As an online marketing and consulting agency for hotels we get asked a lot of questions regarding SEO and what should be done for the best organic ranking. When talking about SEO it’s important not to get lost in all the information and misinformation one can find on the internet. The purpose of this article is to guide you to the essentials of the best practices for SEO, right now in 2013.
Part one: Optimizing your site
Your actual website is too often neglected when working out an SEO strategy. Don’t waste time getting links to your website if it isn’t ready to receive and convert visitors. That would be like trying to sell your house without first cleaning it up. The conversion rate of visitors > potential buyers > buyers would be very low and probably wont exist at all. A good SEO strategy starts with a good user experience on your website. In fact your website is a bit like your hotel, take care of it.
The structure of your site needs to be clear and intuitive. Don’t pile up a bunch of sub-categories. Don’t try to fill your site up with everything you can possibly say about your hotel but stick to the essentials. In your case, you want to bring the visitor to a conversion in the best and most coherent manner.
The coding and development of the site must be clean and light. Don’t use obsolete technology. Avoid Flash. Ensure the site is fast. Today one of the measures of a website’s quality and one of the Search Engine’s criteria for indexing is the website’s speed. As a hotelier you’re not expected to be the professional about this, but ensure you hire someone who really knows what they are doing.
A mobile version of your website should be planned in your strategy. A search engine should be clearly capable to identify that you are showing an alternative version to your visitors coming from a mobile device. If not, you don’t give them a good user experience.
Your content is essential, but you should do not do too much! Don’t use too much keywords (keywords stuffing) in your pages but use them with parsimony. Would you prefer a short text but readable and understandable or long texts that you will even not read? Again, think about your visitors. In fact, you should think about your so it can be shared, it has more impact.
Don’t forget your website meta tags, especially the meta title and meta description: these are too often neglected! Put yourself your visitor’s place: what are you waiting for when you search a hotel on Internet?
Part 2: Don’t stay alone, create some links
Once your website is ready to welcome visitors, and convert them into clients, now and only now can you work on your external SEO.
Google Maps and Google+ are the first things to do, and they are the most simple ones. Declare yourself as owner, connect your page to your website and optimize your page for a better local indexing. There are plenty of websites where you can manage your local listing such as Yelp, Dismoiou, Qype, etc. Every country and even every citiy has their own platforms. Regarding the volume of searches, Google is the first step.
Now comes the creation of links, commonly called backlinks to your content. It is a key point in your SEO strategy. There are methods to attract backlinks to your website: the idea is to create an interesting content, a content that visitors will remember. For example, make original content available (photos, videos, interviews) or local events. It will improve your trafic, but also your brand awareness. There was a time when the creation of random links guaranteed great results on SERPs keywords like “hotel london”, “hotel in london”, “boutique hotel”, etc. Today it is almost impossible and quite useless. The reason is simple: fewer people use these terms when they search for a hotel. They are directly using meta search engines like Booking.com, Kayak, Trivago, Expedia or TripAdvisor.
The proof with the evolution of the keyword “Hotels in London” these previous years:
Keep your energy to focus on valuable websites who have autorities in their domain: travel portals, travel guides, blogs.
Don’t forget to ask yourself: why a website should have a link to your website? Does it deserve it? Why my website and not another one? The content and the user experience should be worth the links that your website receive, that’s why it is so important to work on your website.
The last point is about social networks. Search engines are now watching the way your contents are shared. A content that’s buzzing on social networks will be usually more indexed. To better understand… SEO is like the facade of your hotel, that needs to be seen by your target audience. What you do on your website is like what you do in your hotel to be noticed and attractive. Rooms property, staff, signage to find the hotel… All your external SEO is like all efforts made to promote your hotel: paper guides, offline promotion, events, etc.
Part three: Stay agile!
All these SEO steps are the basics. But you should keep going on, otherwise you will loose all the efforts you have made. Therefore, keep the below in mind:
– The first step of a good SEO strategy is your website, then the creation of an action plan to create qualified links.
– SEO is a long term work. If you want quick traffic, you should use other channels such as PPC campaigns.
– Good SEO requires working with a qualified partner. You’ll save time and most importantly money on the long term.
– An efficient SEO strategy needs to be developed in coordination with your overall marketing strategy. For example, if you want to target new markets, you can buy keywords through PPC campaign, that will avoid waiting months to be well positioned in organic search results.
Part four: Choose your SEO partner carefully
We often hear that organic search results is not complicated, you just need to “read some tutorials on Internet”. We hear this argument but: do you really have time for that? And do you really want to? Everyone is specialist in their field, you know how to manage a hotel and how to welcome your clients. An SEO professional knows how to bring you visitors and bookings on your website.
To conclude, one of the most important points is to have a global vision of your strategy. Doing SEO to do SEO is useless, and will not bring you anything except bills. You must manage your marketing and communication strategy in a 360-degree way, by investing specifically on each sales channel that will bring ROI. SEO is just a part of it and that’s why you should identify opportunities, then optimize and analyse the ROI of each actions started. That’s the secret of an optimized strategy and a controlled budget.