You know that search engine optimization for hotels is crucial. You know that you need to be doing it because your comp set is crushing you when it comes to occupancy. Maybe your ADR is better, but the bottom line is: you need to get more people into your hotel to fill those empty rooms, and you think that SEO might just be the answer.
Before you dive headfirst into this endeavor, I offer you this bit of advice. Whenever you are doing anything related to SEO, it is essential TO PUT YOURSELF IN YOUR CUSTOMER'S SHOES.
They might not seem like they go hand-in-hand, but as SEO continues to evolve, this is what will matter. This will be the most efficient way to succeed in your search marketing efforts.
Recent Statistics From Google Regarding Their SERP Updates
I started writing this because I read an article Barry Schwartz on SEO Round Table wrote in April 2017 that stated the following:
- Google quality raters conducted 130,336 search quality tests this past year
- Google ran 18,015 side-by-side experiments in search
- Google tried 9,800 live traffic experiments which hit about 1% of the searchers
- Google ultimately launched only 1,653 of them based on all those tests
The initial numbers just speak to how much Google tinkers around with the search engine results page. The thing that got me is that they launched 1653 of their updates! That includes search rankings, user interface tests, etc. As Barry pointed out, the actual search-specific changes aren't that high. Still, this shows that things are continually changing, and that is something that you, as hoteliers need to be prepared for when assessing your SEO.
Search Engine Optimization Defined
"the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine."
That is the bare-bones-jones definition. Did you know that Google has 200+ ranking factors that go into their search algorithm? That's right. How do you suppose that you are going to optimize for all of those factors in a 365 day calendar year? Most of us in the hotel business stay busy. So….
- Are you going to focus on roughly 2 of them a day? (assuming only 200 factors, but knowing there has to be more)
- Are you going to choose 20 at random and go for broke with those? What if Google tweaks its algorithm again?
- Are you going to do your pseudo-SEO rain dance and hope for the best?
Or are you going to put yourself in the customer's shoes and optimize for that?
Yes, technical audits are essential to make sure that you are not losing any of that precious "link-juice" within your domain. Yes, you need to create killer content so that it can earn you those links. Yes, the keywords that you choose still kind-of matter, but the essential thing that you need to remember is to keep your customer front and center.
Set Goals & Figure Out What You Want From Your SEO Journey
Think about how you would feel if you were reading an article, and you clicked on a link that took you to a 404 (dead/non-functioning link) page. You were really into the content on the website and thought you could learn more about the subject by clicking on the link, but now you can't. This is something that gets resolved in a technical audit. Even more than that, this is what gets fixed when you think like your customer. Set an SEO goal to make sure that the experience is frictionless, and I assure you that you will be rewarded.
"We need to go after high volume keywords!" Well, maybe, but not really. With all of these changes that consistently happen, there is no way for a single hotel GM to keep up with what keywords they should target on an ever-changing basis. Positions can drop overnight for people that are trying to game the keyword system. Again, put yourself in the customer's shoes. Is the content that you have on your site the best to compete with significant key terms..probably not. If you were the user, how would you make your decision? How would you even know your hotel exists? Set a goal to tie your keywords to pages per session, and you will optimize your keywords for happy customers. Optimize for the customers, not necessarily the keywords. Now that is organic.
Okay, so now you know that the customer will be able to access all of the internal links on your site, and you have chosen the right keywords, and optimized it for the path to booking. Now what? You have to create killer content. Content and SEO are like twins that were born joined at the hip. They are very similar and need to work in lock-step. So hear me out here. If you create excellent content that is link-worthy, you work on optimizing your pages/path to purchase from internal links, and you make sure that everything is tidy on your website. There is only one thing left for you to stay atop of the search engine results page, and that is scaling it up. Then, once you have scaled up sufficiently, you need to maintain that position.
That is where the fun starts all over again. Because by that time, the signals might have changed. But, if you focus on the customer, then you should be able to avoid any ranking issues for some time to come.