hotel search
498 days ago
 

Top ten tips for hotels to improve their search engine presence

NB: This is a guest article by Max Starkov, president and CEO of HeBS Digital.

So even if we’re now agreed that hotel search on engines such as Google is not about to disappear any time soon, there is still plenty that hotels can do to improve their performance in the channel.

Following my recent article (How real are challenges to dethrone Google as king of hotel distribution?), I thought it would be helpful to outline some ideas for properties to examine and perhaps implement.

So, here is the HeBS Digital Top Ten tips for Hotels to Improve Their Search Engine Presence:

1. Redesign your website.

“Fixing” the hotel website remains of paramount importance to hoteliers. Anything you do online today – from social media to banner advertising to email marketing – leads back to the hotel website.

The ongoing Google Panda updates (Panda 3.9 just launched) have made many hotel websites obsolete and have raised the bar for hotel websites, demanding not only deep and relevant, but unique and engaging copy.

Redesigning your site allows you, with the help of analytics, to develop an intuitive site structure that organizes relevant content. Additionally, this is the time to button up things on the back end: XML site maps, canonical tags, robot.txts on minor pages, site load speed, and so on. Install a state-of-the-art content management system (CMS) on the website.

Another important reason for the hotel website re-design is the growing need for centralized website content and digital marketing asset management technology.

Hotel marketers are challenged to create and manage fresh content; store and distribute the hotel digital marketing assets; and circulate special offers and packages as well as events and happenings, all through several distinct channels.

Managing a desktop website, mobile and tablet websites, and social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ can become overwhelming without a content management system.

Obviously, hoteliers need more than just a simple website CMS capable of adding and editing textual and visual content.

2. Create engaging content on the hotel website.

The ongoing Google Panda updates mandate that website content be not only deep and relevant, but also unique and engaging. Search engines are now looking for strong editorial content.

Web content has always been the king of SEO – the recent Google Panda algorithm updates turned website content into the emperor. Each of the updates that punished poor practices ultimately underscored one thing: unique and engaging content is here to stay.

Quality content has taken center stage over the past 18 months, making it imperative to have strong copy supported by a focused SEO strategy.

Any hotel website without sufficient depth of content and without unique and engaging content, would have hard time with search engine rankings. HeBS Digital recommends a minimum of 25-40 content pages for a select service property, and 35-50 pages of content for a full-service property website.

A big full-service hotel or resort’s website should start with 75-100 pages of content. Utilizing the website’s CMS platform, create landing pages for each hotel special offer, package or promotion, as well as for events and happenings at the property or in the destination.

3. Use professional copywriting.

You get what you pay for – cheap copywriters typically provide thin, lifeless content that does little more than take up space on a page. Take the time to find professional copywriters with both SEO and hospitality experience that can be called “travel writers” in their own right.

These writers will be able to not only generate unique, engaging and quality content, but also help you brainstorm ideas and provide guidance on how to best present the hotel product online. Money spent on lasting content is money well spent.

4. Develop a content creation plan.

Building additional content does three things for your site. It creates deeper content, gives you more real estate to target segmented keywords, and it increases your PPC campaigns’ quality scores and lowers their cost per click.

Capture incremental revenue by targeting events such as nearby college graduations or upcoming sports games. Knowing these events ahead of time will allow you to post them far enough in advance to gain traction by the time the event happens and will prevent a last-minute rush.

Develop content based on special offers related to local attractions, such as theme parks, museums and sporting venues. Ultimately, the goal is to allow the website content to grow by hundreds of content pages every year.

Now that you have done all this work on your website and its off-site extensions, set aside some money to maintain it. Having the flexibility to tweak your SEO strategy throughout the year is a great thing. Anticipate minor content changes, new landing pages, linking incentives and other recommendations your SEO team may have.

5. Implement mobile SEO.

Quality content is the biggest “must-have” for a mobile site. The Google Panda algorithm updates favor mobile websites with rich visual and textual content that is fresh, engaging and optimized for the search engines.

Having a hotel mobile website – even if developed according to industry’s best practices – is only the beginning. The mobile web abides by different rules that require mobile web-specific marketing initiatives.

Mobile search engines favor and predominantly serve local content; therefore, hoteliers need to optimize their local content and listings on the search engines, main data providers, and local business directories.

6. Create a blog on the hotel website.

The Google Freshness update values – you guessed it – fresh content. This can sometimes be difficult to do for a static product such as a hotel, which is where a blog comes in handy.

A branded blog can keep followers up to date on the latest happenings at the property as well as area events and, for strong brands, include a lifestyle element. Keep in mind that a stale blog is worse than no blog it all.

7. Bring local search listings up to date.

Since the Google Venice update, local presence has become more of a focus. Over the past year or so, the SERPs have changed to allow for more local results, meaning that it is even more important to have strong local search listings.

Be sure that you have uploaded quality photos, included accurate information and written an optimized description. All of this information will help you build a strong local presence and increase your performance in mobile searches, which are increasing annually.

Creating and maintaining a Google+ page is a vital component of any hotel’s SEO strategy. While Google+ may not be the sensation that Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are, it is the most important social medium when it comes to SEO.

Google+ essentially gives Google direct access to your browsing habits, what results you find useful and what sites you give your seal of approval to. Once you create a page, put relevant users in your circle and interact with them. This will give you an opportunity to take up more real estate on the SERPs and show up more often in “personal results”.

8. Devise a quality inbound linking and citation strategy.

The Google Webspam update further penalized link farms and purchased links. Generally speaking, paid links have very little SEO value.

Go for unique organic links with relevant anchor text, such as editorial links and mentions of the property, listings on local CVB websites, local colleges, and nearby convention centers, theme parks and attractions.

Remember: bloggers are your friend, so work with local bloggers to have your hotel mentioned and linked to in their blog postings.

9. Utilize online press releases to promote special offers.

Press releases in the form of travel consumer deal alerts are an important tool for increasing traffic, awareness, and quality inbound links and citations.

Use a distribution system that allows you to target specific geographic areas for the most impact, and don’t forget to include a few links back to your site.

However, keep in mind that press releases should still be “newsworthy” items – announcing that your hotel is great for group travel does not warrant a press release.

10. Implement high-powered analytics and search ranking technology.

Search engine result page (SERP) rankings are just one measure of success. Organic performance can also be measured by revenue, bookings initiated, time on site, and other metrics.

Platforms such as Adobe Omniture can give detailed metrics on each keyword such as pages viewed, entry points, and revenue to help you make tweaks to your SEO strategy.

Revenue attribution SEO analysis, complemented with search ranking and recommendation technology such as BrightEdge, provides hoteliers with a concrete action plan to improve SEO results. When possible, analytics should be implemented prior to SEO work so you have a baseline to judge success against.

NB: This is a guest article by Max Starkov, president and CEO of HeBS Digital, a US-based full-service digital marketing, hotel website design and online channel strategy firm.

NB2: Hotel search image via Shutterstock.

 
 
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About the Writer :: Special Nodes

Special Nodes is the byline under which Tnooz publishes articles by guest authors from around the industry.

 

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  1. Turks and Caicos Resorts

    I agree with your techniques to improve search engine rank. it is very necessary to build a website to advertise your company and optimize that website to make more traffic and increase their rank in search engine and i think the most important factor is that we have to update that website to show their availability and we have to create more back links or ads which is related to that website on social networking sites for increasing more traffic on that website.

     
  2. Scott Petoff

    I think the point about a stale blog being better than no blog at all should be repeated. Indeed for smaller/independent hotel and B&B properties, a blog is the best way to show new visitors that you are a responsive operator and knowledgeable about the area. However most blogs automatically list the date (with the year) at the top of each posting. So if visitors see that your latest blog post was over a year ago, they’ll wonder how long it will take for you to respond to their booking request or question (or if you are still operating).

    If you don’t have enough time or content to create a travel-SEO helpful full blog, instead dedicate a page or two of your site for hotel and travel updates. Have your website designer make it easy for you to edit a special section where you can list hotel happenings, local events, and tips for travel to your destination. And when you include these timely updates, try to include the month and year so it looks fresh to your visitors (and to the search engines).

    -Scott, BookingCounts – Travel Email Remarketing Widget

     
  3. Joe Bühler

    Quite a To-Do list and a challenge to implement for a large number of independent hotels. Responsive web design can be added to the list of musts in today’s multi-platform reality. It just goes to show that as the web continues to develop it becomes necessary to constanty improve your online presence. It is, after all, the main business driver for most properties today and will be even more so in future.

     
  4. Steve

    In my experience there are always things that can be done to an existing website, often cheaply, which will give you a bump in the rankings. From cleaning up the code (often a real issue), making better use of various assets and tags which affect SEO rankings, improving the content you have and adding new content. All of these can have some positive impact on a hotel websites SEO without breaking the bank.

    I wish I could get away with telling my clients they should build a new website… Granted, a new website, if built to standards and in a way search engines will find easy to understand and crawl, will likely give you the best improvements over time. But as pure bang-for-buck (or ROI) changes go, there is always something you can do to make an existing website perform better in search engines. Add in a few UX tweaks and get a better conversion rate at the same time.

    I guess the lesson here is don’t be sold into a new website when it might not be the best use of your budget and improvements can often be made elsewhere…

    Caveat: Some websites are beyond help :-)

     
    • Ilya

      Agree, almost all of hotels sites made for surprise visitors and for usability or SEO. When i see site on pure flash I want cry and I cry again when I understand how many it costed.

       
    • Multi-Chain Hotel-ecommerce expert

      Hotels actually need to re-fresh or re-design a website now every 2 years on average. Why ? I was recently asked, my guests from last year are still coming..I’ll wait till traffic dies offf, I was recently told by a hotelier…In the mantime, his top 6 competitors had a website re-design in the past 1.5 years. Your re-design should take into consideration, what is happening with your mobile traffic anlytics, which will continue to be the exploding demographic, mobile users…Your 60 year oold consumer of today, will be replaced by 30 21 year old old enough to book and pay for hotels online..your hotel future gues will just me more technologically savy, not less tech savy and your website needs to reflect what they wull be looking for tomorrow…responsive website design is what I recommend now..

       
 
 

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