Hotel SEO: Boosting Your Hotel Website’s Search Visibility
July 18, 2023
Search engine optimization (SEO) should be a go-to strategy for hotel marketing, especially to increase direct bookings – but it isn’t. When scored against SEO best practices, a recent report by three&six found that hotel websites achieved a rank of just 58.3% on average.
To put this into perspective, the top Google search results under the search term “best hotel in New York City” aren’t hotel websites, or even websites related to the hotel industry. Instead, the top search engine results pages (SERPs) are filled with blog articles from publications like Forbes, CN Traveller, and Vogue.
Finally, on page five of the search results, I found a landing page from IHG Hotels & Resorts. Now tell me, how many travelers are willing to click through five pages of search results on Google? Few – if any at all.
This demonstrates why online travel agencies (OTAs) have such a stranglehold over hotel bookings, as their pages often secure the top spots on SERPs. However, with more than half of all travel bookings being made online, it’s crucial for your hotel website to pull its weight in the digital bookings landscape.
The goal of this guide is to not only light a fire in your heart for hotel SEO, but to also outline several strategies and best practices for your marketing teams to implement. As the hotel website rankings show, SEO is not as simple as dumping a few keywords onto your site.
Understanding Hotel SEO
What is Hotel SEO?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a digital marketing strategy that increases website visibility on search engines like Google or Bing.
SEO focuses on optimizing various elements of your website, such as site speed, HTML structure, content and page title tags, in order to improve search engine indexing. As a result, your website gains higher visibility on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Why is SEO Important for Hotels?
Without SEO, your hotel website is invisible online. Think of SEO as a breadcrumb trail scattered across the internet, with each breadcrumb representing a different travel-related search query. The more breadcrumbs (optimized content and keywords) you have, the higher the likelihood of leading a travel-hungry audience back to your site.
In 2022, 68% of all online tourism and travel sales were made online, with 69% of travelers utilizing search engines to conduct their travel research, according to a study by Expedia. This proves just how important your hotel SEO breadcrumb trail is, and why it is imperative for your hotel to snag a top spot on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Key Components of Hotel SEO
Keyword Research and Targeting
Understanding the specific terms and phrases that potential guests use when searching for hotels is crucial. Keyword research involves identifying relevant keywords and incorporating them strategically into website content, including titles, headings, meta tags, and descriptions.
On-site Optimization Techniques
This refers to optimizing various elements on your hotel’s website to improve its visibility to search engines. It includes optimizing page titles, meta descriptions, URL structures, headings, and content. Additionally, optimizing website loading speed and ensuring mobile responsiveness are essential factors for both user experience and search engine rankings.
Creating high-quality, relevant, and engaging content is vital for hotel SEO. Hotels can optimize their websites by regularly publishing blog posts, articles, destination guides, and other valuable content that appeals to their target audience. This not only helps with organic search visibility but also establishes your hotel as an authority in the industry.
Given the importance of location for hotels, local SEO is crucial. It involves optimizing your hotel’s online presence for local search queries, such as “hotels in [city].” This includes creating and optimizing a Google My Business listing, ensuring consistent and accurate business information across online directories, and obtaining positive reviews from guests.
Link Building Strategies
Link building, more commonly referred to as backlinking, is the process of obtaining links from external websites in order to direct users to your hotel’s website. Attracting external links from reputable websites increases your authority and credibility in the eyes of search engines. Websites with a large number of backlinks are more likely to reach the first page of search results.
Conducting Effective Keyword Research
Effective keyword research is essential for hotel websites to enhance search engine visibility and attract relevant traffic. For example, if your hotel property was located in Hawaii, popular search terms that could drive organic traffic include:
- Best hotels in Hawaii
- Hotel with ocean view Hawaii
- Best hotels in Honolulu
- Hotel deals Honolulu
To conduct thorough keyword research, your marketing team must be able to place themselves inside the minds of your target audience. What are they searching for? What questions do they need answered?
Try out the following strategies to conduct effective keyword research:
- Identify relevant keywords by brainstorming terms related to location, amenities, hotel type, and unique selling points. Utilize keyword research tools, like Google Keyword Planner, to expand the list and consider search volume and competition.
- Leverage long-tail keywords consisting of specific phrases to capture highly targeted traffic with higher intent. While these keywords have lower search volume, they result in better conversion rates and ROI.
- Conduct competitor analysis to gain insights into their keyword strategies. Identify top competitors and analyze the keywords they target. Perform a keyword gap analysis to uncover untapped opportunities.
- Explore hotel review websites and travel forums to discover frequently used search terms and topics of interest to potential guests.
On-Site SEO Optimization Techniques
When structuring the contents of your site, it’s important to consider how it will be processed and displayed by search engines. On-site SEO focuses on optimizing each element of your website for search engines, with the hopes of increasing your search ranking and visibility.
These elements include:
- Page titles and descriptions
- Heading tags
- Meta descriptions
- URL structures
- Website images, videos, and graphics
- Image alt text
Imagine your website as a massive filing cabinet containing numerous folders and documents. Each page on your website represents a document that needs to be properly categorized and described, just like files in a filing cabinet.
- Page Titles: Page titles act as the labels for each page on your website. They provide a concise and descriptive summary of what the page is about. Just as a well-labeled folder makes it easy to locate specific information, a clear and relevant page title helps search engines understand the content of your page.
- Meta Descriptions: Meta descriptions function as a brief summary of the contents of your pages. By crafting compelling meta descriptions, you make it easier for search engines to determine the value of your page.
- URL Structure: Just as a well-organized filing system uses logical and structured folders, your website’s URL structure should be clean and organized. A clear and hierarchical URL structure, with relevant keywords, helps search engines understand the site’s architecture and navigate through your content efficiently.
- Header Tags: Header tags function as section dividers within each webpage. They help organize the content and indicate its importance and hierarchy. For example, H1 would denote the most categorically important header, with H2, H3, etc. following after. This improves the overall organization and readability of your site.
- Image Alt Text: The alt text on your images offers a written description of the visuals displayed. This is important information for search engines, since they can’t “see” images the way we do. By including relevant and descriptive alt text for images, you enable search engines to index and categorize the visual content.
Example of On-Page SEO in Action:
The Four Seasons has done an excellent job of optimizing their site to appear under the keyword “hotel hawaii”, with their site appearing on the first page of search results. First, their URL, which is the address to the site, is clear, includes their brand name, and the keyword: “hawaii.” Notice that there are no jumbled numbers, letters and codes.
Second, the page title provides a description that mentions the target keyword multiple times, in addition to secondary keywords like “luxury resort.” Finally, the meta description offers further information about the property, with the target keyword and secondary keywords strategically placed throughout the content.
SEO Content & Backlinks
Content is the backbone of SEO, and it is integral to include SEO in your content marketing strategy. Every piece of content you create for your website, whether a blog, landing page, or homepage, should be optimized for search engines.
Once you have narrowed down the search terms that best relate to your hotel, it’s time to develop a content strategy to create relevant and valuable content around each topic and search term. For example, attracting audiences to a hotel property in Hawaii may involve blogs detailing the best restaurants, attractions and beaches on each island.
Follow these steps when crafting a content creation strategy to drive your SEO efforts:
- Hire a skilled and experienced writer: Consider hiring a skilled writer who understands SEO principles and can create high-quality, optimized content that aligns with your goals.
- Prioritize valuable, engaging content: Create original, informative, and engaging content that provides value to your audience and answers their questions.
- Proper keyword placement: Incorporate your target keywords naturally throughout your content, including the title, headings, and body, to optimize its visibility.
- Regular updates: Keep your content fresh and up to date by regularly updating and expanding it to demonstrate its relevance and value.
Here’s the thing: while you may be producing quality content, it holds no weight without authority and credibility. In order to build credibility in the eyes of search engines, your site must acquire backlinks from relevant sites, such as OTAs, hotel associations, hospitality resources and more.
A backlink occurs when an external website references or links to content on your website, such as a hyperlink inside a news article or blog post. Benefits of backlinks include:
- Increased organic traffic and website visitors.
- Enhanced credibility and trustworthiness.
- Expanded brand exposure and recognition.
- Networking opportunities and relationship building within the industry.
How to Acquire Backlinks
Acquiring backlinks for a hotel website can be achieved through several strategies. Here are some effective methods to consider:
- Local Directories and Listings: Submit your hotel website to local business directories, tourism websites, and travel listing platforms specific to your location to gain relevant backlinks.
- HARO (Help A Reporter Out): Sign up for HARO and monitor relevant inquiries from journalists seeking expert insights or quotes from the hospitality industry. Respond to relevant queries and, if selected, you may earn a backlink when your hotel is mentioned in their article.
- Guest Blogging: Reach out to travel bloggers or relevant websites in the hospitality industry and offer to write guest posts that include a backlink to your hotel website in the author bio or within the content.
- Content Syndication Partnerships: Republish your best pieces of content to established travel blogs and publications, like National Geographic or Lonely Planet. These syndication partnerships improve your website authority and expand your reach to a larger audience.
- Online Travel Guides and Reviews: Get your hotel listed on popular travel guides and review platforms such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, or Booking.com, as they often provide backlinks to your website.
- Press Releases and Media Coverage: Publish newsworthy stories or press releases about your hotel’s events, renovations, or unique offerings, and distribute them to relevant media outlets or industry publications to potentially earn backlinks from news articles.
- Influencer collaborations: Collaborate with travel influencers or bloggers who specialize in hotel reviews or destination showcases. They can feature your hotel on their platforms and social media posts, including backlinks to your website.
- Local sponsorships and events: Support local events, charities, or community initiatives and ensure that your hotel is acknowledged on their websites, usually with a backlink.
- Resource pages and travel blogs: Identify travel-related blogs or resource pages that list hotels, accommodations, or city guides, and reach out to request inclusion of your hotel with a backlink.
Website Speed and Mobile Optimization
Your website loading speed directly impacts your site’s ability to rank on search engines, because search engines prioritize websites that provide a seamless user experience. Slow-loading websites result in higher bounce rates (visitors exiting the site) which lead to lower search rankings and visibility.
To understand where your website stands, use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to analyze your website loading speed. The results include a website score and recommendations for improving your site speed.
It’s best to work with a web developer and designer to avoid common issues that impact site loading speed, such as:
- Large and Unoptimized Images: Uploading high-resolution images without proper optimization, such as compressing and resizing, can lead to large file sizes and slow loading times.
- Lack of Browser Caching: Without proper caching on your website’s server, web browsers will be unable to save certain parts of your site, like images and scripts. As a result, when a user visits other pages on your site, it will take longer for those pages to load because the browser has to download those resources again.
- Poor Code Structure and Efficiency: When the code of a website is not well-organized or contains unnecessary or oversized elements, it can make the website’s files larger and slower to load.
- Server Performance Issues: Inadequate server configurations, slow database queries, or limited server resources can contribute to longer response times and negatively impact overall site loading speed.
- Excessive Plugins and Third-Party Scripts: Overloading a website with unnecessary plugins or relying heavily on third-party scripts can introduce additional HTTP requests, code conflicts, and delays in page rendering.
- Not Prioritizing Above-the-Fold Content: If critical content, such as main text and images, is not prioritized to load first, users may experience delays in accessing the most important information.
- Ignoring Mobile Optimization: Neglecting to optimize a website for mobile devices can result in slow loading times on smartphones and tablets, impacting user experience and search engine rankings.
Optimizing for Mobile Users
In 2022, nearly half of all hotel bookings were made on mobile devices. If your web pages are not optimized for mobile, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Remember, search engines factor user experience into their rankings, and nothing is more irritating than a clunky website on mobile.
When analyzing your site speed, it is critical to assess its mobile functionality as well. Check the Mobile Usability report in Google Search Console. It provides insights and alerts related to any mobile usability issues detected on your website. This can help you identify specific areas that require improvement, but remember to always work with a web development team to properly assess your needs.
Local SEO for Hotels
Establishing your hotel as a destination expert is one of the best ways to build brand awareness and retain an audience online, and local SEO is a fantastic way to do so. Local SEO focuses on driving website traffic through local search terms.
Consider, “beachfront hotel” vs. “beachfront hotels in Honolulu.” Including terms that describe your local area is best for attracting an audience with the highest intent to book.
We suggest creating a Google Business Profile to improve your chances of appearing under local search terms. Once your profile is claimed and set-up, your hotel property will display on Google Maps under relevant keywords.
Your Google Business listing will also improve your chances of displaying at the top of search results, in what is known as a “Local 3 Pack” or “snack pack.” When a local search is made through Google, a box will appear at the top of the page featuring the top three local business listings.
Online Reviews & Ratings
Search engines consider user-generated content, such as reviews, as a valuable source of information about a hotel. Positive reviews and high ratings can enhance your website’s reputation and credibility leading to higher search engine rankings.
Search engines often display review snippets, star ratings, and review counts in search listings, attracting users’ attention and potentially improving click-through rates.
Not sure where to begin with online reputation management? Discover powerful strategies and insider tips in our comprehensive guide to hotel reputation management.
Measuring and Monitoring Hotel SEO Performance
So, you’ve got your SEO strategy up and running. Now, here’s the million-dollar question: Is it actually delivering the results you want?
As we’ve just covered, your SEO strategy consists of multiple moving parts working in sync. To understand where your strategy is delivering significant ROI, and where it needs improvement, you must have a way to monitor key performance metrics.
Key SEO Metrics to Track
As a hotelier, there are several key SEO metrics you should track to gauge the effectiveness of your online presence and optimize your website’s performance. Here are the most important ones to consider:
- Revenue & Direct Bookings:
Is your improved organic traffic driving revenue? Are potential customers transitioning to bookings? Google offers a suite of free tools to help you track this, like Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.
- Keyword Rankings:
Use a tool like Google Search Console to keep an eye on your website’s overall search rankings, including impressions, clicks and position on SERPs. Are you appearing on the first page of search results? Track your progress to see if your efforts are paying off and adjust your strategy accordingly.
- Conversion Rate:
Measure the percentage of website visitors who take a desired action, such as making a reservation or submitting an inquiry form. To track this information, ask your web developers to insert Google Analytics tracking codes on your site, which can be done through Google Tag Manager.
- Organic Traffic:
Monitor the number of visitors coming to your website through organic search results. It indicates how well your website is ranking and attracting relevant traffic from search engines.
Other important performance indicators to be aware of are your Core Web Vitals. These consist of markers like page speed, mobile responsiveness, HTTPS security and more. Remember: Google factors user experience into their rankings, and Core Web Vitals consists of the metrics used to measure the user experience on your site.
Tools for Monitoring SEO Performance
Finding the right tools to monitor your SEO performance can make a world of difference. There’s no shortage of tools available, so let’s break down your best options.
The Google Suite of SEO Tools:
When used correctly, Google’s free suite of SEO tools work together to provide a powerful snapshot of your SEO performance. Here’s a quick breakdown of some key tools:
- Google Analytics: This tool provides detailed insights into your website’s traffic, user behavior, conversions, and more. It helps you understand how users find and interact with your site, allowing you to make data-driven decisions.
- Google Search Console: Helps you monitor your website’s presence in Google search results. You can submit sitemaps, identify indexing issues, view search performance data, and receive alerts about potential problems.
- Google Keyword Planner: This tool assists in keyword research by providing data on search volume, competition, and suggested keyword ideas. It helps you identify relevant keywords to optimize your content and improve visibility in search results.
- Google PageSpeed Insights: It evaluates the performance and speed of your web pages on both mobile and desktop devices. The tool provides suggestions for optimizing page load times, which is crucial for user experience and SEO.
- Google My Business: If you’re running a local business, this tool is essential. It allows you to manage your business listing on Google Maps and the Knowledge Panel, ensuring accurate information is displayed to potential customers.
- Google Trends: This tool provides insights into search trends over time. It helps you understand the popularity of specific search terms and identify emerging topics or seasonal trends to guide your content strategy.
- Google Tag Manager: It simplifies the process of managing and deploying tags on your website. Tags are snippets of code used to collect data for analytics, conversion tracking, and remarketing. Tag Manager streamlines the tag implementation process without modifying the website’s code.
- Google Optimize: This tool allows you to conduct A/B testing and personalize website experiences. You can create different variations of your web pages, test them with your audience, and optimize your site based on user behavior and preferences.
All-in-One SEO Tools
While Google’s tools are free and powerful, it can be overwhelming and time consuming to monitor and set-up each tool separately. Luckily, there are all-in-one SEO tools available.
- SEMrush: SEMrush offers a comprehensive suite of SEO tools that can assist hoteliers in optimizing their online presence. It provides features like keyword research, competitive analysis, backlink analysis, site auditing, and rank tracking. It also offers tools for social media management and content marketing.
- Moz Pro: Moz Pro is another popular all-in-one SEO toolset that provides a range of features for hoteliers. It includes keyword research, site auditing, rank tracking, backlink analysis, and on-page optimization. Moz Pro also offers a Local SEO module specifically designed for businesses with a physical location, which can be beneficial for hoteliers targeting local search traffic.
- Ahrefs: Ahrefs is a robust SEO toolset that offers comprehensive features for keyword research, backlink analysis, content research, rank tracking, and site auditing. It provides valuable insights into your website’s performance and helps you identify opportunities for optimization.
In today’s fiercely competitive online landscape, standing out as a hotelier requires more than just a basic website. A comprehensive and well-executed SEO strategy is the key to driving direct bookings and staying ahead of the competition.
From conducting thorough keyword research and optimizing website content to monitoring key metrics and staying up-to-date with algorithm changes, every aspect of your SEO strategy plays a vital role.
By investing the time and effort into crafting a robust SEO plan, you can elevate your hotel’s visibility, attract qualified traffic, and convert visitors into loyal guests. Remember, in the digital age, a complete SEO strategy isn’t just an option; it’s a necessity for success in the online realm.
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