5 years ago

Giving a new definition to SEO in the hotel industry

NB: This is a guest article by Carla Caccavale, brand strategist at TrustYou.

Most hotels are heavily focused on SEO. It’s the way to stay ahead of the pack, come up higher in search and stand out from the crowd. You know the drill.

An SEO strategy is a must and, of course, there’s a budget behind it and team responsible for it. Makes sense.

Then there’s online reputation management (ORM). What? Oh, right, keeping track of what past and potential guests are saying about us online.

Maybe there’s a budget. Maybe not. Maybe there’s someone focused on responding to guest comments. Sometimes.

What if we told you that SEO stood for Shaping Excellent Outcomes and that you could get more guests by doing it? And repeat guests by doing it. And that paying attention to your online reputation could be the equivalent of getting you to come up first when people search “incredible hotel” in their memory bank?

Tell you more? Okay.

First let’s take the not-so-happy guest. They posted a review about how the elevators were slow, their room service breakfast was late and they asked for more towels and didn’t get them.

Ouch. Everyone can read this. Where’s the delete button again? This is when it’s time to turn “ouch” into an opportunity.

The management response might look something like:

“First, I want to thank you for your feedback. While I wish you had a better experience, it is feedback like this that we learn from and use to improve.

“We work hard to deliver an exceptional guest experience and it’s apparent in this case we fell short. For that I apologize. At the time you were staying with us one of our elevators were out of service for routine maintenance. For the inconvenience it caused, I am sorry.

“The safety of our guests is a priority and such service is an unavoidable necessity that should have been better explained. If you give us a chance to earn back your trust, I can assure you that your breakfast will be on time and your towels will be plentiful.

“I would be happy to make your reservation personally and see to it that you enjoy the experience that so many of our guests have grown so fond of.”

This is an example of SEO before we had SEO. This is at the core of hospitality, taking the opportunity and hopefully Shaping Excellent Outcomes.

You fell down on some service points – yes, it happens. It is what you do after you fall that really counts. Take responsibility, apologize and ask for another chance.

Most guests who complain had a legitimate issue. Don’t let your fear of guests who are chronic complainers for the sake of getting something free (this is the minority) ruin your opportunity to rebound on true service shortfalls.

While this review on its own would be a negative, coupled with this response it turns into a plus in most level-headed travelers’ minds.

Now let’s take the really happy guest. They stayed at your hotel for their birthday. A good time was had by all. The staff was great and they wrote a glowing review.

A response might look like this:

“We’re always happy when someone chooses to stay at our hotel. And we’re downright honored when you choose to spend a day as special as your birthday with us.

“Making your birthday a memorable one was the least we could do. Personally, I think one birthday a year is not enough (from a celebration stand point, not an aging one). We can do this all over again for your half birthday!

“We look forward to welcoming you back again soon and appreciate your business and feedback, which will certainly be passed along to the team.”

The guest feels great all over again. A perspective guest reads this and thinks “I want to go there for my birthday!” and again, you have a leading SEO, Shaping Excellent Outcomes, example.

You might not be on page one of online search, but you certainly are top of mind for the people who wrote the review and those who read the response.

So the next time you think there should only be one SEO budget, think again. You need a two-pronged SEO approach. Go back to the core of hospitality and invest (not just funds, but time as well) in your online reputation.

SEO in our sense of the acronym can be quite powerful for WOM (word of mouth). Positive WOM translates into more guests and right there you have your ROI for the SEO (Shaping Excellent Outcomes) investment (which revolves around ORM, of course).

Acronym-Free Take Away:

  • Improving your responses to reviews enhances your reputation. A better reputation translates into more guests. More guests equal more revenue.

NB: This is a guest article by Carla Caccavale, brand strategist at TrustYou. Here is a further guide for responding to reviews.

NB2: Hotel reception image via Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are the views and opinions of the author and do not reflect or represent the views of his employer, tnooz, its writers, or partners.



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  1. Ginge

    Hi Folk

    Chris speaks the truth, these geeks have no personality or the ability to deal with the general public who stay in these hotels/guest houses. They talk in there very own language and can’t be bothered if the general public could understand them.

    I own and run a guest house (9 rooms) (8 years) and I focus on my guests who stay here a 100 %. I do not have the time to read reviews let alone reply to them. I’m not on facebook or any mobile sites.

    Some guests need attension others want to be left alone and do there own thing. Its about reading your guests and anticipating their needs. If some one comes to our front door and asks about a room, if I don’t like the look of them they are told we are full, if a guest rings up to book one of our family rooms and there are screaming kids in the back ground, sorry we are full for those dates.

    Its not always the money but quality of life for our guests and us. The guy from Scotland spoke some truth, as for the negitive reply he got, that person I feel might regret their reply if he reads it in a few days, this person should never be put in charge of a hotel or guest house, they would not last one season.

    Since 2005 we have been busy since day one, 2010 was slow but 2011/12 we were turning folk away. This years so far we are up on last year and have booking right through to August Bank Holiday. We are a people business which is not for geeks and techno’s if that’s how you spell it.

    I’ll get off my soap box now, Thank you and Good night.


  2. Chris Dunkley

    Life would be a lot easier for everybody if people started writing in Proper English instead of anacronyms and text speak. I personally don’t know the meaning of “SEO” or many of the other initials used. I tend to avoid reading articles which are written in this way.

  3. Patrick Landman

    Patrick @ Xotels

    I have to agree with RKC.

    Speaking from the trenches of digital marketing and revenue management warfare, I can only confirm that reputation and review score does help drive demand and subsequently ADR and RevPar.

    Example, we are managing a somewhat limited service hotel in a secondary destination which run in the mid 60% annually (this is for the market). The property outshines the competition by having fun with service, and offering an amazing guest experience. This has resulted in great feedback on review sites putting the property in the top 3. The authentice hospitality and original service combined with a smart social media approach has paid off big time. The hotel runs aboce 90% occupancy year round, and can drive a higher ARR on many days than 4 star full service hotels.

    SEO has changed and is continuing to change rapidly. I am personally intreaged to see where Personal Authority Rank of Google+ can take a property in a market. I am sure many of the passionate bloggers who commented above are also seeing this as an oportunity to distinguish one business from the next.

    The are many more opportunities of how social can help a hotel gain reach and exposure, fi the usage of facebook comments in a blog.

    But I rest my case, reputation does have impact on the bottom line of a hotel, and SEO is defi itely on the move.


    Patrick @ Xotels.

    PS Carla, great inspirational article !

  4. Steve Harvey-Franklin

    Here’s Three Tips for Hoteliers
    1) Get Mobile
    Surprising few independent hotels have mobile sites or responsive design. Mobile sites:
    – Perform better on Google Mobile
    -Are ideal for a mobile customer base
    -Are Ideal for distress purchases
    -Users are less likely to shop around on mobiles
    -Give users the experience they deserve ie surfing a ready sized stripped down site, rather than having to pinch and navigate complex sites

    2) Paid Search for clearing their own rooms
    – Hotels readily payout hefty fees to The Booking Agents to clear their rooms on discounts sites. ie they are paying to have their rooms sold cheaply
    -Discount Rooms Sites, seem to takeover the top of paid search, even on the hotel’s own name
    -Let’s do the sums, with what the hotel pays the agents, the agents are outbidding the hotels on Google Paid Search
    -Then each hotel has to compete with their local rivals on the Agent’s site
    -Hotels – have faith, use an Internet Marketing Agency to clear your rooms and pocket the difference

    3) Get Social
    -I have heard some people say they don’t want to go Social because they are afraid of what people will write, well people will write what they will whether you are involved or not, so why not manage the process
    -Contribute to Social with articles of interest to anyone researching which hotel or town to stay in
    -Monitor what your customers are writing about you
    -Respond positively to manage bad reviews and reward or thank good comments and reviews, there is all sorts of software available to help you with this and some simple tools that any internet marketing agency should be able to set you up with relatively cheaply.

  5. Carolin Geissler

    Gosh, I love that new ‘definition’ for SEO. I’ve met so many hoteliers that don’t care about either and so many that only care about getting their website to the top of the search rankings.
    We, as a hotel software developer, work with mostly small businesses that simply don’t have the budget to actually rank on page 1, so it’s very important to also focus on that second aspect of responding to guest reviews.
    But as always, it is the right mix that will bring the most success: Being responsive to guest reviews is wonderful but the impression can quickly turn sour when the hotel’s website hasn’t been updated since nineteensomething. At the same time, a visually appealing website can make a hotelier seem self-centered if reviews are never answered (or only the good ones are answered, which is even worse in my eyes).

    • Joe Buhler

      Couldn’t agree more with your comment about the necessity to have both a well functioning, up-to-date website AND then work on search and social to drive business. Too many seem to think one or the other will be enough. There are no shortcuts or magic buttons to press for success.

  6. Larry Smith

    When @Carla said “SEO stood for Shaping Excellent Outcomes” my mind went immediately to the strategy of ITM: In The Moment.

    It’s kind of a bad example, but on point: InterCon Cairo tweets SOS as gunmen storm hotel
    ( http://www.hoteliermiddleeast.com/16246-intercon-cairo-tweets-sos-as-gunmen-storm-hotel/ )

    Shaping the outcome needs Operation involved, online and in realtime and not just the marketing staff afterward doing damage control with mea culpas galor.

  7. Joe Buhler

    Observation from the peanut gallery:

    RKC One : RG Zero or Nil as the Brits would say!

    When challenging RKC on this topic, be careful what you wish for. It’s easy to deflate the flimsy arguments of the many whipper snapper social gurus out there but not those of an industry veteran like Cole who knows his stuff inside out. Points well made. Could obviously not have stated the case any better.

  8. Robert Gilmour

    Michelle, i’m not running down social media, I’m saying it needs to really commercially produce big time before it rises significantly in my priority list and budget for developing my clients’ hotel businesses. Sure, right now I don’t see it as commercially very viable at all, look, less than 1% conversions means its making less than 1 penny in every £ of my client’s turnover. need i say more? i need to focus on the things that are contributing 20p, 30p 40 p in the £

    • Michelle

      Robert, if you think your measured 1% is all social media contributed to every £ turnover, I would think you probably are under-estimating the guests touchpoints on social in the real world. What about someone noticing a nice hotel pool image being shared by friends on facebook, or a video shared about some attraction which was right next to your client hotel? People use all kinds of signals to decide on a destination and hotel – and social as a tool has helped this enormously.

      Also, part of the problem is the attribution by your analytics – no tool has successfully shown the multiple channel’s contribution in a conversion. Though Google has taken some steps, it’s far from satisfactory.

      As RKC mentioned above, search is now increasingly using on social signals. So, your premise to client hotels that “social media does not matter” is not just incorrect , it’s also wrong advice given out!

  9. Michelle

    @carla, I really see no point connecting SEO with Reputation – both are eqaully important and have their own place for hotels. But I love the guide you linked for hotel reviews. Cheers!

    @robert imho, social media and search are tools to help hotels grow their business. It’s in how you use these tools that the results will vary for each hotel. I too don’t recommend so-called gurus and their high octane/high cost advise, BUT I know for sure that when close to half the planet is on to social media, my hotel has to be there as an option to connect with my current and future guests. And, I have to find a cost-effective way to balance the investment and revenue.

    But, the way you run down social media, it seems someone has really taken you for a royal social ride with either low returns or extremely high cost or most likely both.

    • Carla Caccavale

      Michelle, my point is that hotels (and others) put a big emphasis on SEO, but often pay little attention to online reputation management and let comments go unanswered, be it positive or negative. I think both are VERY important and I connected the two only to make that very point.

  10. Robert Gilmour

    Robert, with respect, I have to totally disagree with most of what you say. This is not the way Innfinite’s 226 hotel clients see it, or even ‘get it’ not at all. have a look at Innfinite’s hotel clients on http://www.innfinite.co.uk and tell me they’ere all wrong. And I don’t brainwash them.

    Hotels usually succeed because their destination is successful, or because they themselves are a successful destination product., managed by experts not by guests. All the micro management in the world is no substitute for this. Social media marketing and social search has still to make one successful destination or hotel. Review management is irrelevant to the 100% perfect business, and not at all important to the 90 %’s, that % level’s what I strive for with my clients for their particular product in their particular destination, not spending useless time telling them how to manage reviews. That’s known as firefighting. Customer relationship management is miles more important than reputation and review management. Why? (amongst other reasons), because the hotel is in control. And service quality excellence (in their segment) and excellent concierge is miles more important than e-CRM.

    So far in world plc, social media and social search hasn’t made a blind bit of difference, especially in travel. Someone needs to tell all these gurus the meaning of GDP, commercial survival and the ‘big picture’. Social media, no matter what way you look at it, is a cluster of micro relationships with little commercial relevance in travel.. (by the way i totally stand to be corrected on this, problem is I’ve yet to see the evidence)

    My job is to make hotels and the destinations they’re in more successful financially, make more money, for the hotels, the destinations and the investors. Social search/media doesn’t even get that fundamental commercial reality. Once social search really makes a commercial difference to a big travel product, not just at micro level (like a microblogger thinks he /she can somehow make an difference), the jury is miles out on it for me.

    My home country, Scotland, has just published the worst set of tourism results for a decade. What can social media and social search do about that. Nothing. We’re talking big issues, immediate issues. Social media can’t hack it.

    Our aggregate stats last year showed that less than 1% of our clients bookings came from social media, almost 90% of that from Facebook. What kind of commercialism is this, far less a rescue package to a struggling business? i’d be delighted to share these stars with you, but a thing called privacy stops me. Social media needs privacy like a hole in the head for any chance of commercial success, yet is daily creating the stories that make privacy a highly desirable position to take..

    I want you to convince me that i’m barking up the wrong tree, and why. This will potentially make a huge macro difference to the way i run my business. Surprising to’ it may seem, we are a listening business, and have been around since the first hotel went meaningful on the web here in the UK in 1995, so we have built up a lot of intelligence over that time, much of which still actually works, although/despite being poo-pooed by the current generation of geeks and techies, most of whom need a usability rain check, as will as an intro to financial management. I say that because i have some in my own company!

    I’d close by saying that the hotel industry is going nowhere until it regains more control of its own destiny.. I was in hotel general management before i changed tack, and all my contemporaries agree the fun has gone right out of the industry for the hotels, all the fun now is for, and indulged by the guests. (who seem to know better)) Very sad times.

    Hotels are of belittled, especially by micro bloggers, and in the main they utterly don’t deserve that. Remember, we’re not perfect.

    • Jeremy Head

      Brilliant comment… the only thing I would say is that Trip Advisor absolutely does impact decisions about booking hotels. Big time. And I’m using a data set of one – me.
      How a hotel decides to ‘manage’ TA is a complicated thing – but if I was doing one thing in the social/reputation field it would be responding to TA comments and using it as a research tool too. The number of times I’ve been asked ‘how was your stay’ and said ‘fine’ and then wished I had bitched about the dodgy matress or whatever but didn’t want to be a ‘complainer’.
      Forget Facebook and twitter maybe… I agree that compelling stats just aren’t there…

    • RobertKCole

      @Robert – If that’s how you show respect, I’d hate to see if you effing hated something…

      Based on your vitriolic response, in my ignorance, I can only bow in supplication to your omniscient authority on all areas related to hotel marketing, search and social.

      However, I’m afraid you’ve strayed far from the subject of my comment. My response was to your statement that SEO “really hasn’t changed that much” in 17 years. All I was doing was reporting that the Google search algorithm (as well as Bing/Yahoo) now consider semantic & social signals in their ranking calculations.

      Thank you for correcting me. You must be right that nothing has changed – that’s probably why Matt Cutts and the Google Webmaster support team create hundreds of videos and blog posts on the topic of algo changes and/or best practices. I haven’t watched them all, but I’m sure most review how the algorithm is stayed exactly the same…

      Plus I’m certain true search experts like SEOMoz’s Rand Fishkin & Search Engine Watch’s Danny Sullivan will also agree that their sites and businesses are based on a status quo environment..

      But since you digressed in to a variety of related areas, thought I’d reply since I have no experience in the hotel industry, marketing, technology or any other areas of your expertise:

      1) I have no idea why your client work with you. I am happy to know it is not because of brainwashing.

      2) I have seen hotels succeed in destinations that were struggling and have seen very well operated hotels fail because they were unable to properly express a value proposition to a large enough audience or adequately shift share to drive sufficient profit..

      3) True, hotels should be operated by expert hoteliers and not guests. Unfortunately, some are deluded by thinking they control the perception of their brand online and not the guest. Sorry – online, you only control owned and paid media. Earned & shared media is controlled by the consumer.

      4) I have never implied that social media and social search are primarily responsible for a hotel’s or destination’s success. I advise all my clients that if they have $1 available to fix a customer touchpoint in the operation or to spend on social media, that the money should go to the operation.

      The list I provided at the bottom of my post was actually prioritized for the travel groups I work with:

      a) Run a quality operation
      b) Clearly communicate your value proposition and make it easy for people to work with you
      c) Get found
      d) Set goals & monitor your performance – do more of what works and change what doesn’t
      e) Engage customers to understand their needs & be responsive to them – that helps with point a – it’s a cycle.

      But since you raised the point, I can however give you examples of single unit US restaurants that solely used social media to not only launch, but take dominant positions in their local market, and also gain national reputations.

      5) If review management is irrelevant, then the hoteliers I have spoken with in Australia, Hawaii, major US cities and the UK that are proclaiming that TripAdvisor Business listings are generating huge ROI (regardless of their complaints concerning the high cost) are freaking morons. As is Cornell Prof Chris Anderson who recently released a study confirming the positive correlation between review rankings and hotel profitability.

      6) By telling your clients not to pay attention to reviews, you are doing a tremendous services to the rest of the hotel industry by making it easier for them to attain higher rankings. I thank you on their behalf.

      7) Not sure where you got your definition of CRM – you may have divinely decreed it, but for most lowly minions like myself, reputation and review management are components of an effective strategy CRM since they deal directly with online customer engagement. It’s also excellent that you shot down the point that e-CRM was more important than quality service delivery – because nobody made that point. However, just because quality service delivery is more important than online CRM, it does not mean hotels should ignore it.

      8) You are absolutely correct – social media is a cluster of micro-relationships. You must be a fellow disciple of Avinash Kaushik who makes excellent points regarding the need to quantify and discern the economic value of micro-conversions to calculate the ROI derived from all forms of customer engagement – that’s excellent..

      Of course, if I may have misinterpreted your perspective and you do not believe micro-conversions are important, then I would suppose that you are vehemently opposed to all forms of hotel public relations or philanthropic activity since it does not directly result in immediate incremental booking volume.

      9) When last I checked, the cash that drives the financial success of the hotels, destinations and investors originates from the guests – If they are not the focal point, then the business is doomed to failure. Flawless service delivery, anticipating needs and exceeding customer expectations also rely heavily on one-to-one micro-relationships that are not directly related to generating booking, but help convert first time guests into returning guests and returning guests into repeat guests. Good quality SEO and social media work in much the same way, except in addition, they also help convert prospective guests into first time guests.

      10) Happy to hear about Scotland’s shitty tourism results. I can tell you that the best time to grow market share is during economic downturns, so there must be great opportunities for innovative hoteliers to make advances while others are busy crying in their whiskey. Note: As I was running marketing on the team that very successfully redeveloped St, Andrews Old Course Hotel in the early 1990’s, I know nothing whatsoever about the county or its tourism…

      11) I am not surprised in the slightest that your clients are performing poorly in social media. Tragic that you can’t share stats with me, but to fill the void, let me share some of my client’s stats with you…

      We relaunched a hotel-oriented niche travel site 4 months ago. With zero spend on paid search, zero spend on SEO consulting and zero incremental spend on social media (predominately SEO-savvy site architecture, navigation & content management) we have seen a YOY growth of 130% in Unique Visitors, a 218% increase in Pageviews and a 12% reduction in Bounce Rate. We now rank #1 for our primary target short-tail keywords and continue to climb up the 1st page for our mid & long tail target phrases as well. Our Visits via Social Referral are up 312%. Our competitors are not seeing comparable results.

      How did we do it? Let’s just say we did not achieve this by doing SEO the old way or ignoring social media.

      Since the original topic was SEO, I can also share some results from a small financial services client who is now listed on the first SERP for terms that are 5x as competitive as major hotel destinations (if you use Adwords CPC as a proxy.) Hotel’s don’t need to worry much about competitive black-hat SEO tactics, but for white-hot terms like terms like Credit Card Processing, Merchant Services & Mobile Credit Card Processing, one must contend with all sort of new challenges. And we did it 100% white hat. To accomplish our goals and drive ROI, we had to leverage shema.org semantic markup & social signals. It works 0 we outrank major banks and transaction processing groups related to sites that are in the Page Rank stratosphere.

      12) Please feel to bark up any trees you please – don’t let me stop you. I consider it an honor to be considered part of the current generation of geeks & techies – especially since I’m in my 50’s. Too bad I can’t remember way back into the mid 90’s – Wish I could ask the guy who was responsible for Sabre’s hotel business transacting $2.7 billion in annual hotel sales back then – he might have known something about launching Travelocity too – wonder what he’s doing now?

      For the record, on your point regarding usability, I knew another guy who worked with SideStep in the mid 00’s and their usability team who were largely schooled by Regis McKenna on user experience. I vaguely recall some mention of users providing the decision making for design decisions. But I don;t know why someone would want to do that – it doesn’t directly produce last click attribution for a booking, so it should probably be ignored, right?

      13) Very sad times for the industry because the guests are having all the fun? It must be horrible for you and your contemporaries who were at one time apparently hell bent on making guests less happy or feeling less indulged.

      Damn – I wish I could remember the name of the guy who ran Corporate Marketing Planning for Four Seasons Hotels in the late 1980’s. He could tell you so many great stories about that company transforming itself from a small Canadian hotel group into what is now perhaps the pre-eminent luxury hotel brand on the planet.

      He had great stories about their executive team being single-mindedly focused on the guest experience, which included brainstorming in an attempt to anticipate every need a guest might have, and figuring out how to seamlessly and unobtrusively deliver it. He could tell you how important exceeding guest expectations was to the success of that company (Hint: It still is today…) He also told stories of striving to hire the right people who were able to embody the spirit of hospitality. Who was that guy?

      In closing thank you for sharing your knowledge with someone who is merely a lowly disciple of the global hotel industry. One tip however – If you want to go old school, you should really go ancient old school…

      I clearly recall from my days at Cornell that Ellsworth Statler, the father of the modern hotel industry, a century ago laid down two core tenants of the hotel business:

      a) Life is Service, and

      b) The Guest is Always Right.

      Not much in the way of promising fun for the hoteliers. Plus it seemed that Statler felt the guests indeed did know better than the hoteliers.

      Statler also had one additional famous quote “There are three things that make a hotel famous: Location, location, location.” The only thing that has changed today however is that the first location is the physical location of the hotel, the second location is the hotel’s ability to be found online through search, and the third location is the place where all the hotel guests are hanging out – social networks.

      No hoteliers are not perfect, and most guests (or bloggers) I know don’t expect perfection. What they do expect, and deserve, is hospitality.

      My perspective is that those who profess to be hoteliers, but lament guests being indulged lack the spirit required to supply true hospitality – those are the ones that deserve to be belittled.

      Sarcastically and schizophrenically yours truly,


      • Robert Gilmour

        Robert, I invited you in my post to prove me wrong, and gosh you’ve certainly done that. That’s a fantastic read and i’m so glad that I kind of encouraged you to write it. I am a humble Scot, of course i have my own views,and yes some think i’m outspoken. I must emphasise tho’ that at no time did I say you were wrong, I just said I didn’t agree.

        You might be totally surprised to know that I have always listened to and learned from the achievers in the hotel industry, and i’m most grateful to hear all your views and thoughts, I found some of them fascinating, and clearly borne out of a career of high achievement. I am also 50+ and still have a hell of a lot to learn. But I do love healthy debate.

        • Carla Caccavale

          Love your attitude, approach and response, Robert! Agree on always having more to learn and share your love of healthy debate. Thanks for reading and commenting on my article!

      • Kevin May

        Kevin May

        @robert and @robert

        From now on, let’s all try and be civil and respectful of everyone’s comments, ok?

        Dipping into barbed sarcasm might often result in mild hilarity for some but can equally lead to disappointment and feeling like every point raised always warrants some kind of attack.

        that shouldn’t be the feeling readers have if they contribute to the comments section of Tnooz.

        • Carla

          Yay to Kevin for stepping in and saying this! We are all entitled to our opinions and should be adult enough to express them in a respectful way. Thanks for keeping this forum classy.

  11. RobertKCole

    I think a better and less confusing acronym would be RSO – Review Site Optimization, the task of gaining higher ranking on review sites, the same way SEO targets higher rankings on search sites.

    No argument that running a higher quality, more customer-centric operation is beneficial for conversion, especially in earned and shared media.

    However, since many hoteliers are struggling to keep up with the dramatically changing face of the search engine related version, I don’t think it’s quite yet time to replace the SEO acroynm with the new quality service delivery/customer engagement version.

    Hotels need to be more aware than ever of the impacts site design, navigation, content management and semantic markup have on search results. This is also compounded by SoLoMo, which is now factored into the mix through context-sensitive author relationships, location & event relationships, as well as responsive web design to address various user device form factors.

    Sorry @Robert, I have to disagree – SEO has changed changed massively over the past 17 years and that change continues. The integration of hotel product search into SERPS, first by Bing, then by Google creates a totally new dynamic. Semantic markup is helping search engines produce more relevant results – Google’s inclusion of Rich Snippets and its Knowledge Graph are excellent examples.

    Try searching for “Johnny Depp Movies” in Google. The Knowledge Graph tile on the right side of the page provides not only pertinent details about the actor, but also other individuals often associated with him. The Knowledge Carousel lists all of his movies across the top of the page. Each of those entries links to a new Google SERP with its own Knowledge Graph tile for that movie. If you click the “Edward Scissorhands” link, you may note that Google Shopping results are positioned above the Knowledge Graph tile.

    That’s not your parent’s old SERP… No, it’s not hotels, but the experiments in providing answers as opposed to prioritized links to other information sources will continue.

    For individual hotels, the only way to make it onto Google’s first page for a short-tail term like “New York Hotel” may be through the Google+ Local (formerly Places and earlier Maps) results – Plus, I just noticed that Google is currently playing around with reducing the number of hotels listed to five… Oddly, the first property listed has a “Poor” Zagat rating – I am sure that will change as the testing continues.

    The semantic impact of contextual relationships may be even more pronounced as Facebook’s Social Graph and new Graph Search create even more changes in social engines. TripAdvisor’s early Facebook integration smartly tells users what friends have reviewed a property and additionally highlights friend of friends relationships with reviews.

    So I agree, the two disciplines are strongly related, but for the hoteliers I know, they need to focus on creating:

    1) High value guest experiences – especially consistent service delivery
    2) Quality website design that clearly communicates relevant information about that high value experience across a variety of form factors
    3) Smart SEO to aid discovery through a variety of web/social/local search platforms
    4) Integrated metrics to measure performance across multiple online/offline channels
    5) Sensible reputation management to engage with guests and monitor competitive positioning

    SEO (the search engine variety) is not just about gaining search rankings, it is about improving relevance to reduce bounce rate, increase conversion, enhance engagement and grow sales. Not to negate the importance of ORM/RSO – user reviews are playing a more important role as review scores validate selections to increase click-through rates.(Zagat & TripAdvisor ratings are all over SERPS these days)

    Bottom line, hotels are confused enough. Like the message of focusing on service delivery, but let’s not replace the SEO acronym.

    • Jeremy Head

      I agree Robert. It’s confusing to take an acronym like SEO that we all understand and call it something else. It was only when I got most of the way through the post that I realised it’s not about SEO at all. For a big chunk of it I understood that the writer meant that you have to do different stuff to impact rankings positively – which is true.

      • Carla Caccavale

        Sorry if this created any confusion. The point was that hotels, and others, need to focus as much on what is being said about them online as they do SEO and how they impact search rankings. There is low hanging fruit being left on the tree with every response, be it positive or negative, that goes unanswered. Hotels that respond to guests enjoy positive word of mouth, more conversions and consumers’ trust.

  12. Robert Gilmour

    Most hotels are nowhere near as SEO focused/obsessed as you think.. Many of them have moved with the times, contrary to popular opinion!

    I’ve seen millions of definitions of hotel SEO over 17 years since we really were one of the first ever companies to do it/specialise in it for hotels, it really hasn’t changed that much you know, in all that time

    As for social search we don’t rate it for hotels at all, its all about commercial search and revenue growth in troubled times, for our clients

    • Carla Caccavale

      I come from a PR background and the hotel clients who I have dealt with, and still deal with, are very SEO focused. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just feel strongly in focusing just a much on online reputation, and responding to reviews, as SEO. Thanks for reading and responding. Carla

  13. Joe Buhler

    I like that new definition of SEO. It’s very timely. Actually both versions of it need to be practiced today. Social search is fast becoming a key component of successful web marketing.


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