Most hoteliers would list search engine optimisation as one of the most complex tasks they undertake – and one of the most difficult to master.
When Google is changing its algorithms literally hundreds of times per year, no one can ever know the exact science of how the search giant ranks pages. While it may be near impossible to keep up with this, it’s still extremely important to understand how to give yourself the best chance on search engine rankings.
Without paying particular attention to your SEO the chances of driving strong traffic to your hotel website, and by extension your booking engine, are slim at best.
Websites that appear on the first page of a Google search result get 92% of all traffic.
To give hoteliers the latest on SEO trends and how to implement effective strategies, SiteMinder’s Dean Elphick sought the expertise of Lisa Baade, founder at geoLocal SEO.
Lisa has extensive experience in SEO for the hotel and accommodation industry, having worked with some of the world’s largest brands including IHG, Crowne Plaza Hotel Group, and The Star.
Here she gives a wholesome and in-depth masterclass on everything hoteliers need to know to bring their SEO up-to-scratch.
Things are always changing in the world of search. It’s this evolution that makes it hard to stay on top but it also affords hotels constant opportunities to improve the amount of traffic they receive. According to Lisa Baade, Google Hotel Finder has had a big impact on the search results landscape.
“The majority of this data is being pulled in from your Google My Business listing for the property and supplemented with pricing information from Google Partners.”
With this in mind, keeping your listing up-to-date and verified is crucial. Consider the following four tips
1. Log in and check your hotel listing every month
This will allow you to maintain full control over any updates. “It’s a great sign to Google that you are actively managing your listing,” says Lisa.
2. Use your Google My Business account to upload high quality images
You should also consider investing in a certified photographer to implement a 360 degree tour of your property. This will show next to your listing as ‘See Inside’.
3. Control your snippet
Now that Google My Business has removed the ability to create your own hotel description, it relies on snippets from OTAs and online reviews. Lisa insists it’s crucial to stay on top of this.
“You can improve the chance of having an accurate snippet by using your Google+ profile to add a description and tag line and by making sure your meta description on the website is informative.”
4. Encourage five-star reviews
Even a three-star hotel can achieve five-star reviews and vice versa so it’s a very important aspect to amplifying your SEO, says Lisa.
“The clickthrough rate is highly influenced by the star rating. Respond to all your reviews including your hotel name and city to add some SEO power to your reviews. If you are unfortunate enough to have a negative review, respond to these politely and let guests know what you have done to rectify the problem.”
Where should hoteliers start when optimising their SEO?
With so many elements involved in SEO, many hoteliers are overwhelmed and confused about what their first step should be. Lisa suggests even simple steps can make a big difference, especially when implementing keywords.
“Keywords are at the centre of everything search, so these are a critical part of your SEO strategy. The best thing to do is put yourself in your guests’ shoes and ask what would they be typing into Google?”
A good start is to compile a list of top 10 keywords and start analysing the volume of traffic they attract before using them on your website, advises Lisa.
“Work on the principle of one keyword per page and then allocate the remaining keywords to their appropriate pages accordingly. Choose the primary keyword to be used on the home page, usually this is the keyword with the highest search volume,” she says.
She adds the following questions to ask yourself for keyword placement:
Is the keyword in the URL?
Is it in the title and description of the page?
Is it in the page headings?
Is it in the text/content block?
Is it in the image filenames and alt tags?
What impact does content have on search rankings for hotels?
It’s important to note that meta-tags and descriptions are still very much relevant for hotels, as is all content but it’s your homepage that deserves the most attention. Lisa states this is sometimes where hoteliers make mistakes.
“Many hotel sites are very thin on homepage content believing that an image speaks 1,000 words, however the average time spent on the home page is 1.5 minutes. Guests do actually want to stay on the page to read about what they can expect from the experience of staying at your hotel.
“Your website should also have a detailed section on the room types. Do not leave it up to your hotel booking engine to do this work for you. Many hoteliers think that this information is provided in the booking engine but without it, many visitors to your site won’t have a reason to click through to the booking engine.
“Finally, if your website has a blog it provides a fantastic opportunity to be creative with a content strategy. Always write the content for the end user then apply the SEO after you have finished,” suggests Lisa.
How should hotels be using links to improve their SEO ranking?
In general terms the more links you have, the more popular your site will be with search engines.
“If you consider a link to your site to be similar to a Facebook ‘like’ then this is how Google treats links,” says Lisa.
“Obtaining links in the hotel space is relatively easy compared to most other industries because there are so many online travel directories, OTAs, meta comparison sites that all want to display your information. Sign up to each and every one of them to get as many links to your site as possible.”
You should also deep link if you have the opportunity, linking to your site pages using your keywords.
Should hotels be working hard on their social promotion?
The short answer is yes and it’s likely hotels are already putting a lot of focus on social media marketing.
On the SEO side of things, Lisa has a few essential tips saying, “…you don’t need to go out and spend a fortune on getting likes or boosting posts.”
“Aim to have a well-written optimised article or blog post published on your site, shared by the hotel on their social media, and then liked and shared by your customers. This is ideally how social media plays a role in SEO.”
What website characteristics are most important for hotels to rank on search engines?
According to Lisa, this is where things get really serious.
“The technical infrastructure of your website is by far the most important website characteristic that will influence your SEO. In layman’s terms, your website content management system (CMS) will determine how SEO-friendly your site is,” she says.
“You should really consider the negative impact a sub-par website builder will have on search engine ranking performance. Saving money upfront could end up costing you a lot more in lost revenue in the long term.”
With a smart website builder such as SiteMinder’s Canvas, your hotel can establish an affordable and evergreen solution to your website optimisation, freeing up a lot of your time for other tasks.
What are the most important things to remember when hoteliers are managing their SEO strategy?
It doesn’t matter what size your hotel is or how big the budget it, SEO will always be important. This means, it will also always be important to measure the results of your strategy, says Lisa.
“Google Analytics provides excellent information about where your traffic is coming from, how many people are visiting your site from a mobile device, and which traffic sources have the highest conversion rate.”
Another major point to remember is that for the most part, your job is never done with SEO as Lisa states:
“It’s not something that you can just sit down and do for a few hours and then it is done. You need to be performing search engine optimisation activities on your website every week (if not every day) for measurable results. Publishing new content and obtaining new links need to be done on a consistent basis for your campaign to have any significant results.”
Outsourcing your SEO activities may prove necessary at times and if that is the avenue you take, you can be sure it’s being executed properly. Experts like Lisa with businesses designed specifically to focus on SEO are perfect contacts to approach.