The Best YouTube Strategy for Travel Brands

March 12, 2019, Kyla Steeves
YouTube marketing strategy for travel brands. Baby monkey looking into GoPro camera.

There are many reasons why you should use Youtube to promote your business. With over one billion users worldwide — in 91 countries to be exact — your videos have the potential of reaching a massive audience. For travel brands, that’s huge! Simply put, someone from another continent who’s dreaming of their next trip can watch one of your videos and feel inspired to visit.

That’s because video content is attention-grabbing, easy to consume, memorable, and emotionally stimulating. Overall, it’s the best medium for boosting brand awareness and engagement. And since YouTube is the go-to website for online videos, it has enough authority to dominate Google search results. In other words, your videos can rank high on Google, too!

If that’s not enough to convince you, here’s one more thing. According to Google, 88% of YouTube travel searches focus on destinations, attractions, and general travel ideas. Ultimately, videos that show up in the search results influence the planning process. That means you’ve got a good chance of making it on someone’s itinerary when you use YouTube for business marketing.  

Of course, that’s all the more likely to happen if you follow a YouTube strategy for travel brands — which includes:

Luckily, we cover everything in this article. But first, let’s walk through how to set up your YouTube Brand Account:

Setting up a YouTube business account

Setting up YouTube brand account on Google.

Because you’re making a YouTube channel for your business, other members of your team should have access to the account. Otherwise, you’ll end up managing the channel on your own. And frankly, no business owner has time for that.

But to create a YouTube business channel, you must have a Brand Account with Google first — which is a new feature. Basically, a Brand Account allows multiple users to jointly manage Google services — including Google My Business and YouTube. And the best part is that it doesn’t require a separate username and password.

If you don’t have a Brand Account yet, you can easily make one while setting up your YouTube channel. Just follow these steps:

  1. Sign in to YouTube with your Google account
  2. Click on your profile icon in the top right corner
  3. Select Settings in the drop-down menu
  4. Under Your account, click See all my channels or create a new channel
  5. If you already have a Brand Account, it will show up here. If not, hit Create a new channel
  6. Enter your Company Name and click Create

Of course, you’ll have to add owners and managers to your channel manually. To do this, all you have to do is:

  1. Click on your profile icon again and select Settings
  2. Next to Managers, click the Add or Remove Managers
  3. Hit Manage Permissions
  4. Invite new users by clicking on the icon in the top right of the pop-up window
  5. Enter the user’s email address and choose their role from the drop-down menu.

For reference:

  • Owners can delete the channel, remove owners and change user roles.
  • Managers can upload videos to YouTube.
  • Communications Managers can’t do anything on YouTube, only Google My Business —  so ignore this role.

How to optimize your YouTube channel

Optimizing your YouTube channel for your tours and activities.

Now that you’ve created a YouTube Brand Account, you might be eager to start uploading videos. But don’t jump ahead just yet — it’s important to provide more information.

Think of your YouTube channel like a Facebook Business Page. It needs to show viewers who you are, what your business does, and what kind of content they can expect to see. That way, they can tell right away whether they want to subscribe or not.

Completing your channel also helps you rank in YouTube search. With strategically placed keywords, YouTube can get to know your business better and match your content with related queries.

To make changes to your YouTube channel, go to your profile icon, click My channel, and then hit Customize Channel. Here, you can optimize your YouTube channel in the following ways:

Customize your channel design

Customizing YouTube channel design by uploading channel art of tours and activities.

When a viewer comes across your YouTube channel, they should be able to recognize your travel brand immediately. That’s why it’s best to upload a cover photo and profile image that best represents your business.

If you have other social media profiles — like Facebook or Twitter — you can use the same cover photo. After all, it’s a good idea to maintain brand consistency across all channels.

If you don’t, choose a high-quality image that showcases one of your most popular travel experiences. Keep in mind that the optimal channel art size is 2560 x 1440 pixels.

As for your profile photo, a good rule of thumb is to use your company logo.

Fill out the About section

Filling out about section on YouTube channel.

Your description helps viewers learn more about your channel and business. Primarily, it’s a brief introduction that can convert visitors into subscribers — if it’s well-written, of course. But moreover, it’s an excellent place to insert keywords naturally to help your YouTube channel’s SEO (search engine optimization).

To enter your channel description, head on over to the About tab. Since only the first 100-150 characters display in the search results, you should focus on communicating your travel brand’s message from the get-go. If you need to elaborate a little more, you can do so with the rest of the description. Just remember to sprinkle terms you think your target audience will use while searching.

Besides the channel description, there are other key elements in this section — so make sure you don’t forget about them. You can enter your email address, select your location, and add other links.

Regarding the latter, any links you include will display over the cover image of your channel page. For this reason, it’s best to add your website URL, as well as other social links. And since you can customize the link title, we recommend using call to action language — like “Book Now” or “Book your Adventure” — and then direct the viewers to the booking page on your website.

Include channel keywords

Adding travel related keywords to YouTube channel.

Your channel description isn’t the only place for keywords. You can slide them into your channel title and channel settings, too.

For the channel title, we have to backtrack a bit. Since you already entered a name when creating the channel, you’ll have to go into your Brand Account to change it. You can quickly do that by clicking on the edit icon on your profile image. Don’t worry; you won’t need to upload a new photo, it’s merely a shortcut to your Brand Account page.

It’s important to note that your company name should still be part of the channel title. So you can keep it at the beginning, and add your keyword using a colon as a separator. Here are some examples:

  • Pine High Adventures: Ziplining on Vancouver Island
  • The London Experience: City Walking and Bus Tours
  • Whale Hello There: Whale Watching in Hawaii

When it comes to keywords in your channel settings, you don’t want to go overboard. According to Backlinko, the sweet spot is 5-7 keywords that adequately describe your business. Do a little research first, and if you’re stuck, find inspiration from trending hashtags on Instagram for tours and activities.

Here’s how to add keywords in your channel settings:

  1. Click on your profile icon in the top right and select Creator Studio
  2. On the left-hand menu, click Channels and then Advanced
  3. Enter your keywords by separating them with a comma

Note: This is another good place to choose your location.

Add featured channels

YouTube is a social network — so sharing is caring. With the featured channel option, you have an opportunity to cross-promote your partners, show support of local businesses, and subtly advertise your destination.  

Think about it this way; viewers that come across your YouTube channel might be looking for multiple things to do in the area. You can help them out by listing your recommendations. Whether you feature channels of other experience providers, nearby accommodations, a tourism board, or even a local influencer, you’ll act as a valuable resource.

At the same time, the channels you promote might take notice and show their appreciation by featuring your channel back.

Best YouTube videos for tours and activities

Tour guide taking YouTube video of local culture in Thailand.

There are many types of videos on YouTube, but not all of them will work for your travel brand. While gaming, how-to, and unboxing videos are popular, you’d have to be a little creative to apply them to tours and activities. However, there are suitable alternatives including:

Vlogging

Vlogging is the best way to build a personal connection with your guests because it puts a human face to your brand. If you don’t know yet, vlog, or video blog, is a scheduled update where the YouTuber produces relatable content and offers a glimpse into their daily life. Whether they’re funny, talented, informative, or inspirational, subscribers tune in because they like the person they’re watching.

When it comes to vlogging your tours and activities, you can assign one of your guides as the host — preferably someone who’s charismatic. Every week, have them take the camera around and film themselves talking about the experience as your guests have the experience. Of course, this shouldn’t be the primary guide leading the group.

Learn more here about getting employees involved in social media.

Over time, your tour guide will become a familiar face on your YouTube channel. Whenever new content goes up, subscribers will know who’ll be on-camera and what they can expect to see. And the more they watch, the more they’ll get to know the guide and your travel brand — which means they’ll be more likely to leave a comment.

Another bonus? New guests will look forward to their booking date because they’ll get to meet your YouTube star in-person. And previous guests who’ve bonded with the guide might want to stay updated by subscribing.

Montage

When you hear the word montage, you might think of the passage of time in a movie — like Rocky Balboa training for an upcoming fight. But a montage isn’t just an editing technique for Hollywood.

Since a montage is a series of short shots strung together into a single scene, it’s a useful way to showcase your tours and activities in just a few minutes. Viewers only have to watch one video to get a sense of everything your business offers — which could inspire them to book more than one activity.

To make a video montage, have a staff member collect footage throughout the week. Then, using video editing software like Adobe Premiere, find the best moments, and put them together with a soundtrack. For best results, post these video montages a couple of times a month at minimum. Why?

Fresh content encourages frequent interaction. Every week, you have new guests who probably want to document their once in a lifetime experience. By doing that for them, and posting the videos on YouTube, they’ll be eager to share it with family and friends on other social channels.

Video Testimonials

There’s a reason why reviews make or break your business; most people trust the opinion of others over an advertisement. Even when it comes to planning a trip, travelers turn to reviews to make sure they’re booking the best experience.

While it’s imperative to seek out reviews on TripAdvisor, Google, or Yelp, video testimonials have a higher conversion rate. That’s because videos provide an authentic perspective that you can’t get through text. They’re better at capturing reactions — the viewer can see the joy on the guest’s face, and hear the excitement in their voice. And if filming happens when the experience is fresh in mind, everything that comes out of the reviewer’s mouth is honest, real, and convincing.

But how do you know if guests are willing to go on-camera for a quick interview? It’s simple; the key is to ask. During the experience, get your guides to take note of who’s enjoying the experience the most. When it’s all over, ask those guests whether they’d like to take part in a video testimonial. They might be hesitant at first, but if you assure them it won’t take long, most will be happy to help out.

Of course, you don’t have to do a video testimonial for every tour and activity. But it’s good to keep in mind when you see someone having the time of their life. That’s the level of enthusiasm you want to capture and share.

How to optimize your YouTube videos

Three travelers watching YouTube videos on a smartphone.

Once you have a video ready, it’s time to publish it on your YouTube channel. But before you get to uploading, there are a few things you need to know to improve searchability — especially if your primary goal is brand awareness.

Insert target keywords

Unfortunately, YouTube can’t watch your videos to see what they’re about and how relevant they are to a viewer’s search. However, you can give YouTube a hand by carefully using keywords where they matter most.

There are three places to put traffic-generating keywords in your videos:

  • Filename: Instead of saving your video as something generic like untitleproject01.mov, you can add one of your target keywords. For example, if your video is of a kayak tour in Colorado, you could use a filename such as kayaking-tours-colorado-river (ending in the video file type you prefer).
  • Video title: A video title is one of the best places to mix in relevant search terms. However, keyword stuffing doesn’t help get views because it can sound spammy rather than compelling. So instead, work keywords into the title naturally. Although this requires a bit of creativity, it’s rewarding in the end.
  • Tags: It’s likely you’ll have more than one keyword your video can rank for. Since you can’t squeeze them all into your title and filename, you can use YouTube tags. For better optimization, list your keywords as tags in order of significance.
  • Description: Similar to the title, your video description informs YouTube what your video is about while also acting as a summary that can entice viewers to hit play. So again, insert keywords here with natural language.

Design a custom thumbnail

Designing a custom video thumbnail for YouTube videos using Adobe Spark.

Along with the title and description, the video thumbnail is another element that stands out in a YouTube search. Most of the time, the viewer notices it first while browsing. That’s why it should be eye-catching — not just the first frame of your video.

Luckily, you can create a custom thumbnail on YouTube — as long as you have a verified account. While this extra task may seem daunting if you’re not creative, it’s surprisingly easy to do. Just follow these steps:

  1. Choose a frame: The first frame isn’t always a compelling shot. Rather than use it by default, you can choose another frame by dragging the video progress bar from beginning to end. When you find an ideal frame, stop, and take a screenshot (in fullscreen).
  2. Adjust the size: Using a photo editor, change the size of the image to 1280 x 720 pixels — that’s the optimum size for a thumbnail.
  3. Add text overlay: Similar to using Pinterest for business marketing, text overlay makes your video thumbnail pop while giving context. You can add text overlay to your thumbnail image using an online photo editor like Canva or Adobe Spark.
  4. Maintain consistency: Each of your thumbnails should look like they belong to the same YouTube channel and business. So stick with your brand colours.

Create a video playlist

As you start to post more videos, it’s a great idea to organize them into a playlist. Why? Because YouTube automatically plays your collection of videos in chronological order. That means a viewer can watch your videos without stopping — which encourages longer watch times.

YouTube playlists are especially useful if your business offers many different tours and activities. For example, let’s say you have walking tours, bike tours, and bus tours. You can make a playlist for each — bike tour videos go in the bike tour playlist. That way, viewers that land on your YouTube channel can see everything your tour business offers just by checking out your playlists.

On top of that, YouTube playlists improve discoverability because a playlist shows up separately from videos in the YouTube search results. In other words, both your playlist and video can appear at once. So you double your chances of having a viewer click play.

Here’s how to create a video playlist on YouTube:

  1. Go to Video Manager on the left sidebar of your Creator Studio
  2. Click on Playlists
  3. In the top right, hit +New Playlist
  4. Name your playlist — keeping your target keyword in mind
  5. To add a video to the playlist, find the video and click on +Add to button underneath

Other YouTube marketing tips

Traveler holding GoPro out van window while driving through Utah.

Understandably, it can take a while to learn the ins and outs of YouTube. So it’s okay to take time familiarizing yourself with the basics. But once you start to feel comfortable with this platform, you should consider trying out a few marketing strategies. After all, there’s a lot you can do on YouTube to capitalize on your content — including these tactics:

  1. Post regularly: Consistent posting helps you stay top of mind with your subscribers. At the same time, fresh content ranks better in search results. If you’re unsure how often you should post, check out what other channels do in your niche.
  2. Create cards: YouTube cards are subtle, interactive panels that slide over the video to encourage viewers to take further action. There are a few different cards you can create — each with a different purpose. We suggest using the link card to direct viewers to your website booking page.
  3. Partner with a YouTube influencer: Travel vloggers generally get a massive amount of subscribers because viewers love watching their adventures abroad. By working with one, you can expand your reach by tapping into their audience. All you have to do is invite an influencer to try one of your tours, capture the experience, and post a video on their YouTube channel (using a link card for best results). Check out more influencer marketing ideas here.
  4. Keep mobile in mind: More often than not, a viewer will watch a YouTube video without sound on their smartphone. That’s problematic if your video is a vlog or customer testimonial because they can’t hear anything that’s said. As a solution, you can add captions to your videos so viewers can read along as they watch.
  5. Record longer videos: Since watch time is a ranking factor on YouTube, it only makes sense to create longer videos. It’s an obvious loophole.
  6. Ask for subscribers: Viewers might forget to subscribe, so it’s best to remind them. To do that, you can come right out in your video and ask, or add a subscribe watermark to all of your YouTube videos.
  7. Share videos on other channels: The more places you share your video, the more views you’ll get and the more views you get, the more likes, comments, and shares you’ll collect. Round and round it goes. Luckily, there are plenty of channels that support YouTube video sharing —including your blog, other social accounts, and your email newsletters.

Final thoughts

YouTube is one of the best channels for travel social media marketing, but it does require a bit of tracking and analyzing. As you dive into video making and publishing, be sure to utilize YouTube’s analytics tools. That way, you can figure out whether YouTube is right for your business, and if you’re using it in the best way — especially before you start investing in high-end video equipment.

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Related Articles: How to Sell Your Tours and Activities on Google Posts | Are Your Guests Craving Hyper-Personalization? | How to Attract Travelers with Google Maps Marketing | A Tour and Activity Operator's Guide to Branding | A Tour Operator's Guide to Social Media Marketing | Online Marketing Trends for Tours and Activities in 2019 |

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