This webinar is the first in a series that aims to pierce through the veil of SEO and get down to brass tacks–what’s important, what isn’t and exactly how much you should worry about it.
This webinar aired on Thursday, April 26th at 10:00 AM. Watch the video recording and flip through the slideshow presentation below.
- How to Avoid SEO Over-Optimization for Your Property
- 6 Changes Every SEO Should Make BEFORE the Over-Optimization Penalty Hits
- SEO is 8u115h1t
- The SEO of Multi-Channel Publishing
- buuteeq & SEO: What We Do to Optimize Your Site
Have a question? Contact us!
Hotel SEO – Piercing the Veil Video
Hotel SEO – Piercing the Veil Slideshow Presentation
Hotel SEO – Piercing the Veil Webinar Transcript
Brandon: Hi there, ladies and gentlemen. This is buuteeq‘s webinar on SEO: Piercing the Veil. Exactly how much should you worry about SEO? I’m Brandon. I’m the Marketing Manager here at buuteeq and I’m accompanied by Lisa.
Lisa: Hi, everyone.
Brandon: Lisa, you recently changed tags a little bit here at buuteeq and now you’re working in product. Right?
Lisa: Yes, I am.
Brandon: Since we have a whole bunch of avid, wonderful fans here in the chat, do you have any secrets that you can tell us about, upcoming things that are not too hush-hush?
Lisa: You can look forward to, basically, a whole new redesign of the way our system is looking, as far as the global websites are concerned.
Brandon: Well, that sounds exciting.
Lisa: Yeah, it’s going to be a big change, but for the better. It’ll be beautiful. Everything we always put out is innovative and beautiful.
Brandon: Well, I am excited about that. I’m sure we’ll be producing a lot of content to talk all about it. For right now, we have got a webinar to do. So what I wanted to do is share with you guys, some of our thoughts as a company on hotel SEO.
Now, I’m sending out newsletters and webinar invitations often with my email address and so I get a lot of direct responses to my email, and questions from concerned innkeepers about any topic of the day. The majority of questions I get are almost always about SEO. What I’d like to do is alleviate some of the concerns, misconceptions or legitimate questions that are answered on a frequent basis.
The first thing I want to emphasize is that SEO, because it’s sort of a mysterious, mystical, sort of foggy field where there’s a lot of talk about it, but people who don’t work in it everyday don’t know a whole lot about. Because of that, it’s a ripe environment for people being hoodwinked. I would encourage everybody here to not get hoodwinked.
We at the office use the acronym FUD a lot, for fear, uncertainty and doubt. What happens is, we have run into a number of hotel SEO agencies who try to scare and intimidate people into purchasing their services with the looming weight of Google penalty hanging over their head. In fact, we, as a company, are constantly being solicited by agencies in Australia, in India, in China, who tell us that they can help us with our SEO. That they can fix our Google ranking. They can give us the top spot on Google. We should all be wise and savvy consumers and see this for what it is. What it is, is it’s a scam. People cannot promise us a number one spot on Google because they are not Google. Only Google owns Google. Google controls what appears on Google. The more we learn how Google works, the easier it’s going to be for us to create content that can be consumed better by Google. So, number one, don’t be afraid and don’t get hoodwinked.
Recently, Matt Cutts, who is a spokesperson for Google released some interesting information. This is a picture of Matt over on the right. He was at South By Southwest and he started talking about an over-optimization penalty. Now, the idea behind an over-optimization penalty is that, instead of creating wonderful, new, beautiful content that’s designed for people to read, because people have been hiring hotel SEO agencies, instead, they have been creating content suitable for robots, and not for humans.
This could include having a certain percentage of keyword density, or fiddling with all the tags on your website, and doing all sorts of minutia that produces web pages that are a little hard to read and that are “over-optimized.” Now, Google has already rolled out an over-optimization penalty and they’re going to continue to be rolling out over-optimization penalties over the next few months.
I’ve talked with a number of innkeepers who have been concerned because their hotel has dropped three or four places in the Google SERPs, or the search engine ranking pages. They want to know why. They haven’t changed anything. They still have the same number of backlinks. Why did they lose those positions? My gut instinct is because they’ve contracted agencies in the past who have guided them with information that has led to an over-optimization penalty.
So the key takeaway from this is that, yes, being optimized for search is good, but tweaking with a whole bunch of things can be dangerous, and this is one of the reasons why. SEO is not about constant tweaks. This is one of the things that I am constantly hearing. People will email and say, ‘Okay. Do I need to use this font? Do I have to have this font size? Do I need to have keyword every five words in a paragraph? How many paragraphs should I have? Should I have a paragraph that’s 1,000 words?’ A lot of really minute details. The number one thing about SEO is backlinks.
Yes, having good quality content is incredibly important. It’s one of the most important things to have, but sitting down and tweaking that content and making minute hotel SEO changes to the content is not going to significantly help your SEO. One of the only major things that you can do that is going to significantly help your SEO is to be generating backlinks back to your hotel in an honest and organic way.
Now, a backlink is a link to your website found anywhere else in the world. So, if a reporter from a local blog stays at your hotel, they write up a nice review of your hotel and include a link from their website to your website, that’s a backlink. Google takes a look at backlinks as one of the primary ways to gauge the popularity of your website. If you have a beautifully hotel SEO optimized website but no backlinks, you will not get found. If you have mediocre on-page SEO and you haven’t done everything 100% right, but you’ve got great backlinks, you’re going to do very well. That’s just the nature of the SEO beast.
Since we’ve gone over the fact that all of the little time consuming things that we try to do to our website don’t really help us a lot, the question comes up what can we do to really help our search rankings? I’ve broken it down to three major things. One, choose a well-built content management system, or digital marketing system, two, create amazing web content and three, gain backlinks.
All other efforts are usually wasted time and money. They’re not going to help you in any significant way. Having an H1 tag on your homepage is great, however, it’s not going to give you a number one listing on Google. Making wonderful content will help more than having a perfect H1 tag, for example.
Let’s go over the first one. Choose a well-built content management system. What are the hallmarks of a good content management system? Good ones are built to be optimized for hotel SEO out of the box. I like to use this analogy, are you going to buy a boat and then pay more money for buoyancy? No, obviously not. You expect the boat to float when you buy it, that’s part of having a boat. Similarly, are you going to buy a website and then pay more for it to be discovered. No. The point of a website is for people to see it and to find it. Naturally, having a website means that it should be indexed by Google, it should be discoverable by search engines, and people are going to find it.
By the way, if you have any questions as I go on with this presentation, feel free to write a question in the question box. We’ll be sure to answer them as we go on. So, feel free to ask questions.
Now a well-built CMS or DMS is going to be optimized out of the box. One of the myths that I constantly hear time and time again is that my website needs special SEO attention or I’ve got a hotel that has specific Internet needs and I need to have custom tweaks done to my website on a daily basis. Thankfully, that’s not always correct. In fact, nine times out of ten our websites, our hotel websites, our hotel websites, B&B websites, have the exact same technological needs as any other website. Why? Because Google uses the exact same robots to scan all websites on the Internet, period. They look for many of the same things. They look for many of the same hallmarks. They consume information the same way.
There is no innkeeper infrastructure that’s different from a cologne website where people go to buy cologne, that they’re looking for different things in order to rank well. The structure of the website is identical between those properties. You can find a digital marketing system like buuteeq, or a CMS like WordPress or Drupal or Joomla that are built from the beginning to be optimized for search. That is an important thing to do.
What to look for in a CMS or DMS, and I’ll go over each of these steps in a little bit more detail. Number one, it’s got to have good information architecture. Two, correct markup language. Three, multi-language support. Four, multi-channel support. Five, stable IT. I’m going to explain these briefly so that we’re not confused here.
What I mean by information architecture is that information architecture is the way that websites are naturally consumed by people and robots. If you throw all of your major pages into an unordered, unorganized database, or onto your server, obviously that’s going to be really messy. It’s going to be hard for people to read your webpage and to see your images and read your content.
They’re not going to know where to go. They’re going to have a hard time finding the back button. They don’t know which page is a top level page or which page is a sub-folder. It’s going to be hard and confusing for them to browse your website. Similarly, it’s hard for robots to browse your website unless it has good information architecture.
Thankfully, the majority of content management systems and DMSs out there have fantastic information architecture. WordPress has an option to have pretty permalinks, as it calls it, so that all of your sub-pages are organized in a very logical format. Of course, buuteeq organizes our information architecture specifically for the hospitality industry.
Next is correct markup. This is simply getting the code right. People spend years in college learning markup languages, learning how to code websites and what’s really important is just to make sure that you’re doing it right. Often times, you’ll get people who don’t understand how to code websites. I’m a marketing guy, I’m not a developer, so I fall into that category. I’m okay at HTML, but I’m certainly not perfect. Instead of making websites myself, I’m going to leave that to the development team who are far better at it than I. So making sure that the people that you find to work on your content management system or DMS, making sure that they have been trained appropriately and that they’re actually using correct language is really important.
It’s akin to finding someone to write a promotional piece about your hotel and discovering that they’ve got third grade English skills. Finding someone who has college level English skills, or in this case programming language skills, is very important. Then, multi-language content. This is something that not all CMSs or DMSs do, but it is something that buuteeq does and that a number of CMSs are leaning towards. That’s providing content in multiple languages, giving people the ability right out of the box to publish their on-page content in a number of languages.
The usefulness of this becomes immediately apparent, especially if you’re an inn, a bed and breakfast, or a hotel, because you often have travelers from all over the globe coming to stay at your hotel. It’s easier for them to find you if you’re producing content in their language. Many nations have their own search engine, for example Google is not the primary search engine inChina. There’s one inRussia, I think the Russian one is called Yandex, and many nations have their own search engines. But having content written in the native language that they search in is going to mean that you get more visitors in that language, which is going to lead to more conversions. Taking a look at multi-language content is also very important.
Then, of course, multi-channel support. This is something that people are getting very good at. It’s in fact hard to find people that are completely ignoring mobile or social. By multi-channel I, of course, mean publishing on many different channels besides your website. Having a mobile optimized website so that people on smart phones or feature phones can pull up their phone and have a better browsing experience of your website. Of course, having a social presence on Facebook or Google Plus or using Twitter. These are all really important signals that Google will look at when deciding to rank your website.
Lastly, stable IT. Now, smaller agencies for cost reasons tend to run servers from their bedrooms or their basements. I’ve known many guys in college who just started up a website or started up a website design service and they had a computer under their bed that was the primary server that they hosted all of their clients websites on.
Of course, such a rinky-dink operation is definitely not professional and I wouldn’t even say it’s common, but making sure that the solution that you use is using top-notch technology is incredibly important. You don’t want down time and you want your websites to load fast. If you find an agency or a hosting provider that does not use top-notch equipment, your website can actually load really slow, which is going to increase your bounce percentage, which will detract from your business.
Also, sometimes due to local Internet outages or whatever, a lot of these servers will go down and your website will be off the Internet for a while. Outside of buuteeq, I use a small service to host some of my websites, and two or three times a month my websites are down because I can’t afford a better service. buuteeq, for example, uses Amazon Web Services, which has a 99.9% up rate, which means we’re almost always online and our clients’ websites load lightning fast.
So, finding a solution that uses such technology is also really important.
Lisa: It looked like,Brandon, we have a question here…
Lisa: …from our audience. It says, ‘Should we offer content in other language, even if we do not have any staff that speaks that language?’ Great question.
Brandon: That is a good question. My suggestion would be, it’s less about the languages your staff speak and more about the languages your guests speak. If your hotel is in an area where many international guests tend to come, like if it’s a tourist destination because Disneyland is close by or because there’s some beautiful natural mountains or lakes or something that attracts international guests, then, yeah, having a website optimized for those specific languages whether it’s Japanese, Italian, or Russian or whatever, is going to make it easier for guests to find your website. Now, if they’re traveling to America they probably already have an expectation that they won’t always meet people that speak their native language. Just to ease the registration process because they’re probably searching in their own native language, it’s wise to make sure to have your digital marketing in the specific languages your expecting people to use to find your website.
Next on the list is to create amazing web content. If you don’t create content, Google has nothing to rank. I love to frequent a blog called SEOmoz. Because I’m in charge of all the SEO stuff here at buuteeq, I’m always trying to write about hotel SEO and learn more about SEO. Not because we invest a lot of time, energy and money to doing minute tweaks to the website, but just so that we can be more knowledgeable so that we can pass that knowledge on to our clients.
I was on the SEOmoz blog and the CEO of SEOmoz, Rand Fishkin, released a blog post where he just ranted because he was a little bit frustrated as a marketer. His service will sometimes be hired by other services to do marketing for them, but those properties will give him really poor content and he has a hard time marketing really poor content. The analogy he likes to use is putting lipstick on a pig. You can put as much lipstick on a pig, but it’s not going to make that pig any prettier.
The important thing is having amazing content first, and then marketing it. A key to that is to fill your website with well-written articles people will actually read. I know this is really, really hard. Trust me, I write all the time for buuteeq and for my own projects outside of buuteeq. It’s hard to write and it’s hard to write stuff that sounds good and that is interesting and that people actually want to read, but it’s worth the effort and it’s something you can’t outsource. You can’t hire somebody in another country to do it for you. You can’t hire somebody who doesn’t know your hotel as well as you do to do it for you. Only you know your hotel as well as you do. You’re going to be able to tell your story better than everybody. You’re going to be able to know all of the local things that are going on, and all of the wonderful, amazing things that makes your hotel unique, and makes your hotel a destination. So, you’re the most qualified person to sit down and write amazing content.
Now, amazing content of course takes the form of text, but it also takes the form of multimedia. Increasingly, Google is promoting content on their search engine that has great imagery and even videos. Making sure that when you create amazing content that you include images and video, that’s going to be key to not only giving your guests a better experience when they’re browsing your website, but encouraging Google to give you a better ranking.
The next step is to get backlinks. Now, I want to emphasize right from the start, never pay for backlinks. Never ever, ever, ever pay for backlinks. While backlinks are incredibly important, paying for backlinks invites trouble. Now, there are a number of services that you can go onto websites and pay $5.00 and somebody inChinawill give you 1,000 backlinks from a whole bunch of forums all over the Internet.
Those are really low quality backlinks, and Google is so smart that it can tell that those backlinks are not legitimate, that they have been solicited and they have been automatically generated. While they may not give you a horrible penalty, it is possible that they will completely remove your website from the Google search if you pay for backlinks. So I stress, do not pay for backlinks.
Instead, we need to figure out a way to encourage people to link to our websites organically and honestly. I’ll give you a few examples on how we can do that. Guest blog. This is something I have done a number of times for buuteeq, and it’s something I’ve done a number of times for my own properties outside of buuteeq. That’s to find a powerful blog in your industry. A blog that people already respect. Contact them and pitch them.
Give them a proposal idea for a story. Say, ‘I love your blog. I especially like your blog posts X, Y and Z. I would love to contribute to your blog. Here’s my idea for a guest post.’ I have found great success with just sending out a friendly email like that. Many times they’ll say, ‘Great idea. We would love it if you would write a blog post for our website.’ The reason is because people are craving fresh content. It may seem a little bit intimidating to send off an email to Lonely Planet or to a really popular travel blog, but if you don’t send out an email, you have a 100% chance of never getting an article placed there. If you try, at least you have a chance.
So, what I would do, is I would encourage you to find websites in your local area that people are already going to. Maybe it’s a travel blog, maybe it’s a food blog, or maybe it’s a local agency or group in your area. I would encourage you to contact them and ask if you can contribute in some way. Of course, when you create your blog post, you will be credited by the author with a link back to your website.
Whoops. I skipped ahead. There you go. Next, is to make partnerships. Find local businesses and create partnerships. This is probably one of the most important things you could do, not only for the health of your business, but for your search relevancy. People in your local community love to connect with you.
Some examples that I came up with is you could find tour groups, hiking guides, restaurants, and so on in your area, approach them and say, ‘Hey look. We’ll give a link to your website and promote your business on our website, in exchange for the exact same favor.’ Often they’re more than happy to do that.
They’ll write up a little thing on their website that talks about your inn, and you can write up a little thing on your website that talks about their restaurant or their tour group or something. This is just a great way to encourage a link sharing in a local community. By the way, Google really enjoys seeing link sharing and backlinks from many different websites in the same community, that’s going to help your local search [inaudible 22:44]. Hold on. I’m taking a sip of my coffee.
Lisa: We have a couple questions here from the audience, I think pertaining to what you just talked about. I guess, one of the questions is, ‘When writing does this need to go in a blog or does it work from Facebook and buuteeq?’ So I’m assuming they’re meaning do we need to post it on both or just one? What’s the best in this case?
Brandon: They’re great questions. The answer is, all of the above. If you write something on Facebook, that really doesn’t help your personal website much, because Google isn’t indexing Facebook and giving credit from Facebook to your website. However, it is giving great content to your followers on Facebook. So, if you have a lot of followers on Facebook and you’re using Facebook well as a social channel, then yeah. Writing notes and writing your thoughts, and posting it to Facebook often is going to be really important.
If you have an external blog outside of buuteeq and outside of your website that you’re using just sort of as your own innkeeper blog, where you’re sharing thoughts on innkeeping, blogging once, maybe twice a week is essential to make sure that your blog is always up to date with fresh content. Google doesn’t like blogs that are inactive. Google doesn’t like blogs that don’t have any subscribers. Blogs can’t gain subscribers if the owner of the blog isn’t updating it.
Having a blog, it’s a big commitment. It takes a whole lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of energy. It’s definitely not something to take lightly. As for the buuteeq website, yes. I don’t think you have to update it every week with a brand new article, but what you should do is you should sit down and you should say, ‘Okay. What are the major tourist destinations in my area? What are the major themes, holidays, events, all of the things that are happening in my area that are drawing customers?’
Then, I would go into buuteeq, or whatever CMS or DMS you’re using to power your content, and I would write an article all about that topic. Be the information source on that topic. Do your research. Read what other people are saying. Never copy text. Write your own text, but be an authority on each of those topics and write an article that you publish to your website on each of those topics. That way, when people start doing a Google search for information on that topic, you are going to have something for them to read.
Lisa: Brandon, what you mean by article, because at buuteeq here we use the word articles all the time, and with our system that just kind of means the sub-pages, correct, on the site? Just for the people who haven’t really been introduced yet to the buuteeq system articles or the sub-pages holding all the content. You can have as many as you’d like. Right?
Brandon: Absolutely. With buuteeq you can create as many articles as you want, and those take on the existence as sub-pages right beneath your main, primary domain. Organized by the way by a fantastic information architecture.
Lastly, be creative. I thought that this picture of a bunch of grannies making a quilt was suitable for creativity. Be creative. There are a lot of other things that you can do besides just the ones that I’ve listed out. Instead of wasting your time and energy spreading out your keyword density and other hotel SEO techniques, with questionable actionable results, spend your viable time coming up with creative ideas to market your hotel.
It takes a lot of time and energy to sit down and just fiddle with the minutia of your website, to fiddle with SEO technique X, Y and Z. Those produce questionable results. Instead, take that time and energy and focus it on something that will actually help your hotel in a far greater way than any other little SEO tweak that you could possibly do.
The ideas that I shared with you just a moment ago about guest blogging and so on, those are some ways that you can try it out. I am sure that you’re already thinking of other creative ways that I didn’t mention that you can help promote your hotel. You’re a marketer now. You’ve got your website. You’ve got your mobile optimized website. You’ve got your Facebook page. You’re on the Internet, you’re doing Internet marketing. You’re doing what all small business owners are doing to promote their hotel. That’s getting on the ground and just doing some real hard marketing work. That is the only way that you can really make a difference, in terms of not only your Google visibility, but the overall marketing reach of your hotel.
With that, that is the end of today’s webinar. What I’m going to do is thank you all for your wonderful questions. If we didn’t get to your question, I’ll be sure to answer your questions and post the answers to the blog. What we’re going to do, is we’ve been recording a video of this webinar. I’m going to put the video on our blog along with the PowerPoint presentation that I just showed you, so that you guys can go back and check out all of the slides that I created.
Do check out the links that I shared in this blog post to Google talking about SEO themselves, so that you can see the sources that I used for this information. Another thing that I’m going to try to do is, I want to start doing a weekly questions-and-answers session. So if you have any questions at all that you would love to get answered about this topic or any other topic, please send me your questions to email@example.com. I will come up with some answers and present them once a week at the end of the week on our blog.
Lisa: I’m looking at the question list here and there’s one last good question. It says, ‘Any ideas on how to come up with great verbiage for blogs and such?’ I know you mentioned that creative writing is hard to do, but is there any strategies, tips, from your own experience,Brandon?
Brandon: I tend to be a fairly prolific writer. I don’t really think about it, I sit down and just start writing. That is a skill that not everybody has I understand, so sometimes I make it sound easy when it’s not quite as easy. But what I would encourage you to do is if writing is not your strong point, I would sit down and make an outline of the thoughts in your article that you want.
Then, I would write a brief sketch or a draft and then find someone in your family or someone that works at your hotel who’s better at writing or who can give you some input, to bounce some ideas off of it and to give you some tips on how you can improve your article. I would also take a look at other articles that have been written about your same topic. See the kind of verbiage they use, the sort of eloquence that they’re using.
Then, try to imitate that a little bit, not stealing their words of course, but using your own words to tell a story in a similar style. I think getting a couple pair of eyes on your document before you publish it is really important. It’s always good to get someone else’s opinion.
Lisa: Then, I just want to scan this list just to make sure we answered all the questions here. It looks like there was one left about how if you are a buuteeq customer to get additional languages on the system. Definitely contact your customer concierge or your sales executive so that you can talk to them about that. They will be more than willing to help you set that up because we do want you to be optimized on different language channels.
It’s been my pleasure to helpBrandontoday, monitoring the questions, and sitting in on this webinar. Definitely do contact me if you have any questions at lisa AT buuteeq.com.
Brandon: All right. Thanks, everybody. I’ll have this up on the blog pretty soon. Be sure to follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/buuteeq, and Facebook, facebook.com/buuteeq, where I’ll announce when I finally got this up and online. Thanks again for coming everybody and we’ll see you next time.
Lisa: See you later.