There are many places travellers can discover your tour business. Like social media, online travel agencies (OTAs), the visitor information centre, just to name a few. The opportunities for brand exposure are endless; so long as you build a strong presence across the board.
Out of the bunch; however, there's one that deserves your primary focus — Google My Business (GMB). That's because, with a complete and optimized listing, you have the potential to gain visibility as you've never known before. And most importantly, cover every step in the traveller's booking journey — from inspiration to conversion — in one sweep.
We'll go into more detail below about why GMB is great, and what you can do to get the most out of it. But first, if you aren't familiar with this powerful tool, let's start with:
You've probably come across a Google My Business listing plenty of times already. Whenever you look for a business on Google Search and Maps, their Business Profile shows up as a box next to the results and location. It includes essential business information — such as hours of operation, address, contact details, website URL, and more.
Google often populates this data for business owners automatically. So go ahead and search for your tour company, you might see your own listing displayed. But even if you have one by default, it doesn't mean the information is correct, nor is effective at attracting and converting Google users.
As it happens, there's a whole lot more you can do with your Google My Business listing. It comes with cool features that allow you to engage with guests, promote your tours and activities, accept bookings, view insights, and improve your Google ranking overall. You just have to claim it or create one first.
Think of your Business Profile as a bite-sized version of your website. You can use it to help travellers learn more about your tour business, but also strategically lead them through the path to purchase. For the most part, they have all they need to make a decision and follow through.
Since in-destination bookings are more popular than ever, this can have a significant impact on your business growth. Most travellers who plan on-the-go roughly know what they want; they just have to find an operator that's a close match. So they tend to seek a fast and seamless route, yet still a quality option.
By completing your GMB listing, you can make this possible for them. They simply have to scroll through your profile to look at reviews, photos, posts, and information. And if they like what they see, check availability, and complete booking and payment — thanks to Reserve with Google.
Google My Business also plays a vital role in local search optimization. That is to say; your Business Profile can snag a spot in the Google snack pack — the top three local business listings above the organic search results. Or better yet, climb higher in ranking on Google Maps.
Why does this matter? Because 46% of all searches have local intent— which is likely higher for travellers considering they frequently look for things to do in the area. So whenever they search for related tours and activities nearby, your business can be the first seen out of your competitors.
These factors combined mean your GMB listing is easy to discover and optimized for quick conversion. But of course, all of this comes down to verifying your business and upkeeping your profile. Because if it’s top-notch and detailed, then travellers won’t have to look any further.
As I mentioned, there’s a lot you can do with Google My Business — provided you take ownership of your listing. With access to every feature, you can enhance your Business Profile, and quickly turn online lookers into bookers.
Before diving into a few best practices, check to see if your GMB listing already exists. Just type your business name into Google Search, and if it pops up on the right, click claim this business. If it doesn’t, you can add your business by following these steps.
The first thing for Google My Business optimization is to enter information wherever possible. It’s important not to skip over any steps because a complete listing is a top listing. Plus, the more details, the better — so travellers can find out everything they need to know in one place.
Here’s what you should cover:
Don’t forget to verify your business. Otherwise, you’ll only be able to add your NAP, and not the rest of the above. You can do this by mail, or for select businesses, phone and email.
By far, sharing photos and videos of your tours and activities is the best way to inspire travellers to make a booking. That's because it helps them picture having the experience, and in most cases, plays on the fear of missing out (FOMO).
You can add a variety of photos and videos on Google My Business — including virtual video tours. Although high quality is better, it’s not necessary. As long as you’re putting up content, travellers will look.
Keep in mind your guests can also upload images of their experiences to your GMB listing. To improve brand authenticity, it’s a good idea to encourage them to do so, along with leaving a review — which brings us to the next point.
Arguably Google is the best review platform for tour operators. Since Google Reviews improve search ranking, you can increase your odds of earning a higher position based on recency, frequency, and quality. Also, travellers are more likely to trust a tourism business with positive reviews on their GMB listing and an average rating of 4 stars and above.
Google already does an excellent job of prompting users to write reviews. Some examples include push notifications on Android smartphones, showing the number of views they get for each review, and rewarding them with local guide badges.
But you can also get more Google Reviews by mentioning it at the end of the tour or reminding guests in your thank-you email. Just treat it like you would when asking for TripAdvisor reviews. And remember to respond to reviews — both positive and negative — because it shows your commitment to customer satisfaction.
Although Posts on Google now sit at the bottom of your profile — a little out of sight — it’s still an important Google My Business feature. If you keep a blog that gives destination advice, this is where you could share that content and drive website traffic. Find out how to quickly create a Google Post here.
Moreover, you can use Google Posts to promote special offers and discounts. Just think about it — travellers who make it down your listing are obviously interested in your business. Seeing a 15% bank holiday discountor an early bird season specialcould be the tipping point they need to make a booking.
Reserve with Google is relatively new to Google My Business. First rolling out in 2016, it catered to fitness and beauty businesses, as well as restaurants. But now, the tours and activities industry is fortunate to have access to this amazing feature.
As another sales channel, you can start taking bookings and payment right on your GMB listing. All you need is an account with a booking software provider — such as Checkfront — and Google My Business. It’s free for now, so it’s best to get this up and running as soon as possible.
With a Reserve with Google integration, travellers will see your real-time availability on your Business Profile, and can progress intuitively through the booking steps without navigating elsewhere. As for yourself, you can track these bookings in your reservation dashboard while your inventory updates automatically.
For any digital marketing you do, it’s important to track and analyze your results. Regarding your listing, it’s easy to do this in the Insights panel on your GMB dashboard. There, you can see the following:
Using this data, you can learn more about guest behaviour, figure out what you’re doing well, and how to continually optimize your Google My Business listing. There’s so much you can do with this marketing tool — we’ve barely scratched the surface. Just explore the possibilities, and you’ll start seeing good things come from it.
Checkfront is a booking management platform trusted by thousands of tour operators worldwide. Our platform empowers businesses to sell tours and activities on any website by providing live inventory management, dynamic pricing, customer notifications, and channel distribution. Get started with Checkfront today!