When there are so many fancy advertising options to choose from, it is easy to forget about the old reliable of digital marketing: search engine optimisation.
SEO is the complex art of getting more visibility for your brand and moving your website to the highest possible position in Google, Yahoo and Bing search results.
It is tempting to ditch SEO in favour of promoted Instagram stories or Facebook retargeting, but we advise hotels to use a careful mix of different tactics. While paid ad campaigns can produce instant results, SEO is more of a slow-burner. Yes, it needs a lot of love and long-term commitment, but SEO will prove to be your most loyal supporter in the fight against competitors and OTAs.
It is a simple math: the better your hotel’s ranking, the more traffic flows to your website - resulting in additional bookings, increased direct revenue and less commission paid to third parties.
Follow these SEO best practices to get better organic search results and drive more visitors to your hotel website.
Tip #1: Find The Right Keywords
A successful hotel SEO strategy starts with keywords. You need to research extensively what keywords and phrases are used by your target audience when they want to book accommodation in your area. Look at search volumes - they will give you an indication of the popularity of particular keywords.
Analyse your main competitors’ website, look at what keywords and topics they consider a priority.
Remember to include so-called long-tail keywords containing 7+ words (for example ‘country house hotel with horse riding’). As longer phases target a niche, fewer hotels compete for top rankings for these particular set of keywords.
Tip #2: Make The Most of Your Metadata
Crucially important for effective SEO, meta titles are used to sum up the content of a website page. As this is the most prominent information that will appear on a search page, it needs to encourage users to click on your link.
While meta titles are meant to be concise, meta descriptions outline a page’s content in greater detail. Again, meta descriptions must be relevant and include important keywords as well as engaging content that will generate traffic to your hotel site.
Tip #3: Show The Search Engines Around
Search engines need road signage to be able to navigate your website and find relevant information. Consider header (h1) tags as big road signs showing Google what your content is all about.
For better ranking results, make sure that your pages not only have headers, but they are coded with h1 tags for the benefit of the search engines. On the other hand, duplicate h1 tags can damage your hotel SEO efforts so they need to be removed promptly.
Tip #4: Make Images Readable
Search engines are unable to interpret images on your website but there are ways around this. Make sure that images have a descriptive name when uploading them to your site.
Give context to images with relevant alt text which will be shown if an image can not be displayed. (This also benefits visually impaired users who use screen readers when browsing.)
Tip #5: Keep Your Content Fresh
Search engines thrive on original, relevant and recent content. Your best option to satisfy Google’s hunger for fresh material is to post regular blogs on your website. While it can be difficult to carve out time for writing, blogging can do wonders for your ranking.
Frequent updates send a signal to the search engines that your business is ‘well and alive’. Fresh content can also be indexed by the search algorithms - giving your site more prominence over time. Interesting information keeps visitors longer on your pages signalling to the search engines that your website is worthy of better positions.
Blogging also helps with other important SEO tactics: it is the perfect platform to target those important long-tail keywords and to include internal links.
Tip #6: Speed Up Your Site
If you think SEO is all about providing the right website content, think again. There is a lot more to search engine optimisation - both on and off your site.
Take site speed as an example. Google’s most important objective is to provide the right results in record time. This is why the search giant will favour websites that load quickly and has a low bounce rate.
Excellent site speed not only offers a superior user experience, but Google will also take notice and appreciate your efforts.
Tip #7: Offer A Perfect Mobile Experience
Again, at the core of SEO is Google’s relentless effort to offer impeccable user experience. As people now clearly prefer mobile phones over desktop computers, search engines reward websites that provide easy navigation, stellar visuals and intuitive layouts on all devices.
Responsive design that allows your site to display content perfectly regardless of the screen size is the most commonly used solution.
By offering an excellent experience, you can entice browsers to linger longer and reduce your site’s bounce rate. Great usability leads to repeat visitors and increased conversions.
To sum it up: If you offer a great mobile experience, people will stay on your site and Google will be confident to send more customers your way.
Tip #8: Optimise Your ‘Google My Business’ Listing
A large part of your SEO activity will happen off your website. Take ‘Google My Business’ as an example. It is a free listing provided by the search engine where companies can include information about their services.
Having an up-to-date and verified GMB listing is excellent for local SEO as it will positively impact your organic rankings and increase your chances of showing up in various Google products. Remember to upload high-quality images to your profile. Businesses with more photos get additional clicks and calls - increasing the chances of booking conversion.
If you have several businesses within your hotel (spa, health club, golf course, restaurants), claim and optimise the GMB listings for each of these entities.
Tip #9: Link Up With Local Partners
You have probably been told that you should get local businesses and tourist attractions to link to your page from their website. These backlinks (also called inbound links) from reliable sources carry a lot of weight in the online world. Signalling to the search engines that your website is a trustworthy platform, backlinks can have a long-term positive impact on your search engine ranking.
Focus on quality, not quantity and try to team up with websites that are relevant to your hotel - for example food bloggers, spa review sites, local online influencers.
Getting SEO for hotels right can be a tricky task.
The goalpost is constantly moving: user behaviour changes, digital trends come and go, Google makes neverending updates.
Despite these challenges, search engine optimisation is still the most cost-effective, trusted and long-lasting digital marketing technique on the market.
While SEO tools are technically free, you still need to allocate resources and time to get your hotel’s optimisation right.