The importance of SEO for organic (unpaid) traffic to websites is already well-known. When performed properly, hospitality businesses can employ SEO methods to increase online visibility, traffic, and ultimately, guest bookings. However, the majority of smaller hostels and inns do not have the resources to hire a professional SEO team to optimize their websites. If you fall under this category, then these 7 guidelines can help you market your hospitality business easily, even with a low (or non-existent) budget.
1: Optimize Website Content
Hotels invest a large portion of their budgets in creating beautiful websites that show potential guests their facilities. However, websites that are not properly indexed by search engines do not get ranked in the SERPs (search engine results pages) and end up losing potential bookings. Search engines scan both the actual content written on the site and the way it is coded. Therefore, the first step is to optimize the website’s code, starting with these sections:
- Page Title - Page titles should include, within the title tag, the most likely information that someone would search for, such as the hotel location and name. Smaller or lesser-known hospitality businesses should first present their location and then their name. For example: “Intimate Miami hotel by the Beach – Best Southern Hotel.”
- Meta Tags - While this content is not associated with ranking in SERPs, it does tell the reader what your site is about and serves as the most important factor in the probability that someone will click on your link. As one of the most important guidelines for SEO for hospitality businesses (and all businesses, really), this tag should also reflect the type of audience that the hotel is looking to attract. For example: “Looking for a beautiful hotel in Miami? Best Southern Hotel is located in right on the beach.” It is best to create different meta description tags for each page of the website.
- Alt Tags - Photos need to have brief descriptions added to them to be properly indexed by search engines, as well. For example, an image of a swimming pool would be tagged as such (alt=” swimming pool”). Equally important is ensuring that the photo itself is named to reflect what is it showing (SwimmingPool.jpg)
- Keywords - Titles and descriptions should all include the main keywords that users would search when looking for a hotel or inn. Keywords for hospitality businesses should generally combine location and type of property. For example: “Luxury hotels near Miami Beach.”
2: Quality Content and User Intent
If a website lacks content, search engines have nothing to scan and display in the SERPs. Therefore, the second step in hospitality SEO is to have high quality content that will lure readers and convert them into customers. Such content can include blog posts, infographics, and videos. The main pages of your site should include the most updated and relevant information regarding your property or service. The more details you include that answer the users’ search queries about the location, the services, the nearby attractions, prices, opening hours and amenities, the more time they’ll spend on your site – improving ranking factors. In addition, this improves the chances that they’ll turn into customers.
3: Internal and External Links
Internal links are those used in content, such as blog posts, that link back to other pages within the website. These links help search engines learn more about the website, which can help with search rankings.
External links are key to ranking higher in the SERPs, as well. These links should appear on other websites and use keyword anchor text to link back to your website. This will help your hotel appear higher in rankings for those specific keywords. Therefore, you should select the main keywords that you are trying to rank for and promote them as much as possible. One way to get external links is to contact relevant bloggers and offer them posts or infographics you have created that could be relevant to the blog’s audience.
4: Keyword Research
Keyword research is crucial when creating content. Google Adwords Keyword Tool is a free tool that indicates what keywords are most likely to send traffic to a website, to those of competitors, and the competitiveness of those keywords. This is important in understanding which keywords will bring relevant traffic. Top keywords have very high competition and may not always drive the right kind of traffic to your site, so many times it would be more efficient to use medium- and low-ranking keywords that are more targeted towards your audience.
5: Work with Online Travel Agents (OTAs)
OTAs are essential to increasing positive brand metrics. As a hotel gets more branded searches, search engines increase their rank because they see that people know the hotel and are searching for it.
Additionally, OTAs give hotels an opportunity to utilize the Billboard Effect: This is where direct bookings on a hotel’s website are increased by up to 25% once properties are listed on online travel site. Potential customers go to one of these websites (Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com, etc.), search for hotels in their destination, and then search for the property name to see the website. Once there, many times they book a room in the hotel, directly.
6: List Hotels on Business Listings
Just like OTAs, business listings, such as Google Places, Yelp, TripAdvisor and other business directories, increase your positive brand metrics. You need to ensure that all of your hotel listings contain the same information across the board; This makes search engines feel more confident that the information displayed is correct, which makes them more likely to promote your hotel in the SERPs.
7: Make Sites Mobile-Friendly
While most websites created these days are responsive for all devices, many older websites haven’t yet been optimized for mobile. Google ranks websites optimized for mobile higher than others, so you need to make sure that your hotel’s site is mobile-friendly.
In addition to browsing on mobile, potential guests should be able to easily book and pay on mobile, as well. There are many travelers who book hotels on-the-go, and providing mobile booking and simple, one or two click mobile payments is key to increasing bookings.
SEO for hospitality business encompasses a wide range of recommended actions, including optimizing the website, creating quality content with select keywords, and increasing positive brand metrics through business page listings and working with OTAs. As hotels tackle each of these different suggestions, their organic search engine bookings should increase, and they will have less need for paid advertising.