South Africa Tourism SEO


The South African Tourism industry is probably one of the most competitive online industries in South Africa, if not the most competitive. Cape Town was voted Number 4 on the BBC’s Top 50 Places to Visit Before you Die list. And since we will be hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup, everyone seems to be jumping on the tourism bandwagon.

So we will be taking a closer look at some of the more competitive SEO terms in South Africa and Cape Town, and why the Top Ten in Google rank the way they do – at least, what could be the factors, as only Google knows for sure.

What Do I Mean by “Competitive”?

Just by doing a few searches on the search engines, especially Google since they drive the most traffic, you will quickly see what I mean:

  • cape town hotels – 298,000 results
  • cape town accommodation – 245,000 results
  • south africa hotels – 8,130,000
  • south africa accommodation – 1,100,000

As you can see, there isn’t a lot of results being returned for those searches. Granted, 300k seems like a lot, but Google claims to have over 6 billion pages indexed. And some globally competitive terms, like SEO, return tens-of-millions of results. So why do I say they are competitive?

Big Players:

When doing some travel research, either as r&d for a project, or as a tourist, you will see that the top 20 results of the search engines are almost identical for most general searches. These are the accommodation portals dominating. You will almost never find an establishment ranking for a very competitive phrase.

Why Do Portals Dominate?

Obviously no-one but Google knows the exact ranking factors, but many a SEO has speculated, and have done Case Studies, and multiple-site-and-search tests etc. No-one knows for certain.

But as you watch the Search Engine result pages across a few web searches, you will certainly see a few things that these “Top Rankers” have in common – and you can apply it across the board, not just in the South Africa Tourism SEO industry.

Domain Age
Almost ALL of these high ranking accommodation portals have old and trusted domains.

Domain Name
Almost all of these “Top Rankers” have some sort of keyword in their domain name.

Tons of Content
For years portals have been adding content at a steady pace, and have consequently built up a “reputation” with the search engines. The more on-topic content you have, the better.

Tons of Backlinks
Before we even knew that links were counted as a ranking factor (before the Florida update), people have been linking to each other. Back in the day, people were less cautious to whom they link, and consequently, link juice flowed freely in those days. Today, someone does not just link to you – you have to either earn your links, or ask for them!

Now What?

To fire up a site now and think you will be ranking for almost any term with “Cape Town” in it, can almost be called naive. Here is some ideas and advice when wanting to rank for more competitive SEO terms:

  • Try and acquire a keyword rich Domain Name
  • Constant Attention and Changing
  • Create New and Unique Content EVERY DAY
  • Make sure you have link-worthy content
  • Always try and think why people would link to you and adjust accordingly if possible
  • Always be on the look-out for marketing avenues for your site
  • Ask friends for links
  • Join a network and contribute


  • Throw the Google rule book out of the window and do it the “Blackhat” way a.k.a Search Engine Spamming. This is no long-term solution though, and you might be thrown out of the Search Engines’ index – not something you want!


Domain Age: 3 years
Domain Name:
Updated: Weekly
Industry: South Africa Online Hotel Accommodation bookings
Description: We have been trying to get SA Hotels Online to rank for “cape town hotels” and similar tourism keywords. The above article was written based on experience with this website in particular. Additionally, we have encountered this with many a client and other inhouse-projects.

Cape Town Hotel:
Domain Age: 1.5 years
Domain Name:
Updated: Monthly
Industry: Cape Town Hotel is similar to SA Hotels Online, and target similar tourism keywords, but does not rank as well as SA Hotels Online.


There are obviously many, many more things that result in websites ranking better than others. From well-optimized web pages, to optimized content. Above is just what we have found mainly contributes to the domination of the accommodation portals in South Africa Tourism SEO!

Skype Changing Numbers


The designer has spent days working on a beautiful design, and the client has signed off, perfectly happy for the developers to tackle it. The developers code the design to the last pixel, and boy does it looks nice. Except for one thing…


Skype, as useful a program as it is, has an interesting way of converting all the numbers (in text, not images) to a button of sorts. Bottom line – it makes the site look funky.


This meta tag, even though it refers to the Skype Toolbar, sorts out the problem chop-chop. Also, we have noticed that this does not happen with all the websites. So you might encounter the problem, and you might not – either way – this sorts it out: