If a website lands on the eleventh page of Google’s search results and no one’s there to see it, does it really exist? Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important for any business that operates online, but it is especially critical for hotels that want to earn direct bookings.
According to a study conducted by Google and Ipsos MediaCT in 2012, 76 percent of business travelers and 83 percent of leisure travelers go online to plan their trips. What’s more, 95 percent of these online travelers use search engines such as Google to find and book accommodations.
In a buuteeq study, 48 percent of our clients’ desktop web traffic and 39 percent of their mobile web traffic came from organic search, which amounted to 20 percent and 17 percent increases from the previous year respectively.
If your hotel’s website is not optimized to please Google, it is missing out on traffic and losing direct booking opportunities. How do you optimize your website to perform well on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs)? First, we will discuss the dangers and complications of SEO, then cover best practices for hotels.
The first rule of SEO: be wary of anyone who promises to get your property to the first spot on Google SERPs for a highly competitive keyword. No one can make that promise; it’s up to Google’s algorithm to decide, and these days the algorithm’s pretty difficult to dupe.
Most people who make these kinds of promises practice “black hat” SEO techniques such as sketchy link-building and content farming. These practices may have helped in the past but are now bound to get your site penalized by Google.
The main reason that these “black hat” SEO techniques often result in penalties is Google’s continual release of search algorithm updates. For a detailed, yet staggering list of Google’s search algorithm updates, check out Moz’s timeline. We also keep you up-to-date with Google’s updates on our blog.
Google’s algorithm updates have one goal: to provide more useful content for the search engine’s users. Every update will either address and penalize “black hat” SEO policies or reward quality content in one way or another.
With that in mind, let’s move on to some best practices to get the most out of your website and avoid penalties.
1. Create compelling, high-quality content.
Performing well on search engines is all about creating content that is useful for the people who are searching. Google tries to give its users the best content possible, and while they may be hard on spammy backlinks, they will never penalize informative, relevant content.
Speaking of informative, relevant content, hotels have plenty of opportunities to add this kind of material to their sites. Writing about local events, attractions, sights, etc. helps add content that’s relevant to your visitors and improves both your site experience and your site’s ability to rank on Google. As Google says in their Beginner’s Guide to SEO, “You should base your optimization decisions first and foremost on what’s useful to the visitors of your site.”
2. Add a dash of keyword optimization.
Cramming the keywords you want your page to rank for into your content is an easy way to get penalized by Google. While keyword cramming is a bad idea, it is a good idea to think about what people who may want to stay at your hotel might type into the search bar.
Your homepage should be optimized for location, lodging type, and if appropriate a major local attraction (ex.: “hotels near Disneyland”). You can also use keyword tools to help identify which keywords people use when searching for properties like yours. If you want to rank for a keyword, you will need to include it on your page in a useful, natural way. Just don’t cram!
3. Be social.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and others are not just great ways to share information about your hotel and interact with potential guests; they also play a role in your search engine rankings. To Google, social interactions are the sign of a healthy website, and strong social signals lead to a more robust case to Google to rank your hotel higher.
So don’t forget those social buttons on your website and engage with potential guests on the social media channels of your choice—just don’t melt down on Facebook like the owners of Amy’s Bakery.
4. Build your backlinks—organically.
Backlinks still play a significant role in how your website performs on search engines. With each update, Google continues to crack down on low-quality, spammy backlinks. High-quality backlinks to legitimate sites with relevant content—let’s call them porterhouse links—however, are crucial to a strong search engine presence. You want your links to be grass-fed, not canned.
To obtain these high-quality links, start by reaching out to your local community—a practice commonly referred to as link-building. Is your hotel located near a landmark or well-renowned restaurant? Ask business owners if they would consider linking to your hotel’s website as nearby lodging. Are you a small B&B with a unique history or location? Ask your B&B association or a travel publication if they will link to your website in a piece about historical B&Bs. Remember, it’s all about what is useful for site visitors. Organic, quality backlinks show Google that others find your content useful and worth linking to.
5. Find a trusted partner.
Remember before when we said to be wary of people promising you the top spot on Google? That’s still the case. But you’re probably too busy to deal with 301-redirects and metatags. If you clicked the link to Google’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO above, you probably noticed that even the beginner’s guide is quite technical for someone without web design experience.
Finding a trusted partner means finding someone who won’t make empty promises, but rather will optimize your website for Google’s crawlers, help with keyword research to see how visitors find your hotels on search engines, and let the content, social media, and organic, quality backlinks do the heavy lifting.
At buuteeq, our hotel marketing system follows all of the search giant’s best practices. Our engineers continually perform SEO research to make sure our Cloud DMS exceeds Google’s standards and helps your hotel rank well instead of receiving penalties. Plus, since we are a Software as a Service (SaaS) company, your site will always be up to date and you will receive all SEO innovations and improvements as we make updates.
SEO can be intimidating, but with some time, effort, quality content, and a trustworthy sidekick to help optimize your website, your hotel’s website can perform well on search engines and earn you more money. Just remember that SEO is a long-term process. Accumulating quality backlinks and content won’t happen overnight, but as long as your site stays up to date and you continue to add useful content and interact with your audience on social media, your hotel’s site can rank well on Google.
Now that you know some SEO basics, you may be curious about SEM. Download our eBook, SEO vs. SEM, to understand the difference between the two and continue your quest towards internet marketing mastery.