By Helena Murphy on February 14, 2016 at 10:00 AM
Sadly this Valentines day I have three other little(ish) words on my mind, Search Engine Optimization. In In this months blog we're writing about one of the main problems hoteliers continue to have, selling their rooms online. And let's be honest, you're never going to sell any rooms online if you're not appearing where people are looking. It's a practice you need to incorporate into your marketing strategy if you're going to succeed in today's competitive environment. Here's a blog we published last year that still relevant.
The Internet can be very complicated. Especially for hoteliers whose booking revenues depend on it. If you think about the innumerable calculations that go into every Google search to bring you the perfect information for the keyword you searched for, it can be overwhelming even for advanced programmers.
The good news is that you don't need to be a Google engineer and nowadays, you don't really need to hire an expensive agency to do the work for you. In this article, we give you 5 key ways that you as a busy hotelier can use to improve your site's SEO (Search Engine Optimization, or how to better rank on Google) metrics.
1- Great Onsite Experience
You don't need to be an online marketing expert or a web developer to understand if your website is offering a good onsite experience or not. Such a good experience includes a number of different factors, but all you need to know is to:
[fa icon="arrow-right"] Make your purpose known:
Make sure you encourage your web visitors to complete your ideal next step: If you want your online visitors to book a room online, create obvious booking buttons on each page. If you want them to check out your pictures, or your pricing, guide them to the adequate pages.
[fa icon="arrow-right"] Make your site aesthetically pleasing:
Whether you like it or not, you need to showcase beautiful and authentic pictures of your property and rooms, which often requires the help of a professional photographer. The more great pictures you have, the more people will enjoy visiting your website. This will decrease your bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who quit your website without clicking on any link), improve the number of page views and the time spent on your website. All these SEO elements and indicators are taken into consideration by search engines and will impact your search engine rank.
[fa icon="arrow-right"] Make it easy for your users to find exactly what they are looking for:
Clear and simple navigations and sitemaps based on best practices are vital. If a visitor needs to check your hotel's availability, make it very clear where they need to click. Clear wording and icons are also very important.
[fa icon="arrow-right"] Make your site fast:
If you use large sized images, there are plenty of tools such as Smush It (or this list of alternative tools here) that you can use to optimize your images. Optimized images load faster than the original ones.
[fa icon="arrow-right"] Optimize your site for any device:
We recently had an article about optimizing your booking engine for mobile devices. You can use the same instructions for your site here.
These basic user experience rules will make sure your website fulfills its goals and your visitors enjoy and spend tie on your pages.
2- Great Content
Content always will be a major part of search engine optimization because that's how most of your visitors find information on you. The good news is that you no longer need to focus on keyword phrases and old techniques such as density of a certain keyword when you build content. You only need to make sure that your content is relevant, interesting, original, free from errors, and what your audience is really looking for. We recommend you never deceive your audience with a false interesting message that might grab their attention, because once they realize it is not what they expected it to be, they will bounce, thus decreasing the search engine ranking value of your site.
3- Getting others to acknowledge you as an authority
Become the thought leader in your industry or area, build links and make others reference your site. Google looks to outside sources to determine how much of an authority you are in your respective space. In modern ways, this is all about building relationships with other sites, partners, travelers, which you can easily do with enough time and patience. Think about the local businesses your work with. Think about your most connected guests. You can also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how you can become a featured property in our website.
4- Social Authority
How popular you are on social media also plays a role in how you rank in organic search results. Based on a study from AudienceBloom, real Twitter followers of your website could make you rank higher in search engines. Not to mention that more real followers and social likes mean more brand awareness.
If you don't have your social accounts ready, visit this post about "What Social Media Platforms Should Your Hotel Use" to learn how you can use them properly. Or if you already have a Twitter account, you can also check your Social Authority (popularity) with this tool from MOZ. You just need to put your Twitter handle in the box and click on analyze to see a page like this:
The Social Authority is a number from 1 to 100. The higher this number is, the higher your authority in Twitter is. Usually, if you only tweet once a week and you don't have more than a hundred real followers, your social authority is less than 5. If you tweet regularly and make interested followers engage with your tweets, you should see an authority above 10. Our social authority in August 2015 was 31 which means we are both very active and our followers are really engaged with us. Follow us @HotelSoftware to receive exciting news about the hospitality industry. You can also ask us any questions you have via the same Twitter handle.
5- Local relevance from rating websites and OTA's
It is also very important to be reviewed well on OTA sites such as TripAdvisor or Booking.com (read more about the Importance of TripAdvisor Reviews and 16 Ways to Handle Bad Online Reviews). Remember that this, too, requires almost no technical expertise. You already know how important reviews on OTA sites are. This just became even more important because now you know that your reviews on third-party sites could change your Search Engine Ranking Pages (SERP).
What if I don't have time?
You should! This is way more important than you can imagine. SEO is a long-term high ROI investment. If you set aside just a few hours now to follow the modern search engine optimization rules above, and then review them every month for just an hour or two, you should be fine.
Using modern CMS (Content Management Systems) can also be a great help. WordPress, for instance, has built-in SEO tools and third-party plugins that you can install and use to save time.
I did all the above, now what?
Keep an eye on your site's visitors using tools such as Google Analytics (A Beginner's Guide to Google Analytics - Simple Tips for Hoteliers). This way you can easily review some simple metrics such as "total number of visitors" per month and apply necessary changes to improve your website if possible.
Should I spend more time collecting reviews or improving search engine ranking?
That's a good question! Online reviews - on OTAs, TripAdvisor, and social media - define your online reputation and have direct impact on your revenue. Moreover, third-party reviews also help your website rankings in search results. So we would recommend working on your reviews first. But remember, none of this requires any expertise from you. Just 2-3 hours per month!
Modern SEO = Make your website users happy!
Happy visitors = more website engagement [fa icon="hand-o-right"] improved SEO metrics