Simply put, ‘brand awareness’ is a marketing term that refers to the level of recognition and familiarity that people have with your business. It works kinda like this: Got the sniffles? You’d probably ask for a ‘Kleenex’ not a ‘facial tissue’. Hungry on a hike? Would you like a ‘Powerbar’ or an energy bar’?
Now, it’s doubtful any tourism business will achieve the ubiquity of some of the big consumer megabrands, but here’s the thing, growing your tourism brand awareness is one of the most important things you can do with your marketing. So let’s dig in and see how.
The ‘awareness’ stage is also called ‘top of funnel’ because it’s literally the first part of the customer journey. Before people can search for ‘your amazing tour’ on Google they need to know you exist. Marketing strategy is crucial here, because you want to grow awareness of your tours with your target audience, not just any group, and make sure you are seen as solving their ‘problem’ and providing them a clear benefit.
If you don’t know who your ideal customers are, and the reasons they need to book with you, and not your competitors, hire a marketing consultant to help you figure that out.
If you’ve done your keyword research, you probably have a set of target keywords you know are super valuable to your business, since your prospective guests type these into Google and find your website this way. For example, a remote fishing lodge in Alaska might be going after ‘Alaska fly fishing, Alaska fishing lodge, salmon fishing’ and so on.
But there’s one keyword that’s wayyy more important than any other, and that’s ‘your business name’, because when people search for you by name, it’s almost impossible for your competitors to compete on that.
So let’s say someone was planning a once-in-a-lifetime bike trip to Italy. They might search for ‘Italy Cycling Tour’ and see what comes up. Using a search tool, we can see that this search term gets 1,000 searches per month.
But they’ve heard of a company called ‘Backroads’ that does Italy cycling tours, so maybe they skip that first search altogether and just type in ‘Backroads’ or ‘Backroads Italy’. That’s branded search. Here you can see the ‘Backroads’ search term is getting 4,400 searches per month, over four times the traffic of the ‘Italy’ search.
Now, as you’re probably aware, Backroads is a big company that’s been around for a long time, so it makes sense they’ve got some great brand awareness, but they’ve also been doing a lot of things right. So let’s peel back some of the layers and see how they did it!
Using an SEO research tool called ahrefs, we’ll plug ‘Backroads’ in and see what comes up. They have a Domain Authority of 63 (which is pretty high) and Page Authority of 78 (also high); these numbers are a measure of how valuable Google sees them, and their ability to rank for high-value keywords like ‘Italy cycling tour,’ among others.
They have an estimated monthly traffic value of $83.5K, so if you wanted to compete with them on website traffic, expect to throw down that much cash on Google pay-per-click ads to get what they’re getting for free. According to ahrefs, their monthly organic (Google) search traffic is almost 73K unique users.
Now using a different tool, Similarweb, we can see that their traffic from all sources (paid, referral etc) is almost 380K. That website traffic, high domain authority, and ability to rank for high-value keywords means Backroads can get those people who have never heard of them and those that have.
There are a lot of things that impact your Domain Authority (DA), but one of the most important is called off-page SEO, or high value backlinks. So if high-DA editorial sites link to yours, and do stories about you, that increases both your DA and awareness. So let’s look at Backroads’ backlinks profile.
Here we see a ton of editorial sites that have DA 90+ (CNN, NYT) that have done stories on Backroads. That prolific PR, and the many years (decades) they’ve been doing it, has given them great Google rankings, site traffic and brand awareness.
So, as you can see, press increases your Google rankings (SEO), and if it’s well targeted, also increases the awareness of your brand with your target audience. So go out and get some PR for your tourism business!
Anything that gets your operation in front of your ideal guests is good stuff. If you know they’re big facebook and Instagram users, running some ads can be useful. Try some targeted Google display ads based on audience interests. Youtube is another great place to run ads and very underutilized by tourism businesses.
Trade shows, events and consumer travel shows are all good places to get in front of your prospects and introduce them to your brand. If you know your people read certain publications, traditional print ads can be a great option too.
Authoritative content that people can find and share (blog, podcasts, videos, ebooks) is another powerful way to increase awareness of your tour products. Storytelling is key here. Find those great stories that engage your audience and the best places to tell them.
Regardless which channel you’re using, it must be a good fit for your prospective guests.
Customer surveys, social media listening and engagement are important metrics to measure your brand awareness. Set up Google Alerts for ‘your company name’ to track any media mentions.
A great way to see how all that PR and awareness work you’re doing is working is by tracking how many people are searching by name for your company. Do this in your Google Search Console (Performance – Queries) to see the results. If you’re getting some good press, these numbers should be going up over time.
And as your awareness grows, you may even see your competitors bidding on your company name, trying to steal some clicks from your great brand.
As you can tell by now, building your tourism brand awareness is a lot of work and takes a really long time. But the value can be immeasurable. Every well known tourism brand was once an upstart, unknown business, but put the time and effort in to grow their awareness.
If you need any help, Aventur Marketing has decades of experience achieving industry-leading results for premium tourism operators. Contact us for a free consultation.