Years into the online experience, search engine optimization (SEO) remains one of the most misunderstood and neglected areas of digital development. For the sake of attracting customers, business owners must embrace SEO or risk losing critical visibility in their marketplace. This is especially true for the highly competitive hotel and lodging industry.
According to a recent consumer survey, nearly nine out of 10 customers prefer booking their hotel accommodations online. Let’s face it—that number is not going to get any smaller.
With Google algorithms constantly changing, hotels without a solid SEO strategy and execution plan will be lost in the digital wilderness. So what can hotels do to enhance their web presence and improve their search rankings without blowing their budgets? Frankly, quite a lot.
1. Get listed.
Begin by submitting your site to Google Business, Google Places, and other search engines. From there, focus on generating listings in the top hotel and lodging directories, Convention & Visitors Bureaus, and other local travel and tourism sites. These create the type of high-quality links that can help improve site rankings.
2. Focus on reviews.
Online reviews are here to stay. Unclaimed business pages tell a story about lack of attention to customer service and detail, so don’t let them languish—take charge of them! Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor are the best places to start. In today’s lightning-fast world, it’s vital to pay close attention to the conversations your customers are having by going through reviews or social media. Set up alerts so you can stay on top of new reviews, ratings, and social media posts and tags. It’s important to address customer issues promptly, or you run the risk of going viral for all the wrong reasons.
3. Optimize website load time.
One of the biggest frustrations for consumers is loading time—few people will stick around and wait for your site to load. In fact, if it takes more than a few seconds to load, you’ve lost a potential customer to a competitor. Get rid of data hogs like Flash, automatic players for music and video, and downloadable PDFs. Reduce or compress the size of photos and videos, and optimize style sheets.
4. Capitalize on content marketing.
People are becoming more and more immune to marketing messages, and their indifference and avoidance of traditional marketing messages are driving huge changes in how businesses reach potential customers. That’s why you keep hearing that content is king. Whether it’s through a traditional blog, vlog (video blog), or podcast, high-quality content means better visibility to search engines, as well as increased engagement with customers.
5. Embrace long-tail keywords.
Long tail keywords are specific phrases that can indicate a buyer is close to book or buy. Google’s Keyword tool can help you identify long tail keywords that have more opportunity than the highly competitive and expensive “Hotel Name | Location” structure. Long tail keywords give savvy hotel operators the opportunity to “plant their flag” by creating content for their target customer based on real things they’re searching for online. For example, things to do in “your location” in winter.
6. Create customized content.
Use long-tail keywords and other marketing insights to spark and drive the creation of customized content for your website blog, newsroom, social media, and other pages.
7. Hire SEO and content professionals.
There are only so many hours in a day, and so many topics and technologies you can master. Invest in SEO and content expertise to execute the first six of these steps. Your rankings will likely climb faster, bringing in more qualified leads and ultimately making sure you have more heads in beds. Spend your time focusing on your core business: delighting your customers. In the end, that’s where your most engaging stories will begin.
About the Author
Alexis Krisay is a partner and president of marketing for Serendipit Consulting, a public relations, marketing, branding, and event-planning firm with a specialization in franchise, real estate, healthcare, fitness, and wellness. She can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-833-2744.