It's no secret that websites represent the largest hub for most hospitality organizations' marketing activities, and search engine optimization (SEO) is a popular tactic for driving traffic to those websites. But SEO isn't the only — or the best — way to attract readers to your site.
Hotels and conference centers around the country can build awareness, preference, and group business bookings with referral links, which can be gained through public-relations outreach and relationships with influencers. When other sites or social media profiles link back to your own site, you have the advantage of reaching their audiences as well as your own. Bonus: Getting referral links or backlinks can help improve your search-engine ranking at the same time.
Khanh Tran knows the importance of such links. As a marketing communications executive for Villa-Finder.com, a company that provides villa booking services in Bali, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Mauritius, she has been able to secure some top travel media mentions through outlets such as Travel + Leisure. “Industry news is something that has worked really well for us," Tran says. “We take advantage of our own knowledge and expertise to write research and articles about the Asia-Pacific vacation rental market and Bali villa investment."
It does take a lot of work, she says — “but it's worth it."
Tran recommends TravMedia as a great platform for connecting with travel journalists. “Sometimes journalists will share what they are looking for, and if you have relevant and compelling content, you are likely to get featured." The site, she says, “is how I got a mention from Travel + Leisure, Weekend Notes, and six other leads."
She says Profnet and HARO (Help a Reporter Out) are two other, although more general, sources of insights on what journalists are covering and how to connect with them.
Gabor Koncz, founder of Automizy.com, an email automation tool, notes that when you're attempting to get exposure through contributed content, it's important to ensure that the content is not overly promotional. “Build relations with some journalists and pitch them informational topics close to their niche," Koncz advises. “This tactic can help you gain massive publicity and referral traffic."
Koncz also recommends promoting events and conferences through discount coupons that can be offered via podcast shows targeted to your key audiences.
Here are some additional tips and best practices for earning referral links that can drive traffic to your website:
- Identify the journalists, bloggers and website owners who you would like to connect with and get to share your links. Follow them on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Add them to lists so that you can easily track their posts and reach out to engage with them when opportunities emerge. Over time, they're likely to do the same with you.
- Create content that appeals to your target audience and seek input from experts whose audiences mirror yours. Include a link to their website in the content you create, let them know when it has been published, and ask them to share the content through their social media channels as well. Most will be happy to do so, and the links you generate can be tracked through website analytics tools such as Google Analytics.
- Whenever your organization or its staff members are referenced by the media, share these references through your social channels, mentioning the site and reporter. They're likely monitoring their own coverage and could share, retweet, or mention your link. Don't be afraid to post these mentions more than once —social communication can be fleeting. You can gain more traction over time by repeating, reposting, and resharing relevant coverage and mentions you've received.
- On a regular basis, review and compile coverage you've received by repackaging the information in new ways — as part of a blog post, e-letter, article, or even an e-book. Again, by referencing and including links to other individuals and organizations whose audiences mirror yours, you can extend your reach, increase awareness, and drive referral traffic when they include your link on their websites or in their own communications.
Yes, it can be a challenge to generate backlinks, but as Tran's experience suggests, that time and effort is well spent when you start to see the traffic that can be generated. And, in addition to website traffic, the coverage can help to build brand awareness and preference — always a good thing for venues looking to book more group business.