It’s a hard-fought battle against the OTAs. You probably feel there’s no way you can possibly compete for high Google rankings while they’re still around.
The OTAs have enormous digital marketing budgets. A single OTA can spend billions a year in fact. But as a consequence, you’re rapidly seeing your website disappear from the rankings altogether.
You’ve lost hope, and accepted the fact you must pay between 10–25% in commission fees for more than half of your bookings.
They’re dominating the searches at your expense.
Sounds desperately sad doesn’t it?
But don’t give up just yet. There is light at the end of this gloomy and tentative tunnel.
With a few strategic tweaks, you can gain higher rankings for specific searches and secure those direct bookings.
And here’s a handful to get your mind whirring…
Optimise for location based research
When a person searches for a break away, they generally perform two key behaviours before they book. These are:
During the location research phase, a guest will search for a location to verify if it’s where they’d like to stay. They then narrow it down to a specific area after reading articles, reviews and guides.
After pinpointing the area, a guest will move on to find a suitable hotel — most likely typing in: ‘hotels in (your area)’.
The problem here is, the OTAs dominate these kind of searches.
A search like this will churn out top results from Booking.com, Lastminute, Expedia, TripAdvisor and more. If you’re very lucky, you’ll appear at the bottom of page 1 — but that’s not likely.
To avoid being totally bamboozled, you need to capture your guest at the location research stage. You do this by creating content your audience needs, which is most effective in the form of a blog.
When you provide content that addresses questions about your area, you’ll direct more targeted traffic to your website.
For example, a guest may feel it’s important to have access to restaurants, nature walks, a museum, or a specific event.
Now, if you create topics like: ‘5 highly rated Italian restaurants in (your area)’, or ‘The 7 best walking routes in (your area)’, you draw in traffic from people using closely matched location-based searches.
You should know your area inside out and write content about locations that matter to your guests. This comes from being highly aware of both your ideal guest and your location.
You want to keep them on your website and entice them to explore further than the article, so include call to actions at the bottom of every post. Direct them to other articles or include a special offer.
Target specific hotel amenity keywords
You know your hotel better than anyone. Which means you know all the specific features that will be seen as a unique benefit. For example, room service, a king-sized bed, a cooked breakfast, or a jacuzzi bath.
These benefits are search terms people use to find a hotel. Therefore, you need to include as many room details as you can. Include the key phrases in your room descriptions and meta information so the search engines know about these extras.
Add the search terms to your headings, sub heads, image alt tags and through the body content.
That means when someone searches for: ‘hotels in (your area) with a balcony’, or ‘hotels with a spa bathroom in (your area)’, Google knows your site is the most relevant result to that search query. Thus, giving you a higher spot in the search engines.
Being highly specific with your keywords is the key to outranking the OTAs.
Target special packages keywords
People also book hotels for specific occasions. We all like to save the pennies and find it hard to resist a good deal. Guests actively browse Google for money-saving packages relating to an occasion, therefore this is a great way to optimise for search.
So if a guest is attending a wedding, going on honeymoon, attending a stag party or a business conference, they may search for ‘Hotel wedding packages in (your area)’, or ‘Stag party hotel packages in (your area)’.
You can see where I’m going with this.
Just like the examples above, you need to create specific content pages using special package keywords. Then when people search using these terms, Google will present your website as the most relevant result — above the OTAs.
Save these package deals exclusively for your website, this will give you a greater chance of ranking high in the search engines.
The above suggestions are specific SEO tips hotels can use to outrank the OTAs, but there are a few standard SEO practices that every business should implement to get a foot forward.
Today, people increasingly rely on their mobiles to surf the web, and to cater for this behaviour, Google released its mobile-friendly algorithm in response.
This new feature gives mobile-friendly sites a ranking boost. So not only is having a mobile site great for being found, it also gives your guests a better browsing experience and leads to higher conversion rates.
A responsive website is an absolute must.
The time it takes for each page to load also plays an important role in SEO. According to Kissmetrics, 40% of people abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
And if people are leaving your website after a couple of seconds, Google assumes you’re delivering a bad experience to its users. Google hates this. They only want to present the best results to their browsers. The algorithm will pick this up and put you right down in the rankings, so invest in making your website fast.
Fresh, engaging content
Google likes regularly updated websites. If it’s stale, Google may think your site is abandoned and will bury you in the search listings. Google also likes to see you’re offering content it’s users enjoy and share.
If people leave comments and share your content, the algorithm will notice you’re an authority and will rank you higher.
Keep it fresh. Add regular, quality blog content, special offers and recent reviews and you’ll keep the search engines happy.
Optimise social channels
Although there has been some contention about social shares and whether they affect rankings, your actual social profiles do rank, so it’s important to optimise these. In fact, social profiles are often the top ranked results when you search for a brand name, so they do matter for SEO.
Be sure to complete all your about information, include your keywords, and a link back to your website.
And while Google+ may be dead in terms of social networking, it’s invaluable for your search rankings, so be sure to create a presence here and update with posts and links back to your content.