Sixty-eight percent of travelers turned to the Internet in 2013 for inspiration before deciding where to go, what to do or where to stay. According to Google, hotel websites were the second most relied upon source for travel information in 2013, behind only search engines. Travelers use the Internet most for researching hotels and two in three travelers book hotels online.
Searches are now moving toward mobile devices. According to a study from BIA Kelsey, mobile local search volume is on pace to intersect desktop local searches in 2015, and exceed desktop searches in 2016. Overall searches on mobile devices are expected to continue to increase going forward, eventually outnumbering desktop searches.
For hotels, the message is clear: businesses without a solid digital presence are missing out on potential customers. To truly stand out in the crowded marketplace, hotels should utilize a variety of effective search engine optimization (SEO) techniques together as part of a comprehensive strategy. The most powerful SEO tools available today include on-page optimization, local SEO, off-page SEO and video optimization.
Website design and coding is one of the largest factors when it comes to search engine rankings for non-branded keyword search terms. Hotels should take a two-pronged approach when it comes to creating the best possible website.
First, there must be a content strategy based around what consumers want and search for. A hotel website should have separate pages designed for specific potential consumer requests such as pricing, room pictures, nearby attractions, directions and contact information. By breaking out each of these topics, search engine spiders can index the pages one by one, which can help in search results.
Secondly, hotel websites should have optimized code to help search engine spiders correctly identify the information and present it to the right audience. From HTML meta-tags to image alt text, SEO web design experts have the ability to force code to break through the massive amount of content and clutter on the Internet and rise above competitors. Having optimized code also means using responsive design, which helps websites adapt to any size device include mobile phones. Google recommends using responsive design to ensure a quality experience for mobile users.
Hotels looking to attract more local customers or gain visibility with travelers on the go should focus on local SEO techniques. The goal of local SEO is to create moment-of-interest connections with consumers looking to make a purchase decision in the near future at a local business. A survey done by marketing Sherpa in 2013 found that 54% of marketers surveyed said that local search optimization positively impacted their businesses.
There are three things hotels can do to effectively increase their local search engine rankings: create landing pages for each hotel location, claim your location listings within Google and Bing, and engage in directory syndication. Individual landing pages that include pertinent information like room availability, contact information, hours of operation and an address help search engines put that information in front of local searchers. Search engine listings and digital directories are popular places for people to search for information about businesses like hotels. They key is to keep location information consistent because small discrepancies could cause search engines to find all of the information unreliable, thus limiting the hotel’s visibility in search results.
Search engines use links to determine the popularity and authoritativeness of websites. Generally, the more links from authoritative websites, the more search engines trust a website, which results in higher search engine rankings. Google recommends that marketers focus on obtaining quality links from high traffic sites and creating quality content that will be shared organically.
Here are some factors that determine a link’s quality:
- Is the linking domain relevant to your products or services?
- Is the content surrounding the link related to the content on the linked page?
- Where does the link exist on the page? (i.e. content body, author bio, footer, sidebar)
- Are there other relevant links on the page?
- Does the anchor text make sense?
- What is the page authority and page rank of the linking page?
An effective off-page SEO strategy can be time consuming because of the effort needed to build relationships, create content and work to get that content placed on authoritative websites. Hotels looking to increase their link background can hold events, sponsor local charities and become active in the community to attempt and gain attention from digital newspapers and bloggers who would in turn use links in their articles.
With more than a billion videos being watched every day in the United States, video optimization creates an opportunity for businesses to generate awareness, affect the purchasing decisions of potential consumers and encourage repeat business.
Hotels can find a niche in the massive video search marketplace by creating a series of videos that inform travelers and answer common questions. For instance, a video explaining how breakfasts are prepared, sheets are cleaned or how a larger hotel might prepare for an event like a wedding could all gain traction online.
With video optimization the key is to not just create content that people will want to watch, but also everything that surrounds it. Creating keyword-optimized titles, schemas, thumbnails and descriptions can all help search engines learn what the video is about and include it in the appropriate search results. If you are creating multiple videos you should consider using a video XML sitemap as well.
The effectiveness of an SEO strategy can be broken down into easy to track and measure metrics like keyword rankings, website traffic and conversions. When combined, on-page SEO, local SEO, off-page SEO and video optimization have the ability to dramatically increase digital visibility on search engines, drive web traffic and increase room reservations.
In a world that is becoming more and more dominated by search engine traffic and digital discovery, hotels that forgo these foundational digital marketing techniques will find themselves playing catch up with their competitors in the near future.
Contributed by Jason Squardo, executive vice president of optimization at ZOG Digital, Scottsdale, Arizona