign?

Here are 5 key measurements that should form part of your plans; and those all-important monthly reports:

  1. High quality traffic

Traffic to a website is important, but it doesn’t pay the bills, or the agency fee. The success of an online marketing campaign will ultimately rest on the number of conversions or bookings that a cruise website generates.

The majority of agencies can force a spike in traffic to the site, but where is it coming from and how much money is it making for the company?

Using Google Analytics, we measure traffic volumes against the number of conversions this traffic generates. We can also go further -- because depending on the industry and the nature of the business, conversions can be hard to come by and web users may visit a site a number of times before signing on the dotted line. This is especially true of high ticket value items like cruise holidays.

A healthy traffic source should draw in users who interact with the site and don’t simply bounce away from the page they arrive on.

In general, bounce rate should never exceed 40%, while conversion rate should sit between 1 and 2%. Any higher than that and you’re really batting your cruise campaign out of the park!

Head to Audience > Behaviour in Analytics to find some interesting stuff about your visitors and the way they interact with your site. This will give you a good impression of the sort of traffic you’re getting and also highlight areas of your site that need to improve.

  1. Organic traffic

A sure-fire way to gain exposure and search visibility is simply being one of the biggest global brands in an industry. Simple. Unfortunately, we can’t all be a household name -- and billboards, magazine spreads and James Nesbitt are expensive.

The aim of the challenger brand should be to draw in traffic on the strength of their relevance and not their name, so a key barometer will be organic, or non-brand traffic.

If your brand name traffic is dwarfing your organic traffic, you’re missing out on a huge demographic of potential customers who aren’t yet familiar with your brand. But it’s possible to get in front of them with useful, informative and keyword rich content.

For a better idea of the sort of keyword searches you need to be visible for, log into Google Webmaster Tools and head to Search Traffic > Search Queries. You’ll find out which keyword searches are sending people to your site and perhaps most importantly, which aren’t.

  1. Links

That’s right: the L-word. Like it or lump it, your cruise website can up its search engine game by boosting its domain authority. The age old way of doing that is getting links to that site from others, but since Google launched a major offensive on link farms several years ago, the building process has become a bit of a minefield.

Ethical link building is about gaining links from relevant, high quality sites and not simply stockpiling hundreds from low quality sites that link to anything for a price.

Some will argue that wholesale link building still works, but any short term gain brought about by getting 100 links, from a rotten link network, is likely to be outweighed by the long term effects of a Google penalty. And even if you manage to dodge a penalty for however long, it isn’t likely that the link farm you worked with will be so lucky. Once they’re hit, the links you bought will carry no ranking strength and you’ve dished out money for nothing.

The Majestic SEO Tool is extremely useful for measuring your link profile and investigating the quality of your current links.

Ideally, you don’t want the number of external back links to be out of proportion with the number of referring domains, because Google doesn’t want to see your link profile to be built around a single link network or site. That is far from an indicator of a popular, useful website which Google users need to see.

  1. Content

The best marketers in the cruise industry are now in the publishing game because content is so integral to every campaign.

It is, however, important to understand if the things you’re publishing are serving a purpose, or simply more mud slung at an increasingly filthy wall.

Using Google Analytics, you can identify which content is driving traffic to the site, and which off-site content is most likely to result in conversions. You can also audit your on-site content. For example, you can see how much traffic your blogs are drawing to the site and see which content generates more clicks to further site pages.

Some blogs may spike because they’re topical or trade off a popular topic or celebrity, but they might also send your bounce rate off the charts and that means you’re not talking to the right people.

The bottom line for content is: make it useful. It should educate, entertain or enhance a prospective client’s experience of a product or subject. It shouldn’t be a thinly veiled sales message.

  1. Social Media Engagement

It’s the great debate in online marketing: is my tireless social media work actually doing anything for my business, or is it a backslapping exercise which costs more money than it brings in.

The answer depends on how you are doing it, but one important factor is social media engagement. Are social networkers commenting on your posts, sharing them or engaging with your brand as a result? If the answer is no, your social campaign is white noise and needs to be re-thought.

Even if you’ve garnered a lot of likes, you may not be getting the bang you want for your marketing buck. Once users are engaging with your output in the ways we’ve mentioned above, you should begin to see your social media campaign pay for itself.

The key to improving it is to use it socially -- the clue is really in the title. It’s not about blurting your sales message through a megaphone to an unsuspecting audience (or victim) it’s about communicating with fans, followers or customers; listening to what they have to say and helping them to get what they need.

If you’d like to find out more about SEO for cruise holiday marketing, why not give us a call on 0845 643 9289? We can discuss your campaign and the things you need to make your marketing spend work harder and deliver a better return.


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