Hotels that want more direct bookings on their websites need to drive traffic to their websites, and this requires effective search engine optimization (SEO). Most travelers start planning their journeys online, but after potential customers enter search engine inquiries, they usually don't spend much time looking through all of the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Instead, the websites that appear on the first page garner more than 90% of the traffic. If your hotel's website is not listed high in the rankings, it is much less likely to be visited.
Getting Started with Hotel SEO
Your keyword research should focus on target words and terms that are relevant to audiences, along with your hotel's geographic location. One of the first steps towards effective hotel SEO is creating a Google My Business page. This service lets you create a free basic listing that can include a description of your property, street address and contact information.
You can customize this listing with more details, like prices, proximity to the nearest airport and famous landmarks, and photos. Making a Google My Business page is very straightforward and shouldn't take you more than 30 minutes; you can update it whenever you like.
Reviews are also essential for hotels, and the more stars you can get, the better. Google My Business has them, as do sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Savvy hotel marketers make sure to claim listings on these sites and make efforts to ensure that the citations are claimed and optimized.
Search Engine Journal mentions optimizing a site's schema markup as essential for hotel SEO. It is a type of microdata added to webpages and creates enhanced descriptions ("rich snippets") that show up in SERPs. Google, Bing and Yahoo created schema.org in 2011, and the microdata works to interpret the context of queries and establish the quality of search results.
Another technical aspect of hotel SEO is Google-approved link-building strategies, which can strengthen your hotel website's reputation with natural inbound link profiles.
Optimizing Hotel SEO
How do hotels optimize their online content to drive traffic to their sites with millions of travel websites, blogs, and social media posts out there? The first thing to know about how these audiences think is that they highly anticipate their travel experiences (in most cases) and focus on creating what are called "Memorable Tourism Experiences."
As a hotel marketer, your goal is to build up that anticipation with content and keywords that increase search positions, click-through rates, engagement, and conversions. What does this mean, though?
The content you use should incorporate emotional keywords and content that create and play up a sense of excitement. Long-tail keywords like "Maui hotel near scuba diving and snorkeling" can lead potential customers to your website. Once they get to the site, you should greet them with detailed descriptions of the hotel and scuba-diving spots, plus plenty of images and videos that will get them going.
SiteMinder recommends focusing on your property's best points and unique characteristics when developing keywords. Think about why people travel to your location, what they like to do in the area, what they would most like about your hotel, and the other services you offer, such as conference and banquet space, free airport shuttles, or a spa.
The primary keywords you settle on are the main ones you want to rank for, like "hotel in South Carolina" or "Cape May bed-and-breakfast." Naturally, the competitions for these can be brutal, so this is where you need secondary keywords like "pet-friendly" or "newly renovated." Avoid keyword stuffing to get higher rankings because Google recognizes that strategy and will penalize sites doing so in terms of lower search result rankings.
Creating User-Friendly Content
The basics of creating quality content have not changed all that much. Start with your main keywords as a guide and get to work. Your main goal is to create an authoritative, trustworthy voice that audiences will see as original, reliable, and engaging.
It should be in-depth, with the answers that your future hotel guests are seeking ("how far is it from the Grand Canyon?"). Just as importantly, users will want fast-loading pages and content that is easy to read and navigate. The booking process should also be seamless and fast, without any glitches.
Do not copy and paste content from other hotel websites because Google penalizes you for that. If you notice your competitors post many sunset photos, think outside of the box and maybe share a gorgeous sunrise viewed from the penthouse suite. Share stories about a couple that missed their connecting flight and arrived at your hotel late for an event and how you streamlined their check-in process.
Keep in mind that the more personal the content is, the more relatable it will be. Hotel website on-site SEO is also crucial to a winning strategy and focuses on making the content and HTML easier for users and search engines to understand. Page titles, meta descriptions, headings, URL structures, and the rest of the content, like images, videos, audio, and text, must be optimized.
A Case Study
You might be surprised just how well hotel SEO can work. Take the example of a North Carolina boutique hotel, where an SEO agency used a content audit template and a research strategy using data from the Google Search Console. Through the audit, the agency identified keyword and on-page SEO opportunities and added a table of contents to the website.
After making the changes, they used the Google Search Console again to recrawl the pages. This overall optimization strategy helped push the hotel's ranking up into the top five results on Google's SERP and increased organic traffic to the site by 434%. Remember that is an increase in traffic but not bookings, but one thing leads to another.
Want more advice on travel and travel marketing? Check out these FREE resources:
Want a FREE SEO Audit of Your Site?