Did you know that over 50% of website traffic comes from organic search results clicks, and less than 1% of Google searchers make their way to the second page? It’s clear that if you want your hotel’s website to attract traffic and drive direct bookings, you need to perform well in the Google search results. Search engine optimization is your key to success in the organic search results, but it’s not always top of mind for hoteliers. Even if you use a top-of-the-line booking engine and show amazing photography on your website, you won’t get direct bookings if your website doesn’t get traffic in the first place. But where do you start when it comes to search engine optimization, or SEO? In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to effective SEO for hotels so you can enhance your online presence and generate more direct bookings.
Understanding SEO for Hotels
If you’re new to digital marketing, you might be wondering what SEO is in the first place. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the practice of optimizing webpages to rank higher in online search results. SEO principles aim to help search engines understand what your website offers so they can serve your website to a wide audience of travelers. If you want potential guests to find your website among a sea of competitor hotel websites, then SEO is a crucial part of your digital marketing strategy. SEO includes on-page, off-page, and local components, and these factors contribute to your overall performance in search results. When done right, SEO can help your website compete not only with your compset, but also with OTAs that are competing for the same potential guests as you are. Over time, SEO can help your website rise in rank in the search results, improve your visibility, and drive long-term cost-effectiveness.
Keyword Research and Optimization
A building block of SEO is keyword research: you need to know what keywords your potential guests are searching for in order to get your website to appear in those searches. Keyword research tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or Semrush can uncover relevant keywords for your website and the volume of searches for given keywords. You can also research competitive keywords and find keywords that have high search volume and low competition – these are great keywords to optimize for. When you’ve found relevant keywords for your website, you’ll want to incorporate these keywords into your website’s content and meta tags so that search engines understand your website is a good match for people searching for these terms.
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Creating Engaging and SEO-Friendly Content
But it’s not as simple as pasting a bunch of high-potential keywords into a text box and publishing it on your website; search engines are looking for high-quality and engaging content that potential guests will want to read. It can be tempting to leverage tools like ChatGPT to write all of your content for you, but it’s important to add some personal touches or unique insights to build trust and credibility with your website visitors. However, ChatGPT can be a great place to start when developing outlines or coming up with content ideas. Many hotels publish content about things to do in the area, tips for travelers visiting for compression events, or insight into what makes the property special. Incorporating relevant keywords in a natural way, plugging those keywords into your headings and subheadings, and including photos or videos are all best practices for SEO.
Optimizing On-Page Elements
There are several ways to optimize your website content to perform best in search results. On-page optimization includes using relevant keywords in your title tags, meta descriptions (the blurb that shows on your search results listing), and URLs. It’s also recommended to add at least one internal and one external link per page, which also helps users navigate around your site. Google assesses your site’s performance on mobile, as well as your website loading speed, and gives priority in the search results to sites that perform the best.
Local SEO for Hotels
For hotels, local SEO is especially important because guests visit your physical location, and you might want to target potential guests coming from a particular location. One of the best ways to improve your local SEO is to claim and optimize your Google My Business listing. On this listing, you can add a link to your website and any relevant contact info, display rates and availability (working with a metasearch vendor is recommended), and gather and respond to reviews. Another way to excel with local SEO is to optimize your local landing pages by finding relevant location-specific keywords. For example, if your hotel is in Austin, and you know people will be searching for hotels for Formula 1 weekend, you can build a dedicated landing page that targets keywords like “hotels for formula 1 austin” and offers tips on getting to the track, navigating traffic, and more.
Link Building and Off-Page SEO
SEO isn’t limited to optimizations on your own website, and we sometimes forget about the off-page opportunities to further build online presence. When search engine algorithms rank websites in the search results, one factor they look at is how many other websites link to your website. A website that many other sites link to is considered more credible and relevant compared to a website with no “backlinks.” You can take a proactive role in acquiring these backlinks by working with reputable news outlets, local associations, and blogs. For example, if you’re a member of your local DMO and have a link on their hotel director page, that backlink helps to improve your placement in the search results.
Technical SEO for Hotels
As we mentioned earlier, site performance is another factor in your search results ranking. A site that is slow, disorganized, and hard to use on a mobile device is going to be ranked lower than a site that loads quickly, looks great on all devices, and uses a logical organizational structure, all else being equal. Content management systems like Wordpress and Squarespace include some tools to help you optimize these technical elements, or you can work with your marketing agency or website developer to implement structured data markup and improve your website’s crawlability.
Monitoring, Analytics, and Continuous Optimization
If you’ve implemented a bunch of SEO-focused changes, how do you know if your website is performing better? SEO involves constant monitoring of metrics like organic traffic, bounce rates (how many users leave your site immediately after clicking on it), keyword rankings, and conversion rate (what percentage of website visitors make a booking). To measure your performance and find opportunities for improvement, you can use tools like Google Analytics, Google’s Search Console, or a third-party app like Semrush or Moz. Google Analytics is free to use and can reveal insight into user behavior on your site. For example, you might notice that your bounce rate is higher for users who access your site from a mobile device. This might signal that your site is not as mobile-friendly as it could be!
Keeping Up with SEO Trends and Industry Changes
Like with any element of your digital marketing strategy, you’ll want to stay up-to-date on SEO trends and search algorithm changes so you can stay ahead of your competitors and adapt accordingly. A great way to stay informed on SEO news is to follow blogs (or even Twitter or LinkedIn pages) by SEO software companies like Moz or Ahrefs. They’ll alert you whenever a big change or update happens. Another best practice is to work with a SEO specialist to conduct a quarterly or yearly SEO audit. This audit will tell where you should focus when considering changes to your site to remain competitive.
Ready to put your hotel’s website at the top of the Google search results? Having a beautiful website isn’t enough to succeed in the search results; you need to implement on-page, off-page, technical, and local SEO strategies to rise above your competitors online. With the right strategies in place, you can get more online visibility, attract your target guests, and get more direct bookings.
In the ever-evolving landscape of the hospitality industry, one aspect remains constant: the need for hotel marketers to embrace the world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This digital marketing strategy is not merely a trend but an essential tool that can deliver lasting value, setting it apart from the short-term gains of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and the sometimes costly dependence on Online Travel Agencies (OTAs).
Hoteliers are discovering that SEO is akin to planting seeds that yield fruit for years to come. By crafting a well-thought-out SEO strategy, hotels can ascend the ranks of search engine results pages (SERPs), thus ensuring a consistent flow of organic traffic to their websites. This consistent stream of potential guests exploring the hotel's online offerings becomes a valuable asset. While PPC campaigns and OTA partnerships can be effective, they often come with substantial advertising expenses and commission fees. SEO, on the other hand, offers the allure of "free bookings." When executed adeptly, it drives organic traffic directly to your website, eliminating the need to pay for each click or booking. The result? A significant boost in profitability as marketing expenses plummet. Local SEO holds particular relevance for hotel marketers. It's the strategy that places your hotel firmly on the map when potential guests search for accommodations in a specific locale. By optimizing your Google My Business profile, including critical details like your hotel's contact information, you increase your visibility in local searches and on platforms like Google Maps. This, in turn, attracts guests from your immediate vicinity.
The bedrock of any successful SEO endeavor is comprehensive keyword research. By identifying the keywords that resonate with your hotel brand, location, and services, you can tailor your content to align with searchers' needs. Long-tail keywords, which cater to specific demands, often prove to be the hidden gems that draw potential guests to your site. Creating top-tier, informative, and engaging content is the cornerstone of SEO. Regularly publishing articles, blog posts, and guides that address the desires and inquiries of your target audience positions your hotel as an industry authority. Furthermore, this practice attracts organic traffic like a magnet. Link building is another fundamental aspect of SEO. It involves crafting a network of both internal and external links. Backlinks from reputable websites within the hospitality industry elevate your website's standing in search engine results. Meanwhile, internal links enhance user experience by guiding visitors to pertinent pages on your site. SEO isn't solely about keywords and backlinks; it's also about delivering an exceptional user experience. Factors such as page speed, mobile-friendliness, meta descriptions, title tags, and headings play a pivotal role in how visitors interact with your website. A seamless user experience can translate into higher conversion rates and reduced bounce rates. SEO empowers you to assess the effectiveness of your efforts through tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console. By tracking vital metrics such as website traffic, click-through rates, and conversion rates, you can make data-driven enhancements to your hotel marketing strategy. Consistency in SEO efforts is a potent tool for boosting your hotel brand's visibility. In an intensely competitive industry, securing a spot on the first page of search results when potential guests search for accommodations establishes your hotel as a credible choice. While PPC campaigns and OTAs may yield short-term demand, they often come with continuous financial commitments. SEO, when diligently nurtured, can reduce your reliance on expensive advertising campaigns and third-party platforms. This cost-effective approach can pave the way for enhanced profitability in the long run.
Hotel SEO is an indispensable asset for hotel marketers aiming to generate bookings, trim marketing expenses, and establish a robust online presence. By focusing on pertinent keywords, producing exceptional content, enhancing user experiences, and nurturing link-building efforts, hoteliers can harness the potential of organic search to attract potential guests and secure enduring success in the fiercely competitive hospitality landscape.