The Corner Office: Searching for Results?
Travel planning has never been easier. If you want to pack your bags and go somewhere—be it thousands of miles or only a few hours away—a simple Google search will bring you information from hundreds to thousands of sources. So how do travel publishers stay ahead of the Google game—and at the top of its results pages?
Lauren Palmer, executive director of online strategy and business development for Fodor’s Travel—the largest worldwide publisher of English-language travel books and guides—is responsible for overseeing the company’s online property Fodors.com, including advertising and affiliate relationships, and digital licensing. And she knows a thing or two about the do’s and don’ts of Web marketing. Formerly of Time Inc. and Gannett/USA Today, Palmer has been at Fodor’s for more than three years. She spoke with Book Business about Fodor’s strategy for search engine optimization (SEO) and engaging site visitors.
• What is Fodor’s doing to boost Web traffic and beat out the competition?
Lauren Palmer: … We do a newsletter once a week, which is very well received. We just completed a photo contest where we invited our users to submit photos of a recent trip to Alaska, [and] we plan to use some of the photos in our upcoming Alaska 2009 guidebook as well as on our Web site. … We think this creates a much stronger connection with the destination. … One of our strongest assets is our Travel Talk forums (Fodors.com/forums) … . If you ask a question about planning an upcoming trip, you’re likely to get a response in minutes. I think we realize that, in addition to our professionally generated content, our forums offer a wealth of information and practical advice from seasoned travelers … . We’re taking steps to showcase this content throughout the Web site, not just siloing it in the forums. … Currently, we pull in relevant topics from our forums to the Destination Guides … . We’re going to expand this and include more user-generated content integrated with our professional content. …
• What SEO strategies do you employ?
Palmer: Actually, Fodor’s does pretty well on the SEO front. Type “Rome restaurants” or “travel guides” into Google, and we’re one of the top results. There are categories and places where we don’t rank as well, and we’re looking closely at how we can improve those results through keyword targeting as well as our editorial approach. … SEO requires more straightforward language than perhaps we’ve been used to using, so we’re looking at the types of words consumers use to search and integrating those into our content. For example, no one searches for “lodging,” they search for “hotels.”
• What is your No. 1 goal for SEO?
Palmer: Most of Fodors.com’s revenue comes through advertising, so we’re looking to maximize our traffic—both page views and unique users. SEO allows us to maximize traffic with minimum investment. … I think we see SEO as just one tool of many, and if we do the right things, we can bring people to our site.
• What advice can you give other publishers who are seeking SEO guidance?
Palmer: Work with a consultant to take an objective look at your site, and do a site audit. Also note that SEO is an ongoing process … . It’s not the type of project where you say, “We did it, and we’re done.” It requires maintenance.
Carolyn Huckabay is arts editor and copy chief at the Philadelphia City Paper. She also was a copy editor and book critic for The Free Lance-Star, a daily newspaper in Fredericksburg, Va.