While search engines are becoming increasingly more intelligent every day, they still don’t have the capacity to consume websites the way people do. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps search engines understand what web pages are about and how they may be of help to people.
SEO is like providing search engines with clues in the form of indexed links, keywords, and content to help them determine whether or not your property’s website will be useful to the travel shoppers who are searching for it.
Consider the following statistics:
- 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine
- 43% of travel buyers are accessing search in the middle of the buying cycle
- Internet travel booking revenue has grown by more than 73% over the past 5 years, and is only continuing to increase
We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 things you can start doing right now to make your property stand out in the pages of search results and start crushing your competition. (These tips are taken from our webinar, How To Rank on Page #1 in Google Search Results, you can watch the recording here.)
1. Upload quality content
Sometimes we forget that Google is a business. Its product is designed to return the most relevant and useful answers to the queries that people enter in its search bar. Like any business, Google wants to maintain the highest quality product for its clients, which starts with asking you for keywords, links and content.
The goal for your property is to have a website that is constructed with content that is relevant to the questions that Google is being asked. Appearing in Google search results isn’t hocus pocus; the key is to construct a website that effectively tells your property’s story. After that, you’ll just have to tell Google to do the rest.
If there isn’t enough quality content on your website, there won’t be anything to index. Make sure you fill your web pages with your property’s unique story – which includes photos, videos and special offers – so that Google will have something to recommend to people when they search for those things.
Think of it as providing content to Google so that it can match your property with the travel shoppers that are searching for you.
2. Focus on accessibility and usability
In terms of Google search results, accessibility is not unlike a librarian finding a book, understanding the topic and putting it on the right shelf in the library so that when asked, he or she can direct people to the exact spot where they can find it.
Accessibility refers to how easy it is for bots to find your website and index it. This can be done a number of ways, but indexing your hotel name and keywords and having a mobile-friendly website is a good start.
Usability refers to how useful your content is to the person who is searching. To be relevant to search engines, you must first be relevant to the travel shoppers who are browsing your site. Google tracks how travel shoppers respond to your website and makes note of whether or not they are responding to your content. This gives it an idea of whether or not your content would be useful to other people who search for the same keywords in the future.
To evaluate your property website’s usability, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have enough content on my website for travel shoppers to thoroughly research my property?
- Do I use vocabulary that is typically used by travel shoppers?
- Is my content easy to find, or do people have to dig through pages of irrelevant content and broken links?
- Are my pages formatted in a logical way?
One simple rule of thumb is to think like the customer. You know your property and your guests more than anyone, so you’re in the best position to deliver the right information that not only makes customers click that ‘Book Now’ button, but also to draw new eyes to your property’s most profitable marketing channel.
3. Optimize content for in-destination mobile searches
Mobile queries per user originating from a hotel have grown by 49% since 2014. This means that now more than ever, shoppers are using Google to search for more information about your property while they’re staying there.
Today’s travelers are more inclined to turn to Google for a quick search rather than calling your front desk with a question. Ensure that your property is anticipating these questions and providing answers for guests’ queries, even if they’re not asking you directly anymore.
Consider that mobile in-destination searches are typically more purposeful. Guests may be looking for a map, directions, or a phone number, so ensure that this information is available and easily accessible.
The same goes for your restaurant, spa, and onsite retail – make sure this information is available not just to draw bookings, but to satisfy your guests during their stay.
4. Google My Business listings are a must
Your Google My Business listing is likely one of the first places people will look for information about your property, so make sure it’s complete and accurate.
Aside from verifying that your property’s name, address, and contact information is updated, you’ll also want to list your website so that Google can pull more information from it that’s specific to search queries. That said, Google also may pull information from third-party sites that mention you, so you’ll want to ensure that your property is represented correctly and consistently on third-party travel channels and other listings.
5. Recognize the value of positive reviews
Positive reviews of your property online will also have an impact on your rank in search results. Like we said, Google wants to return quality results to all queries, so it’s a bonus if those results have a proven positive rating attached.
There are a number of seedy suggestions online to help you generate reviews, but the simplest way is to just ask. If guests genuinely had a great experience while staying with you, they’ll want to tell other people. Most people know how important reviews are – in fact, there’s a good chance a review or recommendation is what inspired them to book with you in the first place.
If someone is unfamiliar with your area and they do a Google search for nearby hotels, they’ll likely book with the property that has been positively reviewed by other guests.
6. Pay attention to your “Social Signal”
Social signals are the likes, shares, views, clicks, and pins on social media sites that send “signals” to search engines. If you receive a lot of engagement on your property’s social channels, this sends out a signal to both the social network and Google that your hotel is relevant and engaging to travelers. This is yet another way for Google to gauge customer feedback to deliver the best results.
To boost your property’s social signal, focus on not only updating your social media sites, but also driving engagement on them. To generate more buzz around your social posts, try out these tips:
- Use images. Travel shoppers aren’t just looking for visually-driven content on your website; they expect the same beautiful visuals on your social media pages
- Ask questions. This is especially true in the realm of social media: if you ask for people’s opinions about things that matter to them, they’re going to give them to you. Try to keep it positive and light while still engaging. What would you caption this photo of our pool on a sunny day? What’s your favourite thing you did in Toronto when you stayed with us? Plus, what better way to find out what your guests like and don’t like than asking them?
- Link people back to your website. Incorporate links in your posts that refer people back to your website. Your ultimate goal is to drive bookings, so make sure you’re leading people back to your cash register as much as possible
- Promote your special offers. Remind people about your Valentine’s Day weekend deal or about your hotel’s free breakfast. Firstly, people like a good deal. And secondly, this could encourage last minute bookings from people that wouldn’t otherwise be browsing your site
7. Verify your website in the Google Search Console
Verifying your website with Google is free and gives you access to analytical information that will help improve your hotel SEO. Using Search Console allows you to make sure that Google can access your content, submit new content that you want to show in search results (and omit content you don’t want to show), discover which queries cause your site to appear in results, what keywords draw traffic to your site, which sites are linking to your website, and a number of other resources.
Even if the idea of monitoring your website analytics intimidates you, it’s a good idea to learn all you can about how your website is performing so you can make informed decisions about what content you’re putting out for travel shoppers worldwide to access.
8. Have a mobile-optimized site
If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website yet, it is crucial that it gets optimized. Starting this past year, Google began to favor mobile-friendly websites in search results. Because there are now more searches that come from mobile devices than desktop computers, it only makes sense to ensure that its results are accessible to the largest searching demographic.
You can either use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to see if it recognizes your website as mobile-friendly, or you can optimize your website with the digital management system you use to manage your website.
Either way, if you want to rank higher in results, making sure that mobile travel shoppers can reach your content just as easily as those browsing on their desktops is a must.
9. It all starts with a website that is easy to build and update
Google changes its search algorithm 500 to 600 times a year, and you must make sure that your website is adapting to these changes to maintain its visibility in search results. Whether you have a web developer who is available to make these updates manually, or you subscribe to a digital management system that automatically makes these updates for you, it’s crucial that your website solution allows for regular updating.
In addition to backend structural changes, make sure that you have the ability to add new photos or content when you need to, update your special offers, or make minor adjustments when necessary.
10. Build the customer relationship
This sounds like a no-brainer, but making your customers happy is the key to success in every area of your hotel’s marketing.
Continuing the conversation with customers from in-destination onwards can lead to a number of online engagements that contribute to your SEO – from guests giving you a positive post-visit Google review, posting photos of their stay at your property, tweeting to their friends and colleagues about what a great experience they had, having them like your property’s Facebook page, and more.
Having a happy customer advocate for your property online is the easiest and most valuable way to gain credibility. It starts with delivering a positive experience, then it’s your job to foster this customer connection and have it translate into the online realm.
Interested in learning more hotel SEO tips? Download our Beginner’s Guide to SEO and you’ll be one step closer to being an SEO pro.