In hospitality marketing, the digital landscape is constantly evolving and the travel consumer journey to a direct booking is becoming more and more complex. To help you better navigate the digital landscape and shift share to the direct online channel, HeBS Digital’s “Jumpstart Direct Bookings” Series shares industry best practices to boost direct bookings through the top revenue-generating marketing channels. From SEO to Multichannel Campaigns, you’ll learn insider strategies and concrete action steps to start shifting share from the OTAs today.
The first best practices action plan in our series is “Jumpstart Direct Bookings through SEO.” Read on to learn crucial strategies you may be missing.
As most marketers are aware, change is constant when it comes to search engine optimization. Smart hoteliers must adopt a proactive and holistic approach to content creation, marketing and optimization in order to make the greatest impact on the SEO landscape.
With more than a third of hotel website revenue generated as a result of organic search engine referrals, SEO continues to be an integral piece to hotel digital marketing. With major search engines like Google changing their algorithms more than 500 times a year, as well as introducing new features and functionality that impact how search results appear on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), hoteliers must be as vigilant as ever in how they implement and adapt SEO strategies over the course of time.
Hotel marketers must make data-driven decisions derived from careful analysis of measurable results and research. Industry best practices may evolve over time, and smart digital marketers must consider SEO as an ongoing effort grounded in hard data, but susceptible to volatility, and adjust their efforts accordingly.
1. Create hospitality-specific content to drive conversions
Different from common commodity trading sites, hotel websites require unique approaches to on-page copy, tailored content marketing strategies, and hospitality-specific SEO. Successful hotel websites not only inform, but inspire the travel planner, highlighting unique value propositions of the specific property and destination. Engaging content that is tailored to attract a specific set of conversion-ready and qualified consumers throughout the various stages of the purchase funnel.
Informative, high-quality content leads directly to more immersive user engagement, resulting in longer time on pages, more pages visited and lower bounce rate. All of these metrics send positive signals to the search engines, which utilize the information in determining where a page ranks on the SERP.
2. Inform your content strategy with user insights and traffic metrics
With high quality content in place, it is time to keep track of rankings visibility, user engagement insights and organic traffic to monitor the impact of the content and see how it is being rewarded by search engines and end consumers.
Adopt a proactive approach to performance tracking via an array of analytics tools:
- Drive content creation and optimization decisions with consistent monitoring of keyword ranking visibility on a platform such as BrightEdge.
- Stay current on organic traffic and user engagement trends by consulting industry-leading analytics platform like Adobe Analytics.
- Conduct technical SEO spot checks and assessments using Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
- Perform regular, ongoing inbound link profile assessments using a fresh web explorer such as Moz Open Site Explorer.
3. Implement a proactive, ongoing SEO strategy for content recommendations and updates
With robust, highly engaging content in place, and an eye on key reporting and analytics tools, digital marketers must be prepared to commit to an ongoing and proactive approach in order to drive direct bookings. The focus of these efforts should remain on the creation and optimization of high-quality content.
In addition to a commitment to engaging content, SEO efforts must prioritize quick and effective responses to shifts in search engine algorithms, user search demands and the competitive landscape. Monthly reporting and action steps, weekly data-gathering and ongoing optimization efforts are all keystones to maintaining a healthy, effective strategy to maintain and increase organic traffic, conversions and revenue.
4. Utilize an industry-leading search visibility platform
Utilizing a robust performance and search visibility platform is essential to effective, ongoing SEO efforts. BrightEdge is one such platform, operating as a multi-faceted SEO analysis tool centered on tracking the organic search performance of digital content. The platform allows marketers to quickly and easily identify high-performing pages, search visibility opportunities, recent successes, top engagement and traffic sources, and in-depth performance analysis against a set – but adjustable – group of competitors.
With streamlined information available, marketers can make informed content recommendations and optimization strategy suggestions. Ultimately, with the availability of data on high-value keyword terms and tracked performance over time, it’s possible for marketers to improve visibility, traffic and revenue via organic search with the implementation of data-driven strategies.
5. Ensure content is mobile friendly
Each year sees mobile search take up a greater share of overall search activity, now accounting for over 30% of website visits. Remaining aware of the latest developments in mobile search, as well as keeping an eye on the level of engagement and where in the purchase funnel mobile visitors are will allow hotel marketers to adapt a strong mobile content strategy to increase visits, bookings and revenue via the mobile search channel.
6. Secure and optimize key local listing citations
A uniform local search presence is one of the most critical components of a holistic and effective SEO strategy. Eliminating any inconsistencies within a hotel’s local search presence, reducing duplicate listings within directories, and maintaining streamlined and optimized local search information is key to success in local search.
By simply ensuring local search citations are uniform, streamlined and optimized, hotel marketers satisfy a key piece to ranking algorithms across search engines. In short, search engines place greater trust in uniform listings across well-established portals and are more likely to prominently position a hotel on the SERP as a result. Local search optimization efforts should include quick verification and routine maintenance of local profiles across a variety of listing platforms, including services like Google My Business, Yelp, Bing, CitySearch, Superpages, Yellow Pages and many more.
Maintaining a uniform local search presence is one of the most important components of a comprehensive SEO strategy for hoteliers. A high priority in 2016 should be correcting any inconsistencies within the hotel’s local search presence, reducing duplicate directory listings, and ensuring streamlined and optimized local search information.
7. Utilize a proactive and defensive link management strategy
Search engines learn about specific pages and whole sites by analyzing links from other sites that lead to the page or domain in questions. Links from sources the search engines deem as trustworthy and high-value, like .edu, .gov, or prominent editorial sites to name a few, signify to the search engine that the linked page or site is also trustworthy and therefore worthy of prominent placing in search results. Alternatively, links from non-trustworthy or spammy sources result in search engines detracting from a site’s overall visibility.
In order to gain credibility from links and avoid punishment for bad links, it is crucial to monitor all inbound link activity and opportunities. Performing regular inbound link audits allows hotel marketers to view the quality of their existing links, disavow any negative links, and find opportunities to seek out new, high-quality links.
8. Utilize a strong content management system (CMS) to make real-time content and technical SEO updates
A content management system (CMS) can be a revelation or a disaster. Ideally, a CMS should offer the ability to make updates to on-page content, metadata, images, promotional tiles and other critical site components with ease and in real-time. Dedicated, trained personnel can easily make updates, implement new strategies, and ensure SEO best practices are being followed in a matter of minutes when utilizing a strong CMS. Likewise, a poor CMS will frustrate and handcuff users, as well as sabotage the efforts of any well-intentioned marketers.
9. Take a holistic approach to SEO, paid search, and digital marketing as a whole
Of course, SEO is just one element hotel marketers face when planning budgets, allocating their attention, and generally planning for success. While SEO is integral to the successful marketing of any hotel, and to driving direct bookings, a holistic approach that includes other digital marketing efforts, like paid search, banner advertising, email marketing, reservation retargeting and more, is crucial in turning a hotel website in a high revenue generator.
10. Go beyond generic hotel website copy to inform and entice the visitor
Basic hotel website information is the way of the past. Engaging and informative content of the area, nearby attractions, activities and other local knowledge lends the hotel an air of legitimacy, and signifies to travel planners that the hotel is a champion of the destination.
Area guide content pages, interactive maps and calendars of events can all influence visitors to book on the site, and indicate to search engines that the site is worthy of prominent appearance on the SERP. Conversely, boilerplate-style content featuring generic content does little to engage users, leading to poor metrics, and negative signals to the search engines.
About the author
Steven Briley is Senior Copy & SEO Specialist, Team Lead at HeBS Digital, the industry’s leading digital technology, full-service hotel digital marketing, website design and direct online channel consulting firm based in New York City. HeBS Digital has pioneered many of the “best practices” in hotel digital marketing and website revenue optimization, as well as a range of industry-first digital technology applications. The firm has won more than 350 prestigious industry awards for its digital marketing and website design services, including numerous Adrian Awards, Davey Awards, W3 Awards, WebAwards, Magellan Awards, Summit International Awards, Interactive Media Awards, and IAC Awards.