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Hotel SEO: 20 Easy Top Tips

Marketing a hotel is tricky business, especially when it comes to hotel website SEO (search engine optimisation). There are numerous ways you can go about it: you can pay Google to advertise with them, you can pay a web search engine optimisation company to try and bring you traffic, you can pay other sites to advertise with them, the list goes on. Alternatively, you can put in hard work and effort and work on your hotel SEO yourself, saving your hotel business money in the long run.

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If you’re looking to get started with managing the SEO for your hotel, we’ve created a list of 20 easy hotel SEO top tips to help you get ahead. If you’re not vaguely familiar with basic SEO concepts such as keywords and backlinks, visit sites like Moz, Backlino and Quick Sprout for some great SEO reading material.

Before you take the deeper dive, make sure that you’ve read Google’s SEO Starter Guide. How much better can you get than a guide directly from the most used search engine in the world?


Start with Keyword Research

Keyword research is vital to your website’s success. Without it, you’re shooting in the dark. Learning how to find hotel related keywords and utilise them in your hotel SEO strategy will be crucial to your success.

A keyword is a word, term or phrase that you can target with your website in the hope of attracting more visitors through a search engine. Utilising keywords to increase your search engine position is called increasing your organic ranking.

Your hotel’s website might rank organically for certain terms on their own, which is great, but it’s good to have a plan. As mentioned earlier, knowing which specific hotel related keywords to go after can really help your hotel’s SEO and search ranking position. It’s also worth noting that it might make sense for one page to rank for more than one keyword or phrase.

Hotels and Buildings in Downtown New York - Hotel SEO

Here’s an example:

Urban NYC is a new boutique hotel in the heart of Manhattan, New York City. They want to gain organic ranking for the terms Hotel in New York, cool New York hotel and Manhattan Hotel New York.

It’s possible that Urban NYC’s homepage would be able to rank for each of those search terms. Keywords and phrases are not limited to one per page, but it’s not a good idea to try and target more than a handful.

Without hard work and careful consideration, it’s unlikely that Urban NYC would have any success ranking organically in Google. This is because they’re targeting keywords that are highly competitive. The amount of hotels in New York City, even in Manhattan alone will cause Urban NYC a lot of headaches when trying to capitalise on Google traffic.

I would suggest, that even though Manhattan Hotel New York is probably a long shot for a new website, it might be worth sticking with that keyword for their homepage. As their sites SERP (search engine ranking position) increases, they might get lucky with that search term, if so, it could yield some spectacular results.

In the hotel business, it’s obvious that you will want your homepage to rank for the word [hotel] + [your location]. But what about other options? Which other hotel related keywords should you target with your blog posts, internal pages and landing pages? This is where keyword research comes in handy.

By using keyword tools, such as Google’s Adwords Planner, you can enter search terms and ideas that you think people might search for when looking for your hotel. Urban NYC for example might enter search terms such as:

  • Boutique hotel New York
  • Boutique hotel Manhattan
  • Cool hotel New York
  • Best New York hotels

Then they can really let their imagination go wild and let Google come back to them with the results. This information can then inform blog posts and landing pages on the Urban hotel website. If the company were looking to invest in pay per click advertising, this information would assist those campaigns too.

Digital marketing and SEO expert Neil Patel has a great guide called The Advanced Guide to SEO in which he runs through a lot of SEO techniques and ideas. Chapter Six is directly related to keyword research and is definitely worth a read through.

When researching keywords, it’s important to remember that you have more chance of ranking for long tail keywords which are longer, more specific phrases. Long tail keywords are easier to rank for but they result in less search traffic. That said, the search traffic they do bring is often of a higher quality and more “ready to buy.”

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to putting together a hotel SEO strategy and researching hotel related keywords!

If I’m searching for New York hotel I’m being very general and trying to get an overview of the hotels available to me. However, if I’m searching for Manhattan hotel near Broadway theatres then I’m being more specific and have a higher chance of booking a room. The second search term is easier to rank for and can result in a noticeable increase in profit.

Place Your Brand Name Second (If At All)

Unless you run The Hilton, Holiday Inn Express, or similar, it’s safe to assume that nobody is searching for your brand name (do use Keyword Tool to check.) Often when browsing the web, I’ll see a brand name placed at the front of a meta title. Meta titles read by Google and are often presented in their search results. The meta title is also seen at the top of your web browser or in a tab if you have multiple open.

If your hotel website design uses a content management system like WordPress it’s easy to customise your titles. The field you’re looking for when editing your page or post is the Meta Title. Whilst Meta Keywords are often seen as as redundant, the Meta Tile and Meta Description fields are pulled directly in to Google, which is reason enough to use them.

Broadway Theater District Signage in Downtown New York - Hotel SEO

It’s important that your target key phrases take precedent over your hotel’s name. It’s not known that the order of your meta title has any effect on your ranking, however, think of it like this. If your customer is searching for Manhattan Hotel near Broadway theatres, you want to give them that information first, rather than presenting them with your brand name just for the ego rub? If you want to learn how to write SEO friendly meta titles, check out this article from Women in Business.

If I was writing a meta title for Urban NYC it would read like this:

Manhattan Hotel Near Broadway Theatres | Urban NYC

I prefer using pipe lines as a separator as it looks cleaner than the other options and increases readability, in turn, increasing engagement with my brand. Your brand and branding your business is important. If this proposed title was too long (meta titles have an advised length of 50-60 characters) then I would drop the hotel name before dropping the keywords.

“But people won’t know they’re on my website without my name in the title.” Then perhaps your branding and design work isn’t strong enough? You could argue that a first time site visitor wouldn’t be familiar with your brand, but it’s important to bear in mind that as your brand develops, your website needs to work alongside your brand identity to present a unified front to your customers.

Use Your <H1> Tag to Target Your Main Keywords

Whether you use free keyword research tools or professional keyword research software (such as Long Tail Pro) it’s important that you begin putting it to use on your website. We’ve talked a little already about utilising your keywords in your meta titles and page titles, but how do you use them withinin the context of your website design?

Years ago, people would hide their keywords within their pages. They would use black text on a black background to trick search engines into thinking they had a high level of relevant content on their page, fortunately, Google wised up to this and clamped down on offending sites.

These days, there are a number of ways you can work your keywords into your website that won’t result in a Google Penalty.

The easiest way is to use an <h1> tag within your hotel website markup. H tags indicate to search engines what your content is about. Think of them like headlines and sub-headlines in a newspaper. The team over at Hobo Web Marketing do a great job of explaining and demystifying the H tag structure.

An <h1> tag often sits front and centre on a website’s homepage. For example, if I was writing the tag for Urban NYC I would write:

Urban NYC is a brand new boutique hotel based in the heart of Manhattan, ideally located near the Broadway theatre district.

This tag encompasses a number of the hotel’s target keywords and uses an appropriate amount of them, without looking spammy and effecting the visitor experience. Whilst writing content for your site, it’s important to remember that for all Google brings you traffic, if your visitors don’t like your content, you have little chance of converting them into customers.

Create a Great Internal Link Structure

If you look around the blogs of internet marketing gurus such as Neil Patel, Pat Flynn and Brian Dean, you’ll notice how often they talk about inbound links and how important they are to the growth of your website’s organic search engine rankings.

A Diagram Showing How Internal Link Structure Works in SEO

One thing you don’t hear them talk about as often is the importance of a websites internal link structure. Some people argue that your internal link structure isn’t important, but I suggest that internal link structure is even more important than links to your site from elsewhere.

Why? Well, let’s look at the practicalities for your visitors.

Imagine this:

Your hotel website attracts a visitor who navigates their way to the room page. They end up looking at options for a single room, however, what they need is information and rates about available double rooms. If the user can’t easily navigate from the single room page to the double room page, are they more likely to a) dig around your website looking for the link or b) click away and book with another hotel instead? This is the practical side of having a great internal link structure, you risk losing fewer customers and have a higher chance of converting your site’s visitors.

On the technical side of things, the following scenario could easily happen. If your site is not well linked together, the Google Crawler may not find its way around your site easily. Therefore, your website would have less pages indexed and as a result you would see less traffic coming directly from Google.

With landing pages, it’s great to have a lot of links to them. However your landing page is also your sales page, therefore you don’t want to give users an easy exit. Some people go as far as removing main navigational links in an effort to help site visitors further down the sales funnel.

Setup Search Console and Analytics

Google run a plethora of sites that help website owners, and you need to become best friends with at least two of them, Google Search Console and Google Analytics. Each of the sites have specific functions but they both work together for maximum usability and effectiveness.

Google Search Console is the hub for all information related to your hotel website. In Search Console you can submit your site to be indexed (crawled by Google), check for 404 not found errors that could be hurting your site’s ranking, and get an overview of the search terms and queries that people are using to find their way to your site.

The first thing I suggest you do once your site is ready to go live, is head over to Search Console and submit your site to be indexed. If you’re using the WordPress Yoast SEO plugin to manage your hotel SEO, you can also grab the link to your sitemap and submit that to Search Console too.

Be patient with it as sometimes things take a little while to report back. For example, if you know your site has 50 pages, the report section might tell you that only 15 or so have been indexed. Don’t panic and keep submitting your site, as over time, the Crawler will slowly begin to index more pages.

Search Console is a complex beast and there is a lot of great reading material out there that can help you get to grips with it in more detail. If you’re looking to learn more about it check out Kissmetrics’ awesome guide.

google-analytics-dashboard

Analytics is a different tool entirely. Whilst Search Console is primarily used for the management and indexation of your web property, Analytics is used to gather reports, insights and statistics into the traffic your site receives.

Gone are the days of badly designed web visitor counters. If you want to know how many people have visited your site, simply log into Google Analytics and the first graph you will see is your visitor count. Do you want to see how many people viewed your site between a certain set of dates? No problem. Just use the drop down calendar to select your date range.

From sales funnel tracking to goal and conversion tracking, Analytics offers a great range of tools to keep up to date and record what’s happening with users on your website. Just like Search Console, Analytics is a vast and technical website. There are a lot of great guides and resources out there to help you get to grips with Analytics, and again, I can’t recommend this Kissmetrics post enough.

List Your Hotel on Google Places, Google Plus and Google My Business

Google Places and Google Plus are much like Search Console and Analytics in the way that they work together. If you have a business with a physical presence, you really can’t afford to ignore Google Places. And, if you want to increase your search engine ranking, you can’t afford to ignore Google Plus either.

Lately, it appears that Google are beginning to phase in a service called Google My Business, which is definitely something you want to get your hotel business involved with.

Google Plus is Google’s own answer to Facebook. The biggest advantage to using and building a community within Google’s own social network is the fact that it’s ran by Google itself. If they want extra data about your company, where are they going to look? They’re definitely going to check their own social network before they go digging around on other social networks and your own website. Having a Google Plus page, using it and making connections within the Google realm can really help get you on the right side of the world’s biggest search engine.

There are numerous advantages to using Google Plus for your hotel, Marketing Land have a Marketing Land on Google Plus about it that details benefits such as blended search, local carousel results, platform integration and more.

Being registered for Google Places allows a box to shoos up on the right hand side of Google when you’re searching for a specific brand or business. It also lets your hotel become visible on the Google Map. Normally this information displays a mini Google map to the location, the address of the business, Google Reviews, the telephone number, opening times and often, a whole lot more. Registering for Google Places helps the search engine pull out these phrases, and optimise their listing, showing your hotel to more people.

It’s easy to Getting Setup on Google Places and I can’t recommend that you get registered for both of these Google owned ventures enough. It’s also worth noting that you can Combine Google Place with Google Plus and run a combined account.

Your Website Must Be Responsive

In late April 2015, Google made an algorithm change that favoured responsive website design. What this meant was that sites that were mobile friendly were rewarded with an increase in rankings while sites that weren’t, saw their rankings drop.

What does having a responsive website mean and how can your hotel make sure it doesn’t see a drop in search engine ranking position?

How Responsive Design Can Improve Your Hotel SEO Rankings

Responsive website design is a web design approach that aims to craft a seamless viewing experience on your website. Traditionally, when using a phone or tablet, you would have pinched to zoom in on elements on a website that you wanted to read. Responsive web design eliminates this. If your hotel website is responsive, elements such as navigation, text, images, blog posts and more will resize, scale, or rearrange themselves to provide the best use viewing experience.

In the past, people would operate two separate websites, one prefixed with an m. – for example: hotelurbannyc.com and m.hotelurbannyc.com. This literally meant having two separate versions of your website with the m. version showing on your phone and tablet devices. It was impractical as you had to update everything twice and risked a Google penalty for serving duplicate content. This approach is now defunct and professional designers are now coding single responsive websites to meet their client needs.

If your hotel website is already up and running and you have a lot of great content up there and see a good number of enquiries coming through, what are your options?

In reality, the only option I would recommend is hiring a professional website designer to help convert your “static” site to a responsive solution. This may sound costly, but, in the long run, it will cost you less to hire a professional than it will cost you in the drop of enquiries that come from your falling search engine ranking.

If you don’t have your hotel website up and running yet, you have several options available to you. You can hire a Professional Graphic and Web Design Agency and have a bespoke website created for you. Or, you can use other alternatives and website builders and attempt a DIY job.

Each of these solutions comes with an associated cost, but having a responsive website up and running is the way the world is turning. Embrace the new technology and invest in your online presence before it’s too late.

Reduce Your Website Load Time

Another important ranking factor when it comes to your website and it’s search engine performance is the length of time that it takes your site to load. Whether people are browsing on a desktop machine, tablet or phone, nobody wants to wait forever to view your site.

Photograph of a Stopwatch - Reduce Your Load Time for Better Hotel SEO Results

What can you do to reduce the load time of your website?

First of all, you can use a photo editing programme such as Adobe Photoshop to reduce and compress the size of the images on your website. Even images that are full width (1920px wide) should be clocking in under a couple of hundred KB when you’re using them online. You can use Photoshop’s Save For Web option to reduce the quality of the image, whilst previewing the full quality image, allowing you to decide how far you can compress your image before it becomes immediately obvious.

With huge images taken care of, work your way through your website, and if you’re using images in places of buttons or icons, consider using plain old HTML and CSS or icon fonts to further speed up your load time.

You can also minify your CSS and Javascript files as well as optimising your CSS delivery to stylesheets rather than inline styles to help speed up your site further. The second chapter in Neil Patel’s Advanced Guide to SEO outlines some of these methods in great detail.

If you’re using WordPress, consider using a caching plugin. Also be careful that you’re not using too many plugins to jobs on your website. There are a lot of great plugins out there, but be sensible about what you need a plugin for, and what’s just there for the sake of having a fancy effect that could probably be executed with pure code. A caching plugin will definitely help speed your site up, so if you are going to use any additional plugins, give W3C Total Cache (or similar) a try.

As far as technical aspects and gibberish goes, this point has probably been the heaviest in that respect. If nothing makes sense, feel free to drop me an email or hire a professional website developer to work through some of these pain points with you.

Remove All Traces of Flash, Downloadable PDFs and Auto Playing Media. Get With The Times!

Collection of Vinyl Records - Hotel SEO

On the subject of speeding your website up, eliminate Flash and downloadable PDFs. While you’re there, also stop the auto playing music and video files!

Flash is an old (some would argue, redundant) technology that allowed people to create and make games and interactive websites before other languages blossomed and took the reigns. When Apple released their iDevices, they didn’t include Flash support, as a result, the majority of the web switched away from the format. With the development of libraries such as jQuery, interactivity can be achieved on websites in a number of different ways and web technology has advanced past the need for Flash.

Downloadable PDFs are a huge bug bear of mine. If I’m going to stay at a hotel and I want to know if the room has WiFi available or what’s for breakfast, I don’t want to have to download a PDF. I especially don’t take kindly to these PDFs if I’m out and about on the move, which, when looking for a hotel, I often can be.

You want to let the world know what’s on the breakfast menu? Super! Set up a page in your content management system and do it that way. Optimise your images like we talked about earlier, put them into the page template and bang, you’re onto a winner. Downloadable PDFs are dead. Get used to it.

And auto playing video and sound is just annoying! Your website doesn’t need music. Even if your hotel has the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing live every night, I don’t want their music to come blaring out of my speakers when I’m looking for somewhere to stay. I also don’t want to have to locate your auto playing video and stop that from playing either. Both of these things turn away visitors, essentially preventing you from making a sale.

Make Sure You Have a Blog

You may have heard the expression “content is king” when it comes to generating traffic for your website. If not, listen up. Having a website for your hotel won’t automatically bring in the traffic. As I mentioned in the first point in this post, unless you’re a big hotel chain or brand, nobody is searching directly for your hotel’s name. To bring traffic to your website, you need to be generating great content.

The easiest way to generate content is through the use of a blog. If you build your on the WordPress platform, then a blogging facility is built directly in to your site. If you’re using another platform for your site, it shouldn’t be too hard to have a blogging facility integrated for you, it’s built in to most content management systems already!

Here’s the deal:

Many hotels are failing to capitalise on content marketing. That’s an avenue that hasn’t really been explored in any great deal of depth when it comes to the online presence of the hotel and hospitality industry. SEO for the hotel industry is quite well documented, but content marketing seems to be lagging behind.

It’s also a window of huge opportunity for you and your hotel website. Sure, some hotels have blog pages. However, a lot of it provides short company news, updates to policy changes and other “boring” stuff. That’s not how you want to be engaging your customers!

But what if you’re not the best writer? Well there are many ways you could play it. Maybe your personality demands screen time. Maybe you’re an audio person. How about a vlog (a video blog)? How about a podcast?

Photo of Gary Vaynerchuk on Stage

Content doesn’t have to come in the form of the written word. It just has to be great, entertaining and insightful. Gary Vaynerchuk talks in his book Crush It about exploring the types of content that would be great for you. If you’re doing it with conviction and passion, I believe you can make any type of content work for you.

So, how often should you be producing content?

It doesn’t matter. As long as you’re consistent in your approach.

You’ll hear some people citing 3 times a week as the best schedule, others will tell you once a week, others, once a month. Consistency is key. Set your audience up with what to expect when and delivery consistently. If you’re recording videos or podcasts, batch them up and record a couple of months ahead of time. Then, you have a bank you can draw from and work from rather than panicking and missing publishing dates. Consistency and planning are the keys to success.

In regards to your hotel’s SEO, having a blog makes logical sense. Google reads words on a page, so why not give them what they want? Longer blog posts have a tendency to perform better. If you have an aversion to writing, or simply don’t have the time, consider hiring a freelance writer through Odesk, Elance, Craiglist or similar to create your content for you.

If you push ahead down the video or podcast route, make sure to have your media transcribed and have a page relating to each of the shows on your website. Again, this allows Google to latch on and crawl your content easier. It also gives you a place to post the resources you mention in your show, and a place for your audience to comment and take part in the discussions related to your episode.

How does this help your search engine performance? Think about it. Good content put out on a weekly basis. A 5 minute video transcribed probably ends up being close to a few thousand words. Google likes it regularity, it’s fresh and relevant new content, and if you’re spoon feeding it both, you can expect to see your ranking rise. On top of that, imagine the wonders a blog or video show or podcast can do for your brand? Pat Flynn over at SmartPassiveIncome.com sights his podcast as the number one way that people find out about him. Content is a powerful tool that everyone has at their disposal, but a lot of people aren’t utilising it.

Chase The Long Tail Keywords

The technical aspect in regards to the performance of your content actually falls into this point. If you transcribe your 5 or 10 minute video, or write a 2000-3000 word blog post weekly, you’re giving Google an awful lot of content to hook in to.

Within that content, there’ll be a range of keywords. You’ll have your main keywords such as Hotel, Hotel in New York etc. These are top tier keywords, keywords that, in reality, you have little chance of ranking for in Google straight away. But, if you’re producing great, in-depth content, the chances are you’ll be covering some of your long tail keywords too. We talked in point one about the importance of chasing the long tail, but what exactly can you do to rank in the search engines for them?

First, let’s look at the definition of a long tail keyword:

Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific keyword phrases that visitors are more likely to use when they’re closer to a point-of-purchase. They’re a little bit counter-intuitive, at first, but they can be hugely valuable if you know how to use them.

Wordstream

Looking back at our example of Urban NYC we decided that at the top level, they would be trying to rank for:

Hotel in New York
Hotel in Manhattan
Boutique Hotel New York

Now, these are going to take some time to pull any sort of search engine ranking for. What Urban need to do is play up to their other features in their posts. For example, if they’re located next to Central Park in New York, how about a blog posts like:

  • The Top 10 Things To Do in Central Park This Summer
  • Why You Should Stay Next to Central Park when you Visit NYC
  • The Ultimate List of Restaurants Near Central Park

As mentioned by Wordstream, these may seem a little counter-intuitive at first, but in reality, people searching for these terms are probably closer along the buying path.

Consider this:

Residents of New York City probably aren’t looking for things to do in Central Park. They walk through it every day on their commute to work. They know which restaurants and hotels are around. They probably don’t want to stay in a hotel just down the road from their apartment, even if it does have splendid views of the city.

People searching for the posts mentioned above are probably tourists, and if they’re tourists, you have a chance of securing a booking for your hotel if you catch them at the right stage in the process. Out of interest, I ran those ideas and keywords through Google’s Keyword Tool and the results were quite enlightening:

New-York-City-Search-Results-1024x527

Just look at those numbers! There’s a lot of people searching for this type of content, and all of the search competition appears to be classified as Low, meaning you stand a good chance of appearing on the first page of Google for these keywords. One thing to note is that the blog post title suggestions don’t have any direct searches, which is to be expected. However, I recommend manipulating the title of each post to be closer to one of the direct search terms.

These are the first 3 content ideas that I thought of when thinking about long tail keywords relating to New York City. Imagine the possibilities. This is why long tail search and keywords are such strong tactics to bring visitors and traffic to your website.

There are hundreds of suggestions. How about a handy travel guide to the area? What about a review of each landmark and day out available within a 2 or 3 mile radius of your hotel? How about creating an ultimate resource or guide to your city? People remember who delivered the best content and that converts readers into buyers. People also share the best content. If your content is so great, people start sharing it on Twitter, Facebook and beyond, there’s no limit to how many potential readers and visitors you can bring to your site. And remember, a lot of these readers are further along the buying path than others.

There are other great avenues that your long tail keyword related content opens up to you. Imagine you’ve written an article: The Top 25 Things to Do in Central Park and it’s started ranking high up on the first page of Google. You could be looking at bringing in around 3000 visitors a month, from that single piece of content. That’s fantastic news.

You can then use a tool such as Google Analytics or Visual Website Optimizer to track your conversions on that page. You discover that your blog post converts visitors at a rate of 2%. For every 100 visitors, you make 2 sales. For every 3000 visitors, that’s 60 sales. That’s a realistic conversion percentage and the numbers look good.

Think about what else you can do with this content:

Looking at the results from the Keyword Tool above, you can advertise on the keyword “Things to Do in Central Park” for £0.85 per click, which is around $1.32USD. Imagine this scenario. Your hotel rooms are priced at $120 per night (a cheap nightly rate for a hotel near Central Park.) Let’s run the numbers if you were to use Google Adwords to advertise with the link coming into your post “The Top 25 Things to Do in Central Park” that converts at a rate of 2%.

On 100 visits, this is how the figures look:

100 visits x $1.32 = $132.00

Of your $132.00 spend, 2% of those visitors book a room at $120.00 dollars a night.

They stay for 2 nights each meaning each of those customers spends $240.00 each.

So for $132.00 spend, you’ve brought in a grand total of $480.00. That’s without room upgrades, mini-bar spends, drinks in the hotel bar, gym access, cross sells, upsells, return visits, brand engagement and more. And realistically, people are booking for more than 2 nights when visiting NYC.

When you run that number of 1000 visitors, it looks better. $1320.00 spending on Adwords would result in $4800.00 worth of business if we base the customers spend on exactly the same as above. Your customers cost you, in this specific example, $66 each to acquire, which sounds expensive, but when you total up the figures, everything seems a lot more attractive.

A View of New York's Central Park From Above

All of this is derived from once piece of content. If you looked at the price of advertising on New York Hotel, you’d see the advertising price is closer to $6.55, making your content and the advertising built around it seem like an even better proposition.

I uncovered these numbers, figures and more in about 5 minutes flat. I thought about New York City, thought about a landmark and created some content in my head that I thought people might look for. How can you do the same? Well, a notepad and pen is always a good start. Mind map your ideas and get down to complex ideas to uncover great untapped niches.

You can use Keyword Tool to run the numbers and predict the spend. You can also use Google Suggest (typing in the Google Search box and looking at Google’s auto suggestions) as well as Google’s Searches Related to… feature that shows up at the bottom of each search result to generate more ideas.

Don’t forget, as well as using paid advertising as a cheap option, you also have the figures from the original organic ranking paying you too. Content really is king in the world of online marketing. Great content is a gold mine that hotels aren’t utilising. Get your long tail keyword brain in gear, and pack your pick axe. Time to mine.

Develop a Content Creation Plan (and stick to it!)

You’re now aware of the importance of content when it comes to driving traffic and sales to and from your hotel website. But, how do you come up with ideas? How do you formulate them into a cohesive plan? What do you do with the content once it’s up there? There are a million questions when it comes to building a content marketing strategy for a business, especially when the business is as expansive as the hotel business.

We talked earlier about the types of content. Blogs, vlogs, podcasts, info graphics, white papers, documents, downloads, free giveaways. There are hundreds and hundreds of content options, each with their own unique goals and purpose, and really, that’s where your content plan starts.

What is the goal? What is the purpose of your content? I would hazard a guess that most people want to drive more traffic to their site, in turn, giving them more chances of creating leads and converting their visitors in to paying customers. Does that sound like you? Great. Start a blog.

This is how your approach could look:

Write well researched, keyword targeted, exciting blog posts > Generate organic traffic > Use the Content Upgrade to build an email list > Serve email list with more great content and buying opportunities.

You have a number of options and opportunities in this single funnel. Instead of generating organic traffic, which might prove tricky, you can target influencers in your space and reach out to them across social networks. You can email industry blogs and people that might be interested in your content and ask them to read it and share it. Brian Dean at Backlinko does a great job of explaining back linking and network building strategies.

What’s a Content Upgrade? Again, Brian Dean has your answer. In fewer words that Brian, a Content Upgrade is a way to maximise blog posts and garner email list signups. For example, this post on the Canny Creative blog “How Much Does Logo Design Cost?” features a Content Upgrade that encourages people to give me their email address in exchange for a document called “The Logo Design Checklist.” It’s content directly related to your blog post content that people can only get by subscribing to your email list.

A content creation plan is more than this though. This is a basic, stripped down example. There are a lot of detailed stages that go in to creating and marketing excellent content. Neil Patel has a great guide on his blog called The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing where he runs you through creating an in-depth content marketing plan for your business.

But, how do you come up with great ideas for your content? My favourite tool is the Google Keyword tool, which we’ve already talked about a lot in this post, so let’s explore some of my other personal favourites:

  • Quora: Quora is a question and answer based website that digs in to a lot of specific industries. People ask questions, then, industry leaders and thought leaders chime in with their answers. There is a huge range of questions being asked and answered on Quora and you can utilise them to better inform your content plan.
  • Reddit: Reddit is an engima all of it’s own. Billed by Wikipedia as an entertainment, social network and news website where users can submit content, Reddit has a board for everyone. Head over and search around for content related to hotels. There’s a board on there specifically related to travel that might be worth checking out.
  • Google Alerts: Google Alerts are a way to monitor new posts and news surfacing on the web about your specific industry. You can enter your market, enter your email address, choose your frequency and then boom, related posts directly to your inbox.

Again, Neil Patel, Brian Dean, Pat Flynn, Moz and more all share their ideas about coming up with great content. Have a dig around each of their websites and see if you can spot any trends and come up with some ideas of your own!

How many types of content should you produce? That depends on a number of things. Blogs are great if you like writing. If so, get in there early on. If you don’t like writing, consider commissioning a freelance writer like I mentioned earlier. Blogs however can take up a lot of time, depending on your schedule.

I know of marketers (Pat Flynn, Chris Ducker etc) that take it all in their stride. I think Pat Flynn has a blog, a video blog and 4 or 5 podcasts that he publishes weekly. Chris Ducker has a blog and 2 or 3 podcasts that also come out on a regular basis.

The amount of channels you try and conquer isn’t the issue, the dedication and time factor is the issue. However many you take on, remember, consistency is key. If you can feel things starting to slip, you’re better to let something go or scale it back. Your industry, namely the hotel and hospitality industry, is probably lacking in a couple of key content areas, if you’re confident, why not try and break in to them first?

Don’t Forget the Marketing in Content Marketing

Here’s something strange about content marketing:

A lot of people create valuable content on a consistent basis, yet, their content marketing plan fails. Why? Because they forget to actually market the content! It’s no good setting the wheels in motion, but forgetting to take off. You need to get your content in front of some eyes, or nothing at all will happen with it and your efforts will be wasted.

But, how can you get content out into the world and in front of people? Well, there are quite a few choices:

social-media

First and foremost, you have social media. Twitter allows you to broadcast your content to the world rather easily. You can join in with dedicated #hashtags for the travel industry such as #travel, #yourcity and more. The Amateur Traveler have a list of travel related chats and hashtags over on their blog.

You also have the option of using other social networks such as Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and others to put out your content. Social media is an invaluable tool for content creation, but remember, it’s a two way street. Interact with your audience, share other people’s content and become an invaluable asset to your followers.

Tools such as Buffer and Hootsuite are here to help you manage your social streams. Using these apps, you can schedule posts out to your own network, set up automatic tweets, set up auto responders and so on. However, one of the most invaluable tools is the ability to filter for search terms directly.

Using Hootsuite, you can set up a feed for Twitter search terms. In our example of Urban NYC, we might set up streams for the searches:

– Visiting New York
– New York Travel
– Recommend New York
– New York 🙂

There’s a lot of search operators that are well documented around the web. Think of emotions, put yourself in your customers shoes, and look up what they’re looking up. How can you put this to use though?

Say for example, your search is set up for “Recommend New York” – you’ll see a list of people asking for recommendations around New York. Now, people might be looking for things to do. You gently point them in the direction of The Top 25 Things to Do in Central Park post that we talked about earlier. They might be looking for restaurants, maybe there are some in the vicinity of your hotel you can recommend? As long as you’re not linking out constantly, and sharing things that don’t just result in direct profit for you, you can establish a positive reputation rather rapidly.

Once you have a bank of posts on your website, you can use a plugin such as Tweetly to automatically post that content with the relevant hashtags out on Twitter every so often. At Canny, we use this plugin to post every 4 hours and each time it happens we notice a few extra visitors land on our site.

Away from social media, you could look up the Reddit board for your local area, as well as other travel forums directly related to your space. When I went to Menorca on holiday earlier this year, I was frantically absorbing as much information as I could about the resort, the restaurants, other hotels, entertainment and more. Place your content on forums but don’t spam. Make sure you join in and engage with the community, then, you can drop in your link. You could also consider writing unique content for these forums and giving them an exclusive look or exclusive access to the post.

Reach out to these websites and see if you can place an article with them, or help them in any way. Favours one way can often lead to favours being returned. Don’t be scared to offer a helping hand first, get to know the people that run the site, then gently make your request.

On Neil Patel’s blog, he talks about not forgetting the “marketing” aspect in Content Marketing where he teaches people how to make the most of the long hours that they’ve invested in creating great content.

Write For People, Not Search Engines

Whilst you’re creating all of the wonderful content that we’ve talked about over the last couple of tips, it’s worth keeping this in mind:

You should write for people, not search engines.

There’s no point creating content that ranks well if it doesn’t help people, interest them, or persuade them to buy from you. – SEOMark

I know we’ve talked a lot about the positive effects for search engines and the benefits of content marketing on your search engine ranking position. We’ve also indicated that with enough great content produced to a regular schedule, you should see a flurry of traffic from searches alone.

However, one thing we haven’t said is that search engines don’t buy what you’re selling. Yes, great content will help you rank well. However, if it’s good for search engines but not so easy to read for people, you’re not making any sales.

Over the next few years, I’m sure we’ll see Google roll out more algorithmic changes that make this part of the organic process, but for now, be aware that well ranked content with a high number of click throughs won’t magically make you money if it doesn’t speak to your target audience.

Write well. Write regularly. Write honestly. Spammy spun content that looks the same article as a competitor’s site isn’t going to work for you. People want to read something refreshing, interesting and engaging. Do the SEO basics right (permalinks, site structure, sitemap, regularity) and write content for human beings and you should be on to a winner.

Update Your Website Regularly and Keep Your Content Fresh

With the advent of content management systems such as WordPress, it’s hard to see why older websites weren’t updated as often. But remember, in the past, you had to change and switch hundreds of lines of code to create a new post, and a blog was normally external to your website.

However, WordPress and other CMS’ make life much easier for website owners and webmasters. Updating your website frequently can influence your search engine position. After all, if your users are hooked into your brand, they probably can’t get enough of your content. And, if your users are happy, you tend to find the search engines are happy.

Cyrus Sheperd over at Moz.com wrote a great article about fresh content and how it can influence rankings. Put simply, Google gives your webpage a freshness factor that relates to a number of things. Over time, this freshness rating decays and as such you could see a fall in rankings.

Things that influence your page or post freshness are:

– the date of inception (how recently it was published)
– how often the post changes and how much it changes (is it topical, timely, in constant need of updating?)
– whether you’re making changes to important content, such as your homepage
– the rate of new link growth
– how many links, past and present that your content is receiving
– user behaviour

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s safe to the say that Google is looking closely at how timely, relevant and useful your content is. If people are linking to it, that’s a great sign. That means people are finding it useful. If you’re updating your blog regularly and people are visiting it, not just clicking away, that’s great too.

Be fresh. Be relevant. Most important, be useful. – Cyrus Sheperd

You can keep your posts fresh by linking to older blog posts from within new blog posts. From time to time, it’s worth digging back into the older posts on your website and seeing if you can add extra value to them with new information. There are WordPress plugins that you can use to link specific terms in blog posts back and forth. You want to aim to create a big spiders web of posts that Google can easily navigate around.

One of my favourite techniques to keeping my content fresh is to include my blog in several places. For example, at Canny, we have our blog featured on our homepage, as well as the blog page, as well as within the sidebar on different pages of our site. This means that when we publish a blog post, several pages see an increase in freshness, and that can only be positive.

Submit Your Website to Other Search Engines

We’ve talked an awful lot about Google. People usually focus their hotel SEO efforts on the leading search engine. However with Google being the number one search engine in the entire world, it’s easy to forget that other search engines still exist. Sites such as Bing and Yahoo have a loyal and growing userbase that you really shouldn’t ignore.

Search Engine Submission Image

In a month at Canny, we’ll see around 6500 users come from Google, and around 1000 visitors coming in from other search engines. Bing is usually top of our other “others” category, closely followed by Yahoo and Ask. Bing and Yahoo both have their own Webmaster and Analytics style sites that you can register for and gain an even better insight to the goings on of your website’s performance in those search engines.

With websites like Entireweb , it’s easy to submit your website to a huge number of search engines and networks. Some people, such as Mark at SEOMark would argue that you don’t need to submit your site to search engines as it will be found autmotically, but it can’t really hurt, just to make sure. While you’re there, don’t forget to use Google Search Console to submit your site and sitemap to Google either!

There’s also a possibility that within other search engines, your website could rank higher than it does on Google. This gives your hotel exposure that it wouldn’t have otherwise had. In turn, site visitors go up and you have a chance of converting those visitors into paying customers.

Build Links to Your Website

One of the most sought after relics in the search engine marketing realm is the coveted backlink.

What is a backlink? Wikipedia have us covered:

Backlinks, also known as incoming links, inbound links, inlinks, and inward links, are incoming links to a website or web page. In basic link terminology, a backlink is any link received by a web node (web page, directory, website, or top level domain) from another web node

Essentially, a backlink is a link from another website back to your own. Why are they so coveted? Because they’re difficult to acquire. People such as Brian Dean at Backlinko have dedicated their practice to solely testing and trying out new backlink acquisition strategies, his blog is even named after the practice!

Why are backlinks so important? Google recognises a link back to your site as a sign of trust and value, verified by the fact that that link exists. At the end of the day, people aren’t going to link back to mediocre content or content that doesn’t help their readers. In turn, Google takes this verified trust signal and begins to increase your website’s visibility within their search results. Moz talk about the power of link building in their Beginner’s Guide to SEO.

One way to generate backlinks is to create great content, but we’ve talked about the importance of that already. Here are some other link building methods, just to get you started:

  • Broken Link Building
  • The Moving Man Method
  • Manual Outreach
  • Guest Posting
  • Directory Submission
  • Social Network Signups

When it comes to building links to your website, there are an unlimited amount of strategies that you could use. One of the most common strategies is Guest Blogging. This involves reaching out to a blog that serves your niche or customer base and trying to secure permission to write a post on their blog. Doing this purely to help your hotel SEO could actually have the adverse effect as Google swooped to penalise this action in late 2014.

However, as we’ve mentioned countless times already, if you secure a guest blogging opportunity, it’s important you treat that content as if it was to be published on your own site. Don’t write some flimsy, wishy washy, 500 word post with next to no meaning or context. Write a killer post that really gets people talking. That way, Google will see it as relevant, and, you’re more likely to get asked back for further opportunities.

When guest posting, you can drop a link or two back to your own website within the post, provided it’s relevant. If not, it’s best to save the linking and self servicing for your author bio, where you can link back to your hotel’s site.

One thing to point out is that it’s important that the link text (anchor tags) that point back to your site aren’t all the same. If you’re building links to the Top 25 Things To Do in Central Park post, you don’t want each link to read “things to do in Central Park.” This will send warning signs to Google.

It’s important that you mix your anchor text links up as Google is looking for things that feel organic, rather than forced. They don’t want to see the name of your hotel linked at every given opportunity. They also don’t want to see only your search terms linked.

For example:

  • Urban NYC
  • Central Park
  • What’s in Central Park
  • Things to do in New York City

This set of anchor text would constitute a good variety of links. They’re natural looking and will prove that you’re not trying to play the Google game and manipulate the results. In this post, Neil Patel talks about the site Doctor650 that within 54 days managed to rank for a multitude of search terms.

We could talk in-depth about back linking strategies and how to make the most of opportunities that come your way. However, that would be best served as a standalone post for the future. For further reading, check out Brian Dean’s Definitive Guide to Link Building and Neil Patel’s Advanced Guide to Link Building.

Get Listed on Hotel and Hospitality Industry Specific Sites

Another key feature of your hotel SEO strategy should be to get listed on sites directly related to the hotel and hospitality industry. This will only serve your hotel SEO good in the long run. You want your hotel brand to be out there, front and centre, as accessible as possible.

Social networks can be tricky to choose, that’s why we’ve created a handy guide. However, when it comes to sites specifically in the hotel or hospitality industry, it really is a no brainer.

TripAdvisor Promo Image

First up, there are sites like TripAdvisor which has become industry standard. If people want to know about your hotel, read reviews, see photos from guests and see what else is nearby, this is where they go. It’s free to get your hotel business listed on TripAdvisor and it’s a place you can score for an easy backlink t your website.

There’s nothing more frustrating than when you’re going away, trying to look up a hotel on TripAdvisor only to find it’s not there, or, it is there but there’s only one lousy review. Take control of this situation, reply to your guests, be honest and get in on the TripAdvisor action.

Apart from TripAdvisor, there are also websites such as Mr & Mrs Smith, Hotel Room Reviews, BedandBreakfast.com and more. It’s also worth considering if your hotel could offer up rooms through places such as Hotels.com, LateRooms.com and Trivago.com for even more exposure. If you’re in the UK, get listed on UKHotelListings where you get your own page to customise, as well as whole host of other SEO benefits.

Each time you get listed somewhere on the web, you’re creating links back to your hotel site and as we talked about earlier, backlinks mean business. Acquiring backlinks from authority sites or sites in your niche should become a main area of focus in your hotel SEO strategy. Backlinks send the right signals to search engines, and that’s what hotel SEO is all about.

To create further opportunities for linking and exposure, try reaching out to local bloggers. Invite them to come and stay at your hotel for free in exchange for a review or entry on their blog about their stay. You can find local bloggers easily on Twitter by using the hashtag #yourcitybloggers. In New York it’s #NYCblogger, #LAblogger for Los Angeles etc.

As well as local bloggers, you could reach out to some of the bigger travel bloggers and ask if they could review your hotel, or meet up with you next time you’re in town. Remember, you have blog posts to write or content to create too. What could be better than getting hands on time with a well respected figure in the travel industry and getting their thoughts exclusively on your site?

It’s worth double checking over your local listings too. Yell.com is big business, as is Yelp. Make sure your hotel is listed on both of these sites, again, a free backlink, but also because it makes sense for you to be there when people are looking for hotels. A lot of SEO is very people driven, remember to make it as easy as possible for your customers to find you. Then, when they get to your site, make the experience and the booking process as seamless as possible.

Reach Out For Coverage

There are many great ways of getting coverage for your hotel. Coverage results in exposure on different platforms, backlinks, and a new way of giving a different audience access to what’s going on with your hotel business.

Channel 4's The Hotel - How Can This Benefit Your SEO?

I’m not going to lie, I’m a massive fan of Channel 4’s programme, The Hotel. If you’ve not seen it, it’s a fly on the wall documentary style programme that follows Mark Jenkins, formerly a hotel owner, now an events manager at a different hotel entirely. Whilst the programme might not be to everyone’s tastes, Mark gets up to some hijinks that many a hotel owner could take a few tips from.

In one of my favourite episodes to date, Mark convinces the hotel’s catering team that what they need to do to gain exposure, is bake the biggest scone in the country. Hilarity ensues and obviously they fail, but they do manage to make the biggest scone in Torquay. Along the way though, they make a lot of contact with the local press, resulting in coverage from several local papers and magazines.

While this may sound stupid and far fetched, try doing something that will really put your hotel on the map. We’re stepping outside the realms of the computer here, and I realise we’re getting away from the subject of SEO. However, it is linked: coverage = exposure = links = new audience to your site = potential guests and customers and increased page ranking.

1 Day Business Breakthrough with Pat Flynn and Chris Ducker

In Episode 24 of the 1 Day Business Breakthrough podcast, Chris Ducker and Pat Flynn talk through promoting a retail location, a brick and mortar business. They talk about marketing Chris Roberts’ juice bar, The Juice Cellar.

One of my favourite suggestions in the episode is to hold a juice party. Get people in to the premises and get them mixing and making juice. Make it a regular occurrence and people will start buzzing about your event on social media.

Now, having a hotel party doesn’t sound anywhere near as fun, but think about it. How about a film night? If your hotel has a space where you could project a film, why not have a “Red Carpet Celebration” once a month? Or even a seasonal event. Maybe it becomes a sort of film club, with bespoke tickets and nicely designed event posters and flyers.

If your hotel is large, or particularly spooky (and that can be a selling point!) – why not make the most of it? Tours, ghost tours, spooky stories on a night time, things that go bump in the night. Murder mystery weekends?

Back into the online realm, how about setting up a virtual tour of your hotel? These days, it wouldn’t impossible to make one with your smartphone. Failing that, hire in a professional video company to take care of it for you. This could be used on YouTube and in other social streams to gain further exposure. Letting people in behind the scenes can really increase your business exposure. People like transparency, it gives them a sense of trust and belief.

If you’re going to do something like this, don’t forget to promote and market it. Reach out to journalists on Twitter, local press through their news desks and so on. Perhaps a dedicated Twitter hashtag for your event, or maybe piggyback someone else’s? Just like your content marketing efforts, don’t forget to actually tell people what’s going on!

View Your Website Through Your Customer’s Eyes

Perhaps the most important tip of all. Not specifically related to SEO, but to your website in general. Once you’re set up and running, try and view it through your customer’s eyes. Your heart will be ruling your head when it comes to the design of your site, so looking at it as one of your customers would is vital.

First off, sit down with friends and family and watch them navigate around it. See where they’re going wrong and see what they’re getting right. Plug the holes in your site’s funnel as early as possible and you’ll maximise conversions from the offset.

However, watching family and friends navigating around your site isn’t enough. Get them to look up search terms related to your site and Google, and judge whether they’re willing to click through to your offering. If not, why not? Was the headline not compelling enough? Did something in the meta description not sit right? Again, try and fix this. Copyblogger have a great ebook about writing magnetic headlines. Give that a read over and see if you can tweak your headline to make it magnetic!

Be aware that you’re likely to get biased opinions when you ask your friends and family for opinions, so try and stay clear of opinions, rather observing them and seeing what you can do to make your website more logical.

Away from your friends and family, you could bribe University students with pizza to get some good honest feedback. Or, you could reach out to your target audience across social media and offer them rewards for taking part in a survey. You could also run a promotion in your hotel premises that allows people to take part. Maybe you could offer a free drink at the bar, or free WiFi for the duration of their stay in exchange for 10 minutes of their time?

By viewing your website through your customer’s eyes, you can see where people are spilling out of your sales funnel. You can then plug this and convert more visitors into customers. You can also ask for feedback about features and the sort of content that people would like to see on your site. In turn, you can take that and turn them into useful content for your current and future visitors.


Half of the battle with search engine optimisation for your hotel website is crafting and creating content that your customers like, in turn, proving your worth to search engines, by engaging with your brand on social media, linking back to it and not just bouncing away from your website as soon as they land on it.

If you can build a great brand reputation on social media, acquire backlinks from a host of different sties and create exciting and engaging content that search engines like, you shouldn’t face any problems getting traffic to your hotel’s website.

There’s no need to spend hundreds and thousands hiring a hotel SEO agency to look after your hotel’s search optimisation. If you have the time and the desire, you can do it yourself. Hotel SEO can be easy, and following these 20 top tips will help you get started in the best possible way.

Is your hotel SEO strategy working for your hotel currently? Are you hiring an SEO agency to take care of your digital marketing needs? We’d love to get to know more about your hotel business, so leave us a comment in the section below.

4 Responses

  1. Enjoyed reading that Tony, some good stuff in there. We’re forced to think outside the box a lot more with hotels but there are ways, even with smaller hotels. OTAs are firmly here to stay aren’t they?

    1. Tony Hardy

      Thank you Martin. It was a pleasure to write. I wrote it a little while ago whilst on holiday in Menorca! I do believe that OTAs are firmly here to stay. I’m not sure on my view of the OTA, they help book holidays, but essentially force independent and boutique hotels to conform under their brand. It’s a strange argument for sure!

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