SEO On-Air: Role SEO Plays in Revitalizing Travel & Hospitality Industry

In this episode, we cover:

Today, we are talking to Brandon Smithwick from iBrain Web Marketing. He is a digital marketer specializing in the hospitality industry. Individuals and small business owners are his target clients with whom he prefers to build long-term business relationships.

In this episode, Brandon discusses how small businesses in the travel and hospitality industry can survive amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Stay tuned for the next podcast episode, where our guest, Peg McDermott, talks about how businesses can optimize for local SEO for maximum visibility.

Show notes

  • [01:30-02:51]  How small businesses from the hospitality industry can stand against the big boys during the COVID crisis?
  • [02:53-04:30] Are websites necessary today when most actions can be taken on the SERP itself?
  • [05:44-06:53] Is it beneficial for having your website than having social media business pages?
  • [07:00-09:06] Is the right time for small businesses to utilize micro-influencers and bloggers?
  • [09:19-12:02] When it comes to SEO, what kind of business plans is advisable for small business owners?
  • [13:41-15:01] Is it the right time to focus on the top of the funnel keywords?
  • [15:07- 17:05]  What’s the thought process behind reaching out to websites for link building?
  • [17:10-18:52] Tell us more about your company iBrain Web Marketing.

Show Notes Explanation

Hey guys, welcome to another episode of SEO On-Air. This is Senthil from Stan Ventures, and I have a special guest with me today. It’s Brandon from iBrain Web Marketing. Brandon is an expert in digital marketing for the travel and hospitality industry.

We’re delighted to have him here. Today, we’re going to discuss how small businesses in the travel and hospitality industry can survive amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Time Stamp: 01:30-02:51

Senthil: So, Brandon, can you tell how small business owners from the hospitality industry can stand against the big boys during this crisis?

Brandon: I think this is the time to sit back and reflect on what has worked for you in the past and what hasn’t and how to position yourself better to help the community when the requirement arises. We need to reformulate a plan that can better serve our audience at this time of need.

Time Stamp: 02:53-04:30

Senthil: True that. Especially in the last six to eight months, before the COVID crisis came in, Google has made quite a lot of changes in the way they display on SERPs. We’ve seen local packs and the ability of people to register on hotels from the SERPs directly.

It looks like there’s no need for a website anymore since everything can be done from the SERPs. Naturally, there’s a significant decline in the CTR, no matter whether you are in the seventh position in the SERP of the first. What’re your thoughts on this?

Brandon: I’m an advocate of having a website for every big and small business or enterprise. I understand that you might face a huge competition trying to rank in Google’s search results and appear at the top of the fold.

But, at the end of the day, when you have a website, it appears to me as a piece of authority. So, when I’m looking for more information, I’m going to trust those sites than the third parties.

Time Stamp: 04:35-05:42

Senthil: Yes, you’re right. I’ll trust a brand’s website than the information offered on Google SERP.

Brandon: I believe that the online space can give everyone a piece of ownership, which I’m a massive fan of. But, imagine running a business solely on Instagram, and if Instagram closes its doors tomorrow, then what do you have remaining?

In my view, the only piece of ownership that you have remaining is your website, which you can create yourself and email collection. There’s no cut in your email database.

If you rely on other platforms, it’s okay, but you need to diversify your business so that at any event, your shop never closes, and it doesn’t pull you out of business.

Time Stamp: 05:44-06:53

Senthil: Absolutely, we’re facing something similar at Stan Ventures these days. When we try to run ads to promote our services, the problem is that Google is not offering that level of support, and Facebook is also delaying to approve ads.

Luckily we have a big list of subscribers over the years, and right now, the whole business is running on this list. What if Google closes its doors tomorrow, then it’s like the end of the road for most businesses?

I think it is always better to depend less on these social channels and have your own website.

Brandon: It also depends on what part of the world you are in. In this part, 75% to 82% of the search market belongs to Google, whereas, in China, Baidu is going to be the primary search engine, and in Russia, it’s Yandex.

Time Stamp: 07:00-09:06

Senthil: So, Brandon, do you think this is the right time for small businesses to utilize micro-influencers and bloggers to reach out to people during this time?

Brandon: I think at this time, it is viable to use this kind of marketing. I think you should focus more on producing more sensitive content and not go for a full-fledged campaign. Some businesses have picked up COVID material and are using that to educate their audience.

Most of the restaurants at this point are either using emails, messages, calls, or going door-to-door to tell people that they are open to deliveries. I think businesses must be at the forefront of people saying that they are aware of the situation and doing the best they can. I even know some swimsuit companies have switched to making masks for people. So, it’s time for brands to pivot.

Time Stamp: 09:19-12:02

Senthil: When it comes to SEO, what kind of business plans would you advise small business owners now that hopefully there is another 45 to 50 days for things to normalize post-COVID?

Brandon: It is an excellent time for small companies to analyze their business data and start pulling out blog posts on how they are dealing with COVID-19. The hospitality industry should now rethink their strategies by remaining silent and rework on their SEO and marketing efforts to revamp their online presence.

Time Stamp: 12:06-13:38

Senthil: In fact, for some of our clients as well, we’ve recommended them to focus on technical issues because this is the right time to do so. Fixing the broken links, site speed, and working on the blog is something that they can improvise on right now so that once the business starts on full throttle, they can get on with their content or link-building strategies.

Brandon: Another viewpoint I’d like to add that some people think SEO is an overnight process, but for SEO, you need to observe what people are doing for a few weeks and then make an informed decision at that point.

Time Stamp: 13:41-15:01

Senthil: I think this is the time when the top of the funnel keywords will get more focus. As people are staying at home, they will try to find more information than usual.

Brandon: Any business owner, even those who are not skilled in SEO, can search Google Trends on Google and type keywords they think people are searching for. This way, they can find the key phrases that are trending.

Right now, terms like COVID-19 will see a huge jump. However, terms like “restaurant takeout delivery,” which usually has a low search volume, will have a surge of search traffic right now.

Time Stamp: 15:07- 17:05

Senthil: When it comes to link building, I think it is also a good time for outreaching. Brandon, you’ve been doing these activities for a while, so what’s your thought process behind reaching out to websites for link building?

Brandon: I always prefer to check a site’s authority before reaching out to them. I prefer to have a few great links vs. 100 mediocre links. I know a lot of people focus on getting website traffic, but on days when your visitors stop converting, what’s the use of having 10,000 visitors/month?

It is essential to focus on quality over quantity. When you get links from authoritative websites, it speaks louder volumes to your visitors.

Time Stamp: 17:10-18:52

Senthil: So, Brandon, tell us more about your company iBrain Web Marketing.

Brandon:   I have worked in the hospitality space, but over the years, I have also served people in the telecom industry. I’ve opened myself up to any small business owner that has less than 5000 dollars/month project.

I am very skilled in SEO to email marketing, content marketing to building websites on WordPress. I work with my team to get them accomplished. Individuals and small business owners are my target clients whom I speak on video chats or phone chat or meet them in person to know what they want to do. I prefer a long term relationship with them.

Time Stamp: 18:55-21:22

Senthil: I think small business owners should have a boutique agency like yours where all their needs are taken care of so that they don’t need to run here and there. Thank you, Brandon, for your insights. People are going to take away a lot from this podcast.

Brandon: I’d like to end the discussion by emphasizing again on the importance of having a business website build online authority. Thank you!

Meet the speakers

Senthil Kumar
VP Marketing – Stan Ventures
Brandon Smithwick
CEO – iBrain Web Marketing

Guest Bio

Brandon Smithwick
CEO – iBrain Web Marketing

Brandon is a digital marketer specializing in the hospitality industry. His passion revolves around helping individuals understand online marketing’s complex world by providing simplistic explanations and actionable takeaways. With a strong interest in digital marketing, he pursued a BS in Business Administration, focusing on e-Commerce and Marketing, then completed his MBA specializing in Internet Marketing.