This article comes from one of Triptease's Direct Booking Coaches. Get in touch to find out how the Direct Booking Coaches can help your hotel.
Even in an industry where acronyms reign supreme, there are few heard of more commonly than SEO. Standing for Search Engine Optimization, SEO is the method by which websites can increase their organic search ranking and therefore the traffic to their website. When done right, SEO can improve your hotel website's visibility over competitors and attract high-quality attention to your website. Most of your guests start their search online. Make sure your hotel website is one of the first things they see, and give them what they want in the moment they want it.
The same rules apply to everyone when it comes to SEO. Regardless of website type or industry, the basic principles stay the same. Still, it can be tricky to handle, with over 200 variables in the Google algorithms that get updated hundreds of times each year. It's understandably difficult for a busy hotelier to keep track of what Google requires of your website in order for it to rank well.
For hotels without a large digital advertising budget or the resource to work on SEO full-time, simply implementing a few basic rules can have a significant impact on your organic traffic.
Get your keywords right
Before you can make your hotel stand out from the crowd, you need to decide what you want to be recognized for. Choosing the right keywords depends on a deep understanding of your ideal guest's mindset - their likes, their opinions, and their needs.
Once you've identified your ideal guest profile (e.g. leisure guest, travels with family, experience-driven), you can optimize your content accordingly. Tools such as Google Keyword Planner, Moz Keyword Explorer and Google Trends can be used to prioritize and predict the right keywords for your audience.
Every guest has a different motive when they search for and book a hotel. The keywords they use when they search can reveal how 'set' they are on a particular brand or location. This leaves hotels with an almost endless combination of keywords they can use to attract very specific subsets of guests.
Generally speaking, we can split these into five stages of brand awareness.
Unaware: These are guests who do not yet show a preference for a particular brand or type of hotel. They haven't narrowed down their criteria yet. They might search something very generic like 'hotels in London'.
Problem aware: These guests know they have some specific criteria but aren't sure yet what their ideal stay looks like. A typical search could be 'can you take dogs to hotels in London'.
Solution aware: These guests know the type of stay they're looking for, but haven't narrowed down on a brand yet. They might search 'pet-friendly hotels in central London'.
Product aware: These guests are considering your brand but might be vetting it to see if it's suitable - they might search 'Hotel X pet policy'.
Most aware: These are guests who know that your hotel is right for them. Now all they need to know is whether your availability & prices are right. They might search 'Hotel X availability 22-23 June'.
Tailoring your content to guests depending on their awareness of your brand will help you rank higher in their organic search results. A good SEO strategy also works in tandem with a sophisticated Ads strategy.
Watch out for high- and low-competition keywords. You shouldn't necessarily only aim for the obvious - 'London hotels'; 'luxury hotels'; 'hotels near [landmark]'. High search volume means higher competition for user eyeballs, and hence more effort required to achieve high rankings. Going too specific, on the other hand, risks your website only being found by a handful of people - which, unless your website has an extremely high conversion rate, will not be enough to fill your rooms.
Optimize your site
Once you've identified your chosen keywords, you need to use them to optimize your website content. Ultimately, it is that content that will make your page worth the higher listing. Use keywords with caution: above all else, Google values high-quality content over obvious SEO trickery. Cramming a page full of keywords does not guarantee a high organic ranking.
Use title tags on every single page of your site. Title tags not only determine the content potential guests can expect on your website, but are also visible on search engine results and social media. Title tags should describe page content as precisely as possible within 55-70 characters.
Sort your content by relevance. Capitalize on your brand name, but prioritize important keywords such as your hotel's unique selling point too. A title tag such as 'hotelX.com | Hotel X | Homepage' tells a potential guest nothing about your hotel or why they should stay there. Something like 'Luxury London Hotel | Close to major attractions | Hotel X' is more likely to draw in traffic.
Meta descriptions may not have a direct impact on your Google search results, but a clear description of page content increases a user's likelihood to click. Best practice is to keep them to concise descriptions of 150-160 characters.
Use Alt tags to name pictures on your homepage with SEO keywords - but keep them short and relevant.
There's far more to hotel SEO than we can fit into this brief overview, but it should be a good starting point for hotels new to search engine optimization. Don't hesitate to get in touch with your Triptease Direct Booking Coach for more advice and guidance!