There are many guides out there on the subject of SEO. There are also many out there that claim they are the definitive resource on the subject.
I am not here to do that. What I am here to do is let you in on some SEO tips for hotels. These are going to be critical to your success in the field. Whether you choose to do this on your own, or whether you decide to outsource it to another company, I want to let you know these things that you should focus on to make sure your hotel is showing up in the search results.
If you show up in the SERPS, then there is a good chance for you to drive people over to your website. If you can drive people to your website, you should be able to get them to convert -- if you have a high-quality website.
Why Does Your Hotel Need SEO
If you can't be seen, then you can't be found. That is the bluntest way to put it, but I don't want you to get confused. SEO is not promotion. Promotion's primary goal is to promote, as the name states. SEO is meant to harness demand. This means that if there is a demand for something, then you can SEO for it.
Let me put this in a better manner. The demand for a hotel is going to be greater in Hollywood than it will be in The Dalles. You can SEO for both destinations, but the "results" are going to differ. Unless, of course, the CVB in the much smaller town is promoting the area regularly. This would mean that the promotion would inflate the demand. If this were the case, then you might have similar results. Since that is not typically the case, just be aware that SEO gathers demand...it does not create it. If that is what you are expecting from this, you might want to look at some hotel promotions.
Applying the principles of quality, sustainable SEO can help increase your exposure. There is no voodoo magic, and there are no faucets that you can turn on when it comes to search engine optimization. There are, however, some things that you should focus on to ensure that you are setting yourself up for success.
Think about how you would look for travel
Who knows, maybe you have some website that you go to for checking prices when you are planning your trip. These are sites like Skyscanner, Hipmunk, etc. Most people, however, tend to start their search on a search engine, most notably Google. How wonderful would it be if your hotel website showed up in one of the top spots? Getting in this position would, at the very least, get you consideration from a potential customer.
It sounds easier said than done, though. Go ahead and search for a general term like "hotels in x" or "places to stay in x." You will most certainly see the search results littered with aggregators and OTA sites. Don't fear, though, because while they have size, you have something better. You have the product, and as long as the product is good, you can succeed at SEO. Getting to the top isn't going to be easy, but it can be done. It should be noted that as of early 2017, up to 92% of traffic comes from page one of the search results.
You should also note that although the search engine algorithms regularly change, SEO is a gift that will keep on giving. As long as you are not doing any blackhat SEO, your web traffic should increase over time.
I am going to assume that you haven't been living under a rock for the last decade, and you at least have a website for your hotel and have some knowledge of SEO (keywords, etc.)
How to Get Started with SEO for your hotel
As you are getting started on improving your SEO, you should know that many things fall under the category of SEO. This isn't just competitor research and choosing keywords. The keywords are going to need some type of content strategy, and the content is going to need a linking plan. It will also need a promotion strategy (most likely some form of social. It should all be framed within your competitive set to achieve maximum results.
You should also understand that what was once a field dominated by desktop and its fundamentals, has now changed to a mobile-first world. The user experience is now gauged by how it performs on mobile, not how it shows on desktop.
Manually review the relevancy of your target keywords.
Let's say that you are trying to target "hotels in [major city]" because you see that it gets a ton of traffic. You type in that search term and see that your hotel is somewhere on page 3 of the search results pages. Why is this? Well, it turns out that Google's algorithm understands that your hotel is located just outside of [major city]. They noticed that you are targeting searches for Hollywood, but you are really in Los Angeles, for example. You can still rank for this term, but it is going to be harder than, say, a hotel that is located in Hollywood and targeting the same term. Do this for all of your keywords. If you meet the searcher's need for the keywords, then you are off to a good start.
Links, Links of all kinds
Google crawls the website by following links from one place to another. It stands to reason that the more links that you have pointing to your site, the more Google will notice you. The thing is that the links have to be of good quality since spammy links will only serve to hurt your site rankings.
Who is going to link to you if you do not have any credibility yet? Very few people, or people with spammy websites, that's who.
It is for this reason I recommend that hotels focus on their internal links first. These types of links are ones that point to other areas of your website. By using internal links, you can guide the user along the path to check out your hotel. If you can nail this first part, and you are not wasting their time sending them to your booking engine at every chance you get, then this number will only improve. Keeping them on your site clicking around will also help with your SEO, as it will lower the instances of "pogosticking" (This happens when a user comes to your website and then immediately heads back to the SERPs because it wasn't what they were looking for). One of the best places for internal links is your website's sitemap file. What better place for Googlebot to crawl than one that contains all of the pages on your website? And if your pages have excellent contextual internal links on them, Google will be able to understand better what your site is about.
Once you have an excellent internal link structure, you should invest in a backlink checking tool. We use Majestic, SEMRush & Ahrefs here, but there are many others on the market for you to use. You can plug in any competitors to start that are ranking higher than you, and see where they are getting their links from. If you do this, you can see what they have that you don't and vice versa. This will allow you to "predict" your SEO future.
What I mean by this is that if you can obtain the links that they have and that you don't, you'll know that you can take away this competitive advantage. On the other hand, you will also know what links you have that they don't. This will let you see what benefit you will have once you acquire the links that they already have. This allows you to strategize in a much more efficient manner.
So, you've determined that the key terms that you are targeting are relevant. You have also managed to obtain an advantage in the area of link building, but you're still not on the first page. What gives?
Double Check your fundamentals
As I had mentioned earlier, Google changes their algorithm for determining search results frequently. That is why I waited to bring up "the fundamentals." These are things that are considered best practices, but much of the research on them these days points to them not being as important (or of particular importance) as they once were.
- Meta Titles - This is the title that shows up in the search results. Best practice has dictated that you try to get your target keyword in there somehow, but at this point in 2018, it doesn't matter as much. What matters is that it accurately describes what the user is going to see when they visit that webpage. It should entice the user to click over to the hotel website, but it shouldn't be linkbait just to get them over to the site.
- Meta Descriptions - This is the part that is right under the meta title in the search results. Once a user has read the title, some will read what is written under it to see if it is really what they are looking for. You should put your keyword in this area so that it will show up in bold in the search results. This description should offer a little bit more to hook the reader into committing to visit your website.
- Site speed - Always the faster, the better, but getting it to around 3 seconds is best
- Mobile-friendliness - Everything should be sized appropriately for the user
If you follow these simple SEO tips for your hotel, you should start to see your organic traffic begin to pick up. Take care of the fundamentals, and make sure you are putting out the best quality work that is out there. If you only follow one tip, let it be that one. If you are putting out the best stuff out there, then everything else should fall into place.