Website images should be unique
If you have a website for your home-based travel agency and you monitor your traffic with Google Analytics, you have probably noticed how difficult it is for you to attract so-called “organic” traffic from the search engines. In other words, free traffic as opposed to traffic you pay for.
Getting the Google gods to smile on your website has always been a challenge and it’s gotten even more difficult thanks to changes in the algorithms Google uses to rank websites.
One thing that Google’s search engine wizards noticed is that there is an awful lot of “duplicate content” on the Internet, and this is especially true when it comes to photographs and other types of images. The search engines are incredibly sophisticated in detecting duplicate images, no matter how they are named, captioned, or cropped.
So Google decided to penalize websites that display images that show up on dozens or hundreds of other websites on the theory that, since the images aren’t new or different, then the content of the page on which they are displayed must not be very good.
That, of course, is not necessarily the case, but Google’s search engine “spiders,” as technologically advanced as they are, still can’t understand things that would be immediately apparent to even the densest human being.
This new wrinkle in the way in which Google “looks” at websites is especially problematical for travel agencies. How many of you have “cookie cutter” websites that use the same images (and content!) that hundreds of other agency websites are using? Even if you have your own, hand-crafted website, how many images do you pull from your travel supplier partners?
So what’s to be done?
Well, if you have one of those canned content sites, there’s really not a lot you can do. So I will put that category aside, except to suggest that purchasing a “SEO package,” especially one offered by the company supplying the website, may not be your best option. (That’s just my personal opinion. Your mileage may vary.)
Let’s turn then to what you can do if you have a website designed around your particular specialty, which you have built yourself or had a designer build to your specifications.
The best option is to use, whenever possible, photographs you took yourself. If you have a cruise specialty that might mean taking more cruises. Tough, I know, but sometimes sacrifices must be made.
Obviously, you will want to take the best photographs you can, but don’t fret too much that you are not the world’s greatest travel photographer. Your own photos will have an “authenticity” that slick professional photos will lack. I firmly believe that one reason people like working with home-based agents is precisely because they aren’t as “slick” as the fancy Main Street brick-and-mortar agencies!
You can also use captions to make it clear that these are photos you took yourself. Be subtle (“The Animator’s Palate was my favorite restaurant on The Wonder”) rather than blatant (“Here’s a picture I took of the Animator’s Palate”).
Use photos taken by your clients. This is doubly effective because these photos function as proof sources as well as illustrations. Ask your clients if they would be kind enough to provide photos that they have not posted on the ‘Net (Facebook, Flickr, etc.).
Swap photos with other agents. After all, you can’t be everywhere. Explain the benefits and you should be able to find some willing participants in a swap club.
Of course, to be effective, swapping photos means that you should have a well-organized photo filing system. You should also stock it with as many photos as possible. Never take one photo of the entrance to that resort when you can take three!
Finally, let me mention a “hack” that I have seen used. (I’ve even used it myself.)
Take an image that you have the legal right to use (that is, you purchased it from a stock photography service or obtained it from a supplier). Open it on your computer and display is it full-screen. Use a smartphone that has Instagram installed on it to take a photo of the image. Then apply whichever Instagram filters appeal to you.
The result will be an “arty” version of the original image that the search engine spiders will see as being “unique,” even if the original image has been seen a gazillion times on other sites.
Will taking these steps vault your website to the top of the Google results. Probably not. But making your website more visible is an ongoing and incremental process and, like they say, every little bit helps.