Hospitality SEO Secrets

By Ryan Bifulco Founder & CEO, Travel Spike | September 09, 2012

Firms who invested in SEO saw on average a 70% ROI according to MarketingSherpa. So why don't more hotels invest in this area? Why do so many hotels tell me, "Oh yeah, our tech guys handle that" or "We are already in Google." Yes, you are in Google but where are you in Google? If you are not on the first page, then you might as well be on page 99. Most of the traffic from search engines comes from listings on the first page. Just because you are in Google for one phrase does not mean your work is done. There might be hundreds or even thousands of keyword phrases relevant to your property where you could be getting some free organic traffic. But without proper professional help you will no longer be able to keep up.

Everyone wants to get on the first page of Google these days. Many hoteliers believe they can achieve this on their own. This was true prior to Google changing the rules back in the Spring of 2012. Anyone with a little knowledge of search engine optimization used to be able to get on the first page with some basic link building. That is no longer the case. Things have become more technical and more complex not to mention more competitive. So it is critical for your property to stay ahead and gain extra bookings from search engine traffic. Many hospitality companies are relying on search traffic to drive a significant amount of revenue. So working with an expert or a search company that keeps up with the trends is more important now even compared to a year ago.

Google changes the rules and modifies their algorithm weekly. Just because you ranked really well a few months ago does not mean you will be on page 1 in the future. Many things you thought you learned about SEO might no longer be relevant. The only thing that is constant is change. So in order to keep up with Google and all of your competitors you should make a true investment in a professional SEO firm. Just because your nephew knows how to make his bed does not mean you make him head of housekeeping. The same applies with SEO and you really do get what you pay for. All SEO firms are not created equal and the good ones operate on a higher level but will cost a little more.

My first secret to hotel SEO success is to focus on your strengths. You and your team are really good at running a hotel and keeping guests happy. Perhaps your property also has to manage a restaurant or two. You always need more marketing and PR to increase business. Your time is better spent on those items than it is trying to dabble in SEO. But don't assume that just because you hired some tech guys that know something about Google that your job is done. The more time you spend giving your SEO company information about your hotel the better. Good input allows for the possibility of excellent output.

I will lay out a few more search engine optimization tips just so you can be more educated when you evaluate your own SEO efforts and attempt to select the best partner to help you get to page 1 of Google. You should start by spending time better understanding your customers and target customers. How do they think and what phrases might they type into the search engines to find your hotel? Make sure to do keyword research to indentify a bunch of phrases that fit your property. Keep in mind if you come up with some then your SEO firm will be able to expand and research on other similar terms. There could be words and phrases you have not even thought of, but an outside team will be able to uncover those opportunities. Be sure to also do a competitive analysis to see what types of keywords that your local competitors rank highly. Then you need to trim down your list of keywords so that you have a good balance of popular terms with as low competition as possible. So if everyone is trying to rank for the keyword "Seattle hotel" that would be a highly competitive battle. But less people might focus on "Family friendly Seattle hotel," so you would have a better chance to rank highly for that less popular phrase.

Let's dive into another important note that most hotels are not aware of. Yes of course your hotel competes with three of four properties in the area. So those properties have a chance to display ahead of your site within the Google rankings. But did you know that there are thousands of other sites around the globe competing for the exact same keywords you are trying to focus on? Did you know many of these global competitors are not even hotels? OTAs also compete with you for those precious spots on page 1. So do tons of other sites that offer destination information and other content either locally or on a global scale. Even your local tourism board might appear in some of the keyword phrases you are trying to go after.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.