In an online market where 58% of leisure travelers start their travel shopping journey with a Google search, we know what questions are (or should be) on your mind. How will travelers find my website? How do I rank higher in Google search results? What is my ranking based on?
An SEO’s work thrives or barely survives on the slightest twitch made by the king of search engines. So what is Google looking for and how is it ranking your property?
The truth is, the gurus at Google don’t sit around all day thinking about the next way they can mess you up. Google has a good thing going on, and they want to keep it that way. Their product is search engine results and, like any business, they want to maintain the highest product quality. If Google’s users detect any deterioration in the quality of search results, the shift to another search engine will be swift and difficult to reverse.
So everything that Google asks of you, from keywords to quality links, helps to improve their product. But there’s one area where Google hasn’t been clear about its effect on rankings.
How do travel shoppers impact my rank in search results?
If Google has been somewhat hazy about how user behavior influences search results, it’s because user behavior is a bit of hazy thing to measure. From the fact that a higher-ranking page tends to get higher click-through rates, to not knowing exactly why a user spent so long on a page (did they take a phone call?), user behavior is difficult to quantify.
Just like we have hotel marketing trends, Google has search trends. By tracking how users interact with a site, certain trends emerge and there is no question that Google uses that data to help determine page rankings and, perhaps more significantly, a site’s quality score. If you have a few poorly-performing pages on your site, Google may let that influence the rankings of other pages on the site, or even the rankings for the whole site. Similarly, pages with above-average performance may pull up other pages or your entire site.
There are a number of metrics related to user experience in Google Analytics. You should pay particular attention to the following:
1. Click-Through-Rate (CTR)
As we mentioned, CTR is strongly influenced by the position of a search result on the page. To offset that, Google determines CTR ranges that they expect a page to fall into. For example, the top organic search result is expected to get a CTR of 33%, the second position should get around 15%, and 10% for third place. If your page falls significantly outside those ranges, Google might reward or punish your page accordingly.
Tips to Improve CTR:
- Focus on poorly performing pages. Working on creating a top performing website will boost results and improve your site’s quality score
- Optimize your page titles and meta descriptions for keywords and use the “benefit/trigger” formula for the copy to encourage clicks
- Keep URLs simple and readable
2. Bounce Rate
Google interprets repeated instances of users landing on your page and bouncing back to the results page (without visiting any other pages on your site) as a sign of poor page quality.
Tips to Reduce Bounce Rate:
- Improve your page’s loading time. According to Kissmetrics, 47% of consumers expect a page to load in two seconds or less. If your landing page loads slowly, they’re not likely to try any other pages.
- Remove distractions like extraneous links, third-party ads and pop-ups
- Develop conversion funnels aimed at different stages of your visitor’s buyer/learning cycle
Source – Web Performance Today
At the other end of the spectrum from a quick bounce rate, a longer time-on-page tells Google there must be something there that users like. And if searchers like a page, Google gives it a boost.
Tips to Increase Time-On-Page:
- Develop a purpose-built landing page for your more important pages
- Optimize content to work in concert with the search result on which the user clicked and to carry that momentum through to a call-to-action
- Check for and repair broken links on the page and throughout your site
If there is one guiding principle to keep in mind when trying to improve user behavior results, it’s to think like the customer. One way to do that is to pay attention to how you react to the websites you encounter as you search and surf the web. After all, you’re a customer too.
Check out our free Beginner’s Guide to SEO for more tips and SEO best practices for your hotel website.