Being in the hotel industry can be hard, especially in the SEO arena. How can you hope to compete with the large chains with deep pockets?
Fortunately, SEO is a low-cost strategy that doesn’t require any ad spend and reaps a huge return on investment in the long-run.
And there are certain techniques you can use to easily score points over your local competitors.
Read on to find out more.
What is SEO?
SEO is the art of trying to get your website to appear high in the search results.
The higher you appear, the more eyeballs you have on your link, and the more people will click through to your site, and ultimately book with you.
Why is hotel SEO so important?
Your position in Google is everything. Half (51%) of people click on the top two search results, and 92% click on the first page of results.
Only 5% make it to the second page!
Traditional advertising like TV ads, billboards, or print advertising, is expensive and yielding less and less returns.
For example, most people don’t even watch live TV anymore, and when they do, they deliberately don’t watch the commercials.
And print media like newspapers and magazines are increasingly going out of business due to poor readership.
If people have a problem or want to buy something, they now turn to Google.
Especially when looking for and booking hotels.
Infact, the internet is the top source for travel planning (77%).
The good news is most travelers go into planning undecided on a hotel brand (85%), and they use search engines the most to plan travel (60%) above hotel sites/apps (41%).
This means they search more in Google, rather than going to a specific hotel website or a comparison site like booking.com.
This means that you can beat the larger hotel chains simply by investing in SEO.
Here are five clear steps for maximizing your Hotel SEO.
Hotel results box
When people search for hotels, they most commonly type ‘hotels + area’, like ‘hotels San Diego’.
So for these searches, Google has now created the ‘Hotel results box’, which appears above the usual search results.
As you can see, this is a whole interactive box that’s almost like Google’s own version of Tripadvisor. It has a map, dates, and sorting options.
When you click on one of the hotels, it opens up into the hotel’s profile:
A ton more detail is shown, including prices, reviews, location, and photos.
Google My Business
As a brick-and-mortar business, you also have a Google My Business profile. This is only likely to appear if someone directly searches for your hotel name.
How to get to the top?
As you can see Google showcases only a few hotels at a time in the Hotel Results box.
The key to this is creating a great profile.
- Register for Google My Business, and fill out as much detail as possible. This means filling in a great description, uploading high-quality photos, etc.
- Gather as many positive Google reviews as possible
- Register on third-party sites like booking.com, tripadvisor, etc, since Google pulls these details in, especially the prices and reviews
Create a blog
Fact: hotel keywords are usually highly competitive.
Unless you’re one of two little bed and breakfasts in a small village, a lot of major keywords like ‘hotel + your area’ may be out of your reach in terms of getting on the first couple of pages of google.
Especially since a lot of them are taken up by comparison sites.
Often, for these kind of terms, not one on the first page of Google will be an actual hotel website.
But there’s a silver lining.
Long tail keywords
Have you heard of long tail keywords?
These are longer keyword phrases that have a lot less competition, and are usually done by people in the ‘research’ phase of their trip.
Remember when we said that 77% of people use the internet to research their trip?
This is where you come in.
For example, though ‘hotels manhattan’ may be ridiculously competitive, the long tail keyword ‘things to do in manhattan’ is much easier.
This is searched for 8,100 times a months, so it’s still a very popular term. However, the difficulty of ranking is just 8 out of 100, which is very low.
Why is it easier to rank for?
Simply put, because most hotels don’t try to rank for it. They’re lazy in their SEO and content marketing.
Which again, is great for you, as you can easily snatch up all these juicy keywords that most hotels don’t pay attention to.
By adding a blog to your website.
Most hotels only have a few pages on their website – their homepage, room info, food and drink, location, etc.
So, it stands to reason, they can only rank for a few keywords.
Compare that to a blog, which can have hundreds or thousands of pages, each ranking for a different keyword entirely of their choice.
Blogs are perfect for these long tail keywords, such as ‘things to do in manhattan’.
It’s so effective that people without hotels or any kind of business in Manhattan still create blogs about them and still make money.
If these people can make money with no product of their own, then you can be sure that you will make money for your hotel.
You casually mention your hotel in each article, and a certain percentage of people that read your blog will end up booking your hotel. You can track this via tools like Google Analytics, to see what your exact return on investment is.
Long tail keyword ideas
‘People also ask’ questions are great content ideas for your blog, as they’re things that people commonly search for.
As are the ‘related searches’ at the bottom of the page.
You can also aim for people with real intent to book a hotel, by looking at the ‘People also ask’ section in more direct search terms, such as ‘hotel manhattan’.
Tripadvisor questions is another great source.
Full long tail keyword research is complex, and usually requires premium keyword research tools. You need to get the right balance of search intent, volume and difficulty.
Backlinks should be a major part of any SEO strategy.
What’s a backlink?
Backlinks are simply links to your site.
For example, this article ranks the top 25 hotels in Manhattan, lists ‘The Mark’ as number one, and includes a link to The Mark’s website. Therefore, The Mark has just earned one backlink.
Google loves backlinks, and will rank you higher in the search engines the more you have.
Without backlinks, it’ll be very hard for you to increase your domain authority and rank highly.
How to get backlinks
You shouldn’t just wait around for backlinks to happen; a good SEO agency should have a continual backlink-generating strategy.
Creating a blog makes it infinitely easier to get backlinks. If you regularly create good content, and market it, this will be shared around the internet.
You can even go so far as to ask websites for backlinks, where appropriate.
SEO agencies target people or pages that are more susceptible to this, for example, where they have broken links.
They also conduct competitor research to find out where your competitors are getting their backlinks, and how many you need to beat them in the search engines.
You can also acquire backlinks by other techniques such as putting on events, and getting mentioned in social media, and local news or blogs, or sponsoring local companies, and getting a mention on their website.
Other ideas are:
- Take your staff out into local community and give out free samples from your restaurant
- Do small things to ‘wow’ your customers, such as giving out freebies. This worked for Hyatt Palm Springs, where they knocked on guest doors during happy hour and offered them free snack items from their ‘Wow Cart’. The snacks weren’t expensive, but made a huge impression on guests.
- Create film nights or local tours
Some go for even crazier PR stunts, such as an English bakery attempting to create the world’s biggest scone.
Although it sounds ridiculous, stunts like this create a huge deal of buzz in both the community and further afield, and landed them backlinks in a lot of national news sites.
Sites with more authority, such as top news sites, wikipedia, and top educational sites like universities, make for better backlinks, so this is a huge achievement, especially for a small, local business.
Beat the competition with a proper mobile site
Hotels are well behind the rest of the world in terms of mobile-friendliness.
People use mobiles a lot to research hotels (up to 39%), but when they actually go to book it, they usually have to switch to a desktop.
Because hotel mobile sites are very poor, especially for booking!
83% of leisure travelers have encountered a travel site that was not mobile optimized or friendly.
And guess what happens?
Less than a quarter (23%) stick it out, and 20% actually go on to a competitors site instead.
What are the main issues?
Mobiles aren’t optimized well enough
As a result, they look weird and unusable, with mis-shapen images, too many sections, or missing sections, like the example below.
They’ve obviously paid someone to create a mobile site, as you can see the menu has been made more compact.
However, it hasn’t been done well.
Most people would give this site up as a bad job and click the back button immediately.
Image Source: The Black Swan
Mobile pages very slow to load
Over half (53%) of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
But the average time for mobile sites is a whopping 22 seconds!
What’s more, Google will actually penalize you and drop your site in the rankings if it’s too slow. Google recommends a site of 2 seconds or below.
How fast do you think yours is?
You can check your mobile site speed for free with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
You usually can’t book online, but have to phone instead
So many hotels complain about third-party booking fees, yet they make it impossible for customers to easily book online like they can on sites like booking.com.
With hotels, you can often only check availability, and even this is a very fiddly process. You then have to call to actually make a simple reservation.
Some hotels still use downloadable word documents or pdfs for the most basic of hotel information.
Firstly, in the age of computer viruses, people are hesitant to download any kind of file.
Secondly, web design is now so easy there’s no excuses not to present this information on your actual website.
How to optimize your site
This is all actually great news for you, because if you get a top-notch mobile site together, you’ll sail ahead a lot of your competition, and customers will love you for it.
- Make sure your mobile site is fully optimized
- Make sure your mobile site is fast
- Implement an easy booking process
The Kings Head in the Yorkshire Dales, UK, does a great job of this.
It’s mobile homepage is fully-optimized, with a clear booking button on the top right.
And it uses third-party software to create an easy booking form.
Image Source: The King’s Head
Take advantage of schema mark-up
Schema mark-up is where you can get extra features to appear, such as pricing or reviews.
Schema mark-up isn’t worth doing for a lot of industries, but it definitely is for hotels, as it makes your Google link a lot more appealing.
Take this search for hotels in Round Rock, Austin. Which link would you be most likely to click on?
Probably the third one, right? It stands out from the rest, and you’re reassured it’s a popular and well-liked hotel.
Of course, this is only worth doing if you have a really positive review rating of 4 and above.
In actual fact, the fourth result for this google search also uses schema mark-up, but with a lower rating of 3.8.
This might do more damage than good, as it looks so much worse compared to the Best Western.
The good news is you can pull in reviews from a choice of sources. The Best Western uses its Tripadvisor reviews, whereas Marriott uses its own website reviews.
You can showcase your best set of reviews.
Again, most smaller (and even a lot of bigger) hotels don’t take advantage of this, so it’s another easy way to get ahead of your competitors.
Now you’ve read a few of the key techniques to hotel SEO, it’s time to start implementing. You can either do this in-house, or outsource it to an SEO agency such as us here at Ranq.io.
We understand hotel SEO and yet we tailor our SEO strategy to your unique establishment. We’re a boutique agency for small and medium-sized businesses.If you are interested in working with us, get in touch.