For quite some years, SEO—Search Engine Optimisation—has carried around the same predicted destiny as the GDS systems for hotels: by now, they both were supposed to be dead, and just like the GDS, this prediction ended up being completely wrong. The point is: SEO is more alive than ever. It’s surely changed a lot. Yet, the fundamentals and principles behind a very good Hotel SEO structure have essentially remained the same over time. Moreover, these fundamentals and principles don’t have to be technical, difficult, nor expensive.
Put differently, even though you might have very little (or no) budget and very little (or no) technical skills, you will always be in the position to make your hotel SEO skyrocket. All you need is a good strategy, good content and follow a bunch of simple yet essential guidelines that will rule your hotel SEO game. And this is exactly what we are going to talk about in this blog.
So, if you are a hotelier who believes in no shortcuts to getting things done, even with limited resources, but rather with the desire to do everything in your power to make your hotel stand out from the competition, this post is for you.
Know your market. Or pick one.
You've certainly heard the old saying “marketing to everyone = marketing to no one”, haven’t you? Let’s see an example:
Now let’s think about it: if you were to look for a hotel for your next family trip (just to make an example), would you prefer a hotel that serves specifically (or mainly) leisure travellers or another hotel that serves both leisure and business travellers, indistinctly. The answer is obvious and logical. So should be your SEO. No one wants generalists. Everyone wants specialists.
Forget about all the technicalities and difficult terms that you hear every time you listen to someone talking about SEO. SEO is pure logic, just like any other marketing strategy, so focus on your specific market segments and, if you have many, focus on one, or at least the most important ones, but no more than two or three, tops.
Families? Couples? Solo travellers? Business? MICE? Your call. And be the specialist of that market.
How to structure a good (basic) setup
All over the internet, you’ll find plenty of very good articles and posts about SEO and, specifically, SEO for hotels. However, we wanted to minimize the technical part as much as possible. Because here’s the thing: 90% of SEO is… Content.
Yet, the remaining 10% that represents the technical part of SEO, if not done well, can destroy the huge effort you put forth when creating wonderful content. So, for a very little moment, let’s quickly cover a few things that you need to take care of every single time you write good SEO content. Some of these things are what people see when searching on Google, therefore these are the most important ones:
Your page title is the most visible part of the search results on Google. Thus, it’s the most important thing you need to take care of.
There’s no big science behind your page titles, yet it remains the most important SEO element. However, when it comes to your home page, try to focus on the following 4-element formula and try to include them all in your Home Page title:
Name + Location + Commercial key + USP (or differentiating factor)
For example, Plaza Hotel New York with Pool near Central Park. Break down this title and you have all the 4 elements of the formula:
- Name: Plaza
- Location: New York
- Commercial key: Hotel New York
- UPS/differentiating factor: with pool and near Central Park.
In the case of your home page, the URL is a no-brainer. However, when it comes to the internal pages like a blog page, what do you think is a more efficient and professional link between your-hotel-domain.com/?p=123 and your-hotel-domain.com/blog-page-title ?
Put another way, write your deep links in a way that they also communicate the main message of your page. Thus, forget about technical URLs, they mean nothing to people, nor to Google and other Search Engines.
It’s a summary of your page content. You can potentially avoid writing a meta description for some or even all of your pages. In which case, Google will automatically write a summary for you. I bet you know more about your hotel than Google, so even though writing a meta description is not compulsory, we strongly invite you to take the time out to write a proper summary for each page of your hotel website.
Meta descriptions can be any length, but Google generally truncates snippets to 160 characters, just like the length of an SMS. So try to be short and concise, avoid unnecessary lengthy texts and focus on keywords that you know your users are most interested in.
Other details are not so explicitly visible on Google, yet they are of paramount importance because they tell the Search Engine more about what your content is about and its structure.
Alt (for images)
The attribute Alt is simply a short description of your image. Using alt text not only improves the user experience but also helps earn you both explicit and implicit SEO benefits.
Headings and subtitles are far more important than descriptive texts because they tell Google what the content of your page is about, in very few words. However, using bold, italic and underlined will not tell Google much about that being a chapter, heading or subtitle. Instead, use a hierarchical structure of Headings. Just like this very post.
Imagine creating a carbon copy of your entire hotel website, with all the pages, content and links. A sitemap is just that, a copy of your website, with the only difference that a sitemap is written in a different language. In simple words, a sitemap translates your website into a language that is easier to read and interpret by Google and other search engines like Bing and Yahoo.
Among all the listed items, this is probably the most technical part. Good news though, there are tools that create a sitemap for you, automatically and for free, in one click. Moreover, once in place, maintaining a sitemap requires nearly 0 effort.
Links (internals and externals)
Simple as that: the greater the number of links that point to a page, the more relevant that page will be in the eyes of Google. In terms of SEO, internal and, more specifically, external links are crucial components of your SEO ranking.
These are the most important technical aspects you always need to keep in mind. Sounds difficult? I bet not! Now let’s focus a bit more on the other side: content.
Content, Content, Content
Do you remember the disclaimer of this post? It says “no shortcuts”.
“But how much content is really needed?”
“How long will it take me to produce”
“And even when I have all the content, how long will it take for ranking organically on Google?”
These may be some of the questions in your mind. As we all know, SEO takes some time indeed. The fact that SEO is free doesn’t mean it has no cost. It’s just a different currency: not money, but time. But here’s the deal: good quality content always gets to the top. Everyone though wants to be organically found on Google with the most generic keywords hotel + [destination].
So now, let me ask you a question:
Why would Google rank you for your destination, if you don’t have content about your destination?
You see? SEO, again, is pure logic. So let’s use this logic to see what “good” and “quality” content actually mean and what kind of content you should be delivering. Ultimately the point is only one: giving people what they are looking for. And that’s what your content should be about.
Blog or no blog?
Many hoteliers still wonder if they should have a blog. Let’s think about it together.
In the context of a travel plan, before searching for a hotel people may be interested in what to do in your specific destination, right? Put another way, chronologically speaking it’s likely that people search first for “things to do in London” as opposed to “hotel in London”.
Only when they know what they will be doing in that specific destination, prospective travellers will start looking for hotels that better match those activities or points of interest that represent the reason for their trip. A blog is the best way for you to be found by people searching for “things to do in [your destination]”.
But why would you want to be found when people search for a search term like “things to do in [your destination]”? Ultimately, what you would really want is to rank #1 on Google for hotel + [destination], don’t you? The ultimate and impossible dream of every hotelier...
Let’s be realistic though, do you think it will ever happen? It simply can’t happen, because the competition is too high and too strong, not only from other hotels but also (and more importantly) from other channels, aka Online Travel Agencies. However, if you manage to be seen by those users searching for e.g. “fun things to do in [destination]” two great things will happen:
1. Users will land on your page because you’re likely giving them exactly what they are looking for: suggestions on things to do in your city/town.
Automatically and subconsciously, you’ll be the one who will get closer to their ultimate desire, meaning the real core reason why people will eventually stay at your hotel: having fun in your city/town. You bet the odds of those users choosing you as their preferred hotel will be higher.
2. People looking for “fun things to do in Orlando” are hardly close to completing a booking. However, a website visitor is a thousand times closer to making a booking than someone who has never even heard about you and your hotel. If they won’t reserve organically, with some simple yet cost-effective retargeting campaigns you might be able to convert those users at a later stage.
So blog YES or blog NO? Of course yes, but start with some evergreen piece of content that will last, perform and bring you organic traffic… forever. Writing new content every week can be exhausting, yet writing some relevant content is thousands of times better than writing nothing.
Write for your market
The very first point we talked about in this article was very clear: know your market. Therefore talk to your market segment, not to everyone.
What does it mean? It means this:
Someone looking for a romantic place in Orlando is certainly not interested in your meeting facilities. The term “romantic” defines the audience: couples. Step into your prospective customer's shoes: you are in a relationship, maybe you are newly engaged and you want to surprise your new partner with a romantic trip to, let’s say, Orlando.
Would you be tempted to click a search result like the one above? I really guess so. What do couples want? What are they looking for? Write about all that in relation to your destination. And you’ll get tons of free, juicy and on-target traffic to your website.
How to Write
But now, how should you write this content? Everything listed in the previous paragraph “How to structure a good (basic) setup” is all you need from a technical perspective. But you might have many more questions and doubts, for example:
- How long should my hotel blog post be?
- Which keywords should I use in the body?
- And how many times do I have to repeat them?
There are no specific answers to these questions and you don’t necessarily need external tools to help you write your content. However, there are tools like Surferseo, Phrase or Yoast that come at very little cost, sometimes even with some free tier/version, that would definitely help in the process of writing.
Getting started with SEO
SEO can be scary. But not because of it being so, but because of us making it so. It sounds difficult with all those technical terms floating around the term SEO. Yet, as said many times, SEO is pure logic and yes, just a bit technical. But, not difficult.
Knowing those few crucial things and with the right few tools, there is nothing that can prevent you from bringing your hotel ranking to the moon.
Check out Hotelchamp eCommerce to get started building a website for your hotel that’s search engine optimised.