When I first started writing about hospitality, I was surprised at the number of hoteliers who came to me and said: “I have to have a blog – my SEO is bad without a blog!”, or some other variant.
Even today, the idea that somehow having a blog will magically bring you more traffic and more confirmed reservations is prevalent, as recently evidenced by a thought provoking article on Tnooz, titled “If you do not have a blog, your hotel website is dead“.
So, what is it about a blog that brings you more traffic? What is it about a blog that makes GoogleÂ like your website more?
Nothing. There is nothing special about a blog.
Really Simple Syndication
Well, let me qualify that a little bit. There are two things unique about a blog: RSS and comments. As most of you know, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and allows your visitors to subscribe to your blog.
After subscribing, they get an alert – on their phone or RSS reader – whenever you write a new blog post. This is a handy marketing tool to get previous readers back to your blog, which can possibly lead to more bookings if your readers are travelers.
Comments are a nice way to communicate directly with your guests â€” however, the intimacy and immediacy of communicating via comments have more or less been eclipsed by social media.
Still, there are people who love to voice their opinions using blog comments, and if moderated well, comments are certainly a good thing to have on a blog.
But thatâ€™s about it.
Aside from comments and RSS, there is nothing inherently special or different about the structure of a blog compared to standard websites.
Google does not rank blogs better compared to websites. Both blogs and websites are indexed just as easily by search engines, and both blogs and websites can be compatible with modern Internet marketing tools, including social media, XML sitemaps, image sharing and so on.
Dynamic, fresh content
When I meet friends who tout the benefits of blogs, they often talk about dynamic, fresh content.
“Google likes lots of well-written, relevant content,” they say. And this is very true. But there is nothing about a blog that makes its content any more dynamic, well-written, or fresh.
In fact, anything published with a blog immediately becomes static, unless the author edits and republishes the content over time.
And here is where we come to the meat of the issue â€” it isnâ€™t a blog per se that makes content more dynamic, but simply the ability to edit and republish that content, which most blogs have.
In short, this is a debate on the merits of a content management system (CMS) verses static, traditional web development. And in this debate, there is no debate.
Traditional web design and development is quickly being eclipsed by dynamic, living, breathing content. The hotel web design of the late 1990s and early 2000s that consisted of individual HTML files that had to be edited in Dreamweaver, or some other software, is outdated.
This kind of content tended to remain static because it was often very tricky, expensive, and time consuming to update.
Often, hoteliers couldnâ€™t edit the content themselves, even if they wanted to. Instead, they had to contact their web developer with the changes they needed, who often charged an additional service fee.
This is the kind of design done by traditional agencies, which charge a flat fee, produce some static content, and then leave. The content may or may not be trendy, relevant, and actionable when written and published, but as it is with all things, time tends to age it.
Enter: Content Management Systems
Alternatively, a CMS is a software product built to make web publishing simpler and faster, and therefore content produced by a CMS tends to be more dynamic, simply due to the nature of the software.
Hoteliers and innkeepers can use a CMS like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla (which just so happen to also be blogging platforms, but there are other examples of web-based CMSs like Wix, Weebly, etc.) to update their homepages with time-sensitive information, such as local events like fairs or concerts, seasonal occurrences like weather reports and road closures, or property management changes like new owners, a new wing under construction, etc.
Itâ€™s not the blog that makes this content good or makes it rank better in search enginesâ€”itâ€™s the fact that it is updated, current, relevant, and of higher interest to todayâ€™s guests.
Your CMS is not enough
That said, even CMSs are not enough these days. Blogging software comes packaged with a lot of extras that hotels donâ€™t really need, which can add unnecessary code to the website, increasing its weight and load time.
WordPress, for example, can often get bogged down as users install more and more plugins, which are sometimes abandoned by their developers and stagnate over time.
I personally love WordPress and I use it to power our company blogâ€”I just think that, while an excellent blogging software, itâ€™s not a good solution for hotel websites due to all the added blogging baggage that comes with it.
Hoteliers have more to think about than just a webpage, however. Not only must it be updated with current information, but it should be optimized for mobile devices like smartphones.
Does the hotel use an Internet Booking Engine (IBE)? Then it too needs to be updated on the fly to reflect new prices, room descriptions, and amenities. And letâ€™s not forget about social media.
With the recent news about Facebookâ€™s Graph Search and Nearby for mobile, it is important for hotels to have a social media presence tailored for guests that encourages likes and interactions, which can increase a pageâ€™s exposure on Facebook, leading to more booked rooms.
Today, it is no longer about CMSs. Instead, savvy hoteliers invest in DMSs â€” digital marketing systems – that can publish content to a myriad of digital marketing channels including mobile and social, not just a webpage.
I understand why some argue the benefits of blogs, but I feel like such arguments ignore the real reason why blogs can be handy â€” kind of like touting the benefits of a lunch box without actually considering the lunch.
Now, hoteliers who use blogs today shouldnâ€™t feel like theyâ€™re wasting their time. If blogging works for you, then keep blogging! Just understand that there is much more to marketing a property online than posting a new blog post every week or so.
NB: This is a guest article by Brandon Dennis, technical marketing manager at Buuteeq, a digital marketing system for hotels. He manages Buuteeqâ€™s SEO, paid media channels including SEM and PPC, social outreach, and the company blog. You can connect with him on Twitter @buuteeq.
NB2: Laptop pool image via Shutterstock.