SEO for Hotel Websites – Why it’s so important and what to look out for

289With the dominance of the Online Travel Agencies (OTA) in Online-Marketing and the high costs per click (CPC) in Search Engine Advertising, it gets harder for independent Hotels to generate direct bookings on their own website. The recent Google update reduces AdWords Ads to 4 Ads at the top and none on the right-hand side of the result page will result in even higher CPCs. Therefore doing a good job in the field of SEO is a must for independent Hotels. There is no cheaper way to generate online-bookings.

Ranking high on a Search Engine Result Page (SERP) for your main keyword will have a major impact on your direct bookings. Getting up to the top may sound easy, but it is a lot of hard work and can not be done in a few days or weeks. There is a whole SEO industry, trying to understand Googles algorithm. What we know is, that there is not the one factor that gets you up to the top, there are several hundred.  In this post, we will show you a few things to keep in mind and look out for, when creating your website.

Domain Name

There are SEO-Experts who are saying, the domain name has no or just a minor effect on your ranking. We wouldn’t say it has no effect, but the effect is not very high and did get lower over time. But since it is shown on the SERP right below the link people are going to click on, it still has an effect on the user. So pick your domain name wisely. We collected a few “Dos and Dont’s” on Picking a Domain Name in our “Setting up WordPress for a Hotel Website“-Post.

WordPress Plugin

Using WordPress gives access to a wide range of plugins. The official WordPress repository lists almost 1.000 SEO-plugins. For the beginning and to cover the basics, only two plugins are needed:

Title and description

Every page should have a unique title and description. Search engines show those two texts on the search engine result page and they too affect your ranking. But don’t put the whole text in your description. Both texts have a character limit:

  • Title: Max. 60 characters
  • Description: Max. 160 characters

Your title should contain at least one major keyword. The description should repeat this keyword and should have a call to action (“book now!”).  Make sure both texts make sense and match the content of the landing page. If your title and description generate an expectation on the user side. If your landing page doesn’t match those expectations, the user will go back to the search engine. Google measures the time between a click and the return moment and uses it for its ranking.

When using the WordPress All in One SEO Pack, you have a small box on every page in the admin to enter both title and description.One more tip: do not change them too often, because it takes time to measure the effects and Google doesn’t like too many changes in short time.

Link Building

A link from another site to your Hotel website is a signal of trust. Search engines use those back links as one of the ranking factors. To get new links and keep them growing is probably the hardest part of SEO. There are good and bad links. Good links come ‘naturally’ and match the content of your Hotel website somehow. Bad links grow unnatural in big steps and don’t match your website content. Bad links are usually bought in some way and don’t come naturally.

Here are three ideas on how to get good links to your Hotel website:

  • Webcam
    If your accommodation has a nice view a webcam is a good idea. They are cheap, easy to install and always attract visitors. There are webcam dirocteries where you can enlist your website. Usually those sites generate links naturally.
  • Unique content for you area
    Good content will get you good links. And if someone is able to write good content, it is you, since you are the expert in your area. Write a guide on what to day in the area when it’s raining or when the sun is shining. You can write tips on how to get to your area (ferries, train stations etc.). Maybe there are some current events you could list on website.
    The best way to keep links coming is to generate content on a regular basis in a blog. WordPress started as a blog software, so you could use it in that way.
  • Invite travel bloggers
    This idea is probably the most expensive one and the least promising: invite travel bloggers to your Hotel. You don’t have to pay there whole stay, just send them an email telling them they would get a discount if they booked a stay. They will most likely write something about your accommodation – but there might also be some criticism in their review. But if you are confident that the review is going to be positive, go for it! And even bad reviews will still get you links (but you will have to act on the criticism).

Local search results

Google always tries to get the best result for a search request. So they identfy local search requests automatically and show a Google Maps snippet on their search result page. To get on this map and be part of the local listings, there are a few things to look out for.

The SEO company Moz did a survey to find out what the ranking factors for local search are. Some of them where already covered in this post, but I want to pick one out to talk about: the Name-Address-Phone consitency,  NAP. Every page that is linking to you, all travel agencies and in Hotel directories, your name, address and phone should be exactly identically. They have to match 100%. So if your accommodation is called “New York Brooklyn Apartments” and should not be called “NY Brooklyn Apart.”. Always use the same name on every site.

There are services who help you check your NAP. Europeans should take a look at Uberall. Moz has a great list of tools for your local SEO you can also check out.

Google Webmaster Tool

The Google Webmaster Tool is the essential tool for SEO. It is pretty easy to setup and will give you very good insights. You are able to see your ranking for each keyword and will get tips from Google on how to optimize your site. You should always follow those tips, since it is Google telling you what is wrong and not some strange SEO consultant.

To be clear: SEO is not the only way to get direct bookings. It is one of many tools, such as SEA or newsletter marketing, which should be used by independet Hotels.

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