The hotel industry has always been a competitive industry and now even more so due to historically low demand caused by COVID-19 travel restrictions. In these tough times, lodging operators must find ways to increase bookings while decreasing costs. The goal is to get more organic (unpaid) traffic to your hotel website and generate more direct bookings. How? S. E. O. (Search engine optimization.)
SEO is critical to improving your website’s ranking in organic search engine results for increased visibility. Search engine algorithms (and, therefore, SEO tactics) are always evolving and so it’s important to keep up with the latest changes in case they might affect your website’s ranking.
But there are also fundamental SEO practices that stand the test of time. Think of them as the basic building blocks of hotel website SEO to make sure your property is found online.
SEO begins with good design. A search-engine-friendly design is a user-friendly design, which means an attractive, easy-to-use and helpful website that results in clicks and conversions. Just as sites with high bounce rates indicate a bad user experience to search engines and result in lower ranking, sites that engage users indicate a good user experience and result in higher ranking.
An important factor of a well-designed website that significantly impacts both SEO and the user experience is mobile-friendliness. Start with a responsive design that automatically detects and adapts to the user’s device to set your website off on the right foot.
Intuitive navigation is another key element of a user-friendly and search-engine-friendly website. Make sure your website is easy to navigate with simple, well-organized menus and content, and relevant CTAs on every page that lead users to the next step. An up-to-date HTML sitemap of all currently active pages can be useful to users too, and an XML sitemap can make it easier for search engine bots to navigate your website. When it comes to page content, structured data is key to helping search engines (and users) read and make sense of page content, organizing and structuring information in a universally understood way.
Building and maintaining your website with a CMS (content management system) like WordPress—which offers built-in SEO tools and third-party SEO plugins—is a great first step in creating a search-engine-friendly website.
Yes, keywords are important for SEO (more on that below), but quality, purposeful content that resonates with your customers will generate conversions and improve your ranking too.
Get to know your target audience—what kind of experience are they looking for? What’s important to them? What do they want to know? Provide value to website visitors with complete, high-quality content that answers their questions and speaks to their emotions.
Maintaining up-to-date content (COVID-19 statement/FAQs, seasonal content, information about specials and packages, your hotel blog, local activities/event information) is important to the user experience and tells both users and search engines that your site is current.
Focus on creating customer-centric content for your property and the keywords will happen naturally.
Appropriate use of keywords and key phrases
As mentioned above, if your content gives users what they are looking for, chances are your copy already includes relevant keywords. However, it’s still a very good idea to do some keyword research to make sure every page of your website is optimized to meet searcher intent.
The goal is to identify one or two primary keywords and phrases for each topic (or page) of your website that travel consumers are using to conduct searches, and include those keywords naturally in your copy. (The key word (mind the pun!) is naturally; it’s important not to overuse keywords as this not only results in badly-written content that puts users off, but search engines penalize websites for keyword stuffing too.)
Start by brainstorming relevant keywords and phrases for each page of your website, and then use a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner for keyword suggestions and metrics like search volume. You can also try typing keywords directly into Google search to see which search term suggestions come up, for insight into searcher intent. Long-tail keywords (or key phrases), which are more specific or niche-focused, get less search traffic but have higher conversion value, and are important for voice search queries too.
Contact information on every page
Including your property’s contact information (address, phone number, email address) on every page of your website is a local SEO must, and especially important now as travel relies so heavily on domestic demand. A good way to do this is by including contact information in the header or footer of every page.
Using an embedded Google map on your website’s Location or Contact page is also good local SEO practice, and provides a great user experience too, allowing website visitors to interact with the map to get a better idea of your property’s location.
Fast page-load speed
Nobody likes a slow-loading website and neither do search engines because of the bad user experience slow sites represent. The longer your pages take to load, the higher your bounce rate and the lower your ranking on search engine results pages.
If your website is running a bit slow, use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool for suggestions on how to make it faster.
Optimized URLs, page titles and meta descriptions
Page URLs and page titles are very important. Displaying on search engine results pages (SERPs), they identify your business to online users and convey what a webpage is about. Your URLs (webpage addresses) and page titles should be specific to your business (include your property’s name) and descriptive of page content. Let’s start with URLs.
Essentially forming the structure of a website, URLs organize and locate a website’s pages, like folders on your computer. Every URL for your website should follow a top-down structure, starting of course with the domain name, for example, myhotel.com > myhotel.com/specials-and-packages > myhotel.com/specials-and-packages/wine-and-dine. URLs should be short and to-the-point, and use hyphens instead of underscores to separate words.
Page titles and meta descriptions describe webpages and are read by both users and search engines. The page title displays in Google search results as the big blue link for searchers to click on. The meta description is the short description of webpage content that appears below the page title on SERPs. The more relevant your page titles and meta descriptions, the more likely users will click through to your website from SERPs. Aim for concise and descriptive page titles and meta descriptions, and try to include the main query keyword for each page.
Image ALT text
Image ALT text (alternative text) is an element of website accessibility and is read by screen readers to help visually impaired users access website content. Image ALT text is also read by search engine bots and can help websites rank in image search results, which is important for hotels.
Image ALT text should describe the appearance and function of the image specifically, contain a keyword or key phrase (naturally), if possible, and should be no longer than 125 characters. Think about how you would describe the picture to someone who can’t see it.
Search engines favor secure websites because they offer internet users a safe browsing experience. Make sure your property’s website offers a secure user experience by implementing a valid SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate to protect the privacy and integrity of data passed between your website and a user’s computer. Secure sites display HTTPS or a padlock icon (depending on the browser) alongside the URL, signifying to users that the site is safe.
Including a data privacy statement on your website can also help earn the trust of users and search engines alike.
There are also things you can do outside of your website to improve your site’s ranking in search results.
Google My Business
Your Google My Business listing is crucial to local SEO. If you haven’t yet, claim your Google My Business listing and make sure all hotel details are complete and up to date, including contact details, amenities, highlights, and booking links.
NAP+W consistency on all sites
In addition to your Google My Business listing, it’s important to make sure your property’s name, address, phone number and website (NAP+W) are accurate and consistent across all of your property’s listings online, including other search engine business listings like Bing Places for Business, listings on online directories and destination marketing sites, as well as your listings on review websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp.
Quality back links
Speaking of listings, aim to get your property’s website listed on relevant, reputable directories and destination marketing sites, linking back to your property’s website. Consider collaborating with local businesses for cross-marketing opportunities too. Quality back links help give credibility to your website in the eyes of search engines.
You can and should also link to your website from your social media accounts. Promoting special deals and amenities and sharing blog posts on social media are great opportunities for linking to website content or even dedicated landing pages.
The more positive online reviews your property has, the better your organic visibility on SERPs. Travel consumers rely on reviews to help them choose places to stay, which is why Google’s hotel search results include a guest rating filter and a reviews tab.
Managing your hotel’s online reputation starts with providing a great guest experience and continues with post-stay communications.
SEO is the key to increasing organic traffic to your hotel website and boosting direct bookings. The steps above will help build a solid SEO foundation for your property’s website, but it’s not a set and forget type of deal. Because search engine algorithms are always evolving to provide the best user experience, there are always ways to improve your website’s SEO.
Keep a close eye on your website’s analytics (such as site traffic, time on site, pages per visit, conversions, bounce rates) to identify what’s working and what’s not, and adjust your strategy accordingly. Also regularly check through your website for errors—testing links, sign-up forms and your online booking engine, as well as checking for formatting errors and broken media files, etc. Even on the best of websites things do break, but the sooner issues are corrected, the better for your website’s visitors and SEO.
Do you need a search-engine-friendly website redesign for your property? Get in touch for a no-obligation chat with one of our helpful designers.