With an average of 3 billion web queries every day, Internet search is critical to gaining an edge over your competition; it also puts pressure on you to optimize your website, its content and your online presence and activity to make your website more discoverable by search engines.
Search engine optimization (SEO) has become standard practice for marketers in every industry as a way to be found in search to attract qualified traffic and leads and the hospitality industry is no different. Optimizing your hotel website with proper SEO can ensure travel shoppers reach your website when they’re searching for their next trip.
When it comes to SEO, there are certain basics that every hotel website needs to have to get ahead of the competition.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the set of best practices (both marketing and technical) that aim to improve the natural or organic search engine rankings of a given website.
The accessibility of a destination page or website defines the ease with which a search engine can index it. Relevance and user experience of the destination determine how well the page aligns with the searcher’s expectations. After all, a poor user experience or irrelevant content will make a user doubt the veracity of the results that a search engine serves up.
Over time, this will erode the confidence of a user in the search engine. This scenario represents a potential death sentence to the search engine business model, which is based on repeated usage.
Search Engine Rankings
For hotel websites, you ideally want to be ranking for terms that can help bring you business – “best hotels in New Jersey” for example. By ranking higher for terms that travelers are searching for, you can increase the likelihood that travelers will click on your website versus a competitor’s. Generally, the higher ranked a website is on a search engine’s results page (SERP), the more visitors it will receive. Successful SEO comes down to having the essential SEO elements in place, including having good content on your website that people actually want to see. (For more of an in-depth recap of what SEO is, check out our SEO guide right here).
SEO Dictionary for Hotels
There are lots of common words thrown around the industry; here are some of the basics that you need to understand for your hotel website.
The #1 rule for on-page SEO is to consider what keywords your target audience might be using to search for and ensure those same keywords are present on the page.
Keywords: Keyword research is still the foundation of all on-site SEO. Do not create multiple pages about the same exact thing in order to optimize for different keywords. Rather, have a single, well-written, citation-worthy topic page and optimize them for multiple keywords.
Content Quality: Having unique and quality content (relevant content, which is different from the content on other sites in terms of wording and topics) is a real boost for your site’s online presence. It’s better to have longer, meaningful pieces, 450+ words, and creating a great list, matching features with benefits.
Header Tags: Header tags differentiate the heading of a page from the rest of the content on that page. The most important header tags for SEO are the H1 and H2 tags. Search engines use these tags to determine if the header tag is relevant to the content on the page, if there is a keyword consistency with the header tag and keywords on the page and this enhances the user experience by clearly telling your audience what’s on this page.
Page Titles: These are the titles that appear in a browser’s tab – a brief description of what travelers can expect to find on that page. The <title> tag shows in search results as your page title – it should be 65 characters or less.
Meta Description: Though this isn’t a factor itself in ranking, it does show up within the search engine results pages underneath your page title and a well-written meta description can affect the number of people who click on your website in search results. It should have a clear call-to-action and be less than 145 characters.
Internal Linking: These are keywords that are linked from one page to another page within your website. Internal links helps users navigate throughout your site, increasing the time people spend on your website, as well as helps establish importance to search engines by the number and quality of links to a given page.
Image tags: Although search engines can’t read images, they can read the textual descriptions through the image file name and <alt> tag. You should include keywords in the tags that describe what the image is.
Off-page SEO probably accounts for 75% of the work. It’s all about building your website’s online authority through inbound signals. Off-page SEO is the quality and relevance of links to your website, which will establish your SEO authority and ultimately influence your search ranking results.
Link building: Links that are coming from external websites is the #1 way that search engines can evaluate and rank your website. You only want quality, trustworthy sites linking to your website
Social media: Social search is a significant factor in a website’s ability to rank. Content that has a social connection to a user, meaning someone you are linked to via Facebook, Twitter, or any major social network, is prioritized within their SERP listing.
This is a big subject, but there are simple basics we should all know and understand to drive traffic to your hotel website and improve conversions. There’s a lot more to learn! Download our SEO guide right here to get a jump start on improving your search engine rankings.