Rural tourism makes a big contribution to the UK economy. According to the UK Travel Survey statistics for 2008 (published in August 2009), UK tourism spend was £16.4bn, of which countryside spend accounted for 16.9%.


The accommodation sector plays a major role in rural tourism with 29.4% of countryside spend on hotels and guest accommodation and 17.3% on self-catering. This sector consists mainly of micro-businesses – bed-and-breakfasts, guest houses and self-catering units.

We undertook research in Bournemouth to evaluate the online marketing activity of UK rural accommodation micro-businesses. In a highly competitive market, effective online marketing is essential; these businesses need to attract new customers and keep existing ones.

We identified a need to offer workshops in e-marketing to small rural businesses that have diversified beyond agriculture in to tourism. While the majority of these firms have a website, there is an opportunity for them to improve their online marketing. With increasing numbers of people researching and buying online, it is essential to have an effective online presence.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a website from search engines via natural or unpaid search results. The key is to get on the first page of Google results. And this can be achieved in several ways.

Title tags

These are the keywords that describe the content of the page and can be found at the top of the screen. They are inserted when the site is put together (usually by the designer) so are behind the scenes rather than being visible. But it’s important that the business owner knows what keywords to include. It is important to tell Google what the page contains and if it is relevant to those searching on its network. Using appropriate keywords will improve your search engine ranking.

You should aim to use different words on the title tag of each page. For example, if you have a “days out” page, you could use the words “days out”, “attractions”, and so on.

Meta description

This is the text that describes what the page is about and appears underneath the title on the Google search engine results page. As with the title tag, you should ensure this is a keyword-rich description of the page. Include keywords that describe your business, what is unique about it, its key strengths etc. It shouldn’t be a random list of keywords – build them into a meaningful sentence.

Keyword-rich content

In addition to the title tag and meta description, your website content should be keyword-rich – again not artificially so but weaved into the text. You can make certain words bold or use header tags to emphasise key content and increase your SEO. There are a number of ways to choose keywords:

 Google has a keyword tool to help you select relevant words

 Google Analytics finds what keywords people used to find your site

 Ask customers/guests what keywords they used when searching.

Google Analytics is a free tool for any site owner. It gives a range of information including where people have clicked from to visit the site, what pages they landed on and visited, and what keywords they used to find the site. To get it, you need a Google account and a code, which you type on to each page on your site so it can track traffic and provide the analytics.

External back links/ in links

The number of sites linking to you (back links) gives Google an indication of your site’s importance and increases the ranking of your site. Download the Google toolbar (search in Google), which tells you the page rank of your site with a score out of 10.

However, it’s not just a case of any sites linking to you. They should be relevant to your business and your product offering. Also, the higher their page rank, the better.

Internal links

Although they do not carry the importance of external back links, internal links between pages on your site carry an SEO benefit. But more importantly, it also improves the user’s experience on your site. Remember that a web page isn’t a brochure and shouldn’t have dense blocks of text. Any internal or external links on your site should not use the words ‘click here’, but use a keyword or phrase that describes the destination page.

A website requires ongoing care and attention if it is to be attractive to visitors and search engines. It needs to be refreshed with new content, removing out-of-date information, adding new images, guest reviews, events, packages, keywords, etc. Remember, for many potential customers it’s their first impression of your business.

To find out more about e-marketing workshops for rural tourism businesses contact palford@bournemouth.ac.uk or www.bournemouth.ac.uk/makingyourwebsitework