No matter where you’re located or who you’re trying to reach, search engine optimization is a must-have for every hotel hoping to sell rooms and venue spaces and increase overall brand awareness and recognition. It might seem confusing or overwhelming at first, but these hotel SEO tips should send you well on your way to increasing your search-engine discoverability and maximizing your exposure.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization, and it's defined as "a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors (traffic) to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine (SERP)."
When we discuss search engines in this article, most of the time we’re directly referring to Google. According to Search Engine Market Share, it’s used by 92.06% of the entire world, so that’s what we’ll be focusing on.
In a nutshell, SEO means editing your website — and the pages within it — to make it easier for Google (and, in turn, customers) to find you. It also makes it easier for Google to tell whether or not you’re an authority on a subject.
To differentiate yourself when it comes to marketing your venue and coming out on top, you’ll need to prioritize your hotel SEO. Which leads to our next question …
Why is hotel SEO important?
Hotels that prioritize SEO are going to have a steep advantage when it comes to being found online by prospective guests or event planners. Some of the key benefits include:
- More exposure. The competition for those top SERP spots can be incredibly tough, but when you land it, it can make a significant difference when it comes to growing your brand, increasing business, and beating the competition.
- Fewer dollars spent. SEO marketing takes a lot of time, but it is far less expensive than other marketing methods. Thanks to help from some tools we mention below, you can control and track your progress every step of the way.
- Higher-quality leads. The people who find your hotel will be more likely to book with you since they were likely specifically searching for what your location has to offer. Once they're on your website, they’ll find more content and information that solidifies their confidence that your hotel is their best possible choice.
Explore 14 tips to improve your hotel SEO:
1. Research and identify your keywords
Keyword research is one of the most important aspects of digital marketing, so it should be a priority when it comes to your hotel's SEO efforts. Here are three types of keywords you should focus on, along with examples of each:
- Primary keywords. These are one- or two-word phrases that best describe what a page is about. They're the main keywords for which you want each page to rank. For example: A landing page for a hotel in Chicago would have a primary keyword of "Chicago hotel."
- Secondary keywords. These are a little less obvious than primary keywords, but can be used to help you get more specific. For example: If that same hotel is a luxury hotel, a secondary keyword could be "luxury Chicago hotel."
- Long-tail keywords. These are longer, more specific phrases, usually around the three- to five-word mark. They can include questions and how-to’s, and are great fodder for your content marketing. For example: If that same hotel is located in Chicago's Magnificent Mile, a long-tail keyword could be "luxury Chicago hotel Magnificent Mile."
Tools like Google Keyword Planner, which we go into a little more detail about later, are a great way to determine which keywords you should target.
2. Get into content marketing
Content is king, so if you don’t already have a hotel blog or other interactive content on your website, now's the time to start thinking about creating some. Over time, relevant, keyword-rich articles, videos, and resources will continue to build your website's reputation. The more high-quality information available, the more Google can tell that your website is a leader on the subject.
Ensure that your content supplies a demand and reads like it was written by a person, not a robot. And while it's important to feature your target keyword(s) throughout your site, be sure to avoid keyword stuffing, which Google describes as "the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site's ranking." Instead, use your keyword phrases only when they make sense.
3. Focus on title tags
The title tag is, in short, the name of a web page, and you can find it on the tab of any page you have open in your browser, on SERPs, and on social networks. Google scans and reviews these titles to find out what each page is all about, so use your target keyword(s) here. But also keep in mind that people will be reading your title tags, too, so don't just throw together a handful of keywords in an attempt to rank higher.
4. Create click-worthy meta descriptions
Meta descriptions are the snippets used to describe the content that's on a page (they're what appear under the page title on SERPs). Think of them as your sales copy for each page. While they may not impact SEO directly, they're still important for a variety of reasons. For starters, when someone searches for a particular topic or phrase (hopefully your target keyword), that keyword will become bolded in their search results. For example: If a business traveler types "luxury Chicago hotel" into their search bar, and your meta description features that keyword phrase, it will be bolded for that user.
5. Keep your URLs clean
SEO-friendly URLs are another way to help Google determine what your website, and each page within it, is all about. If you have a string of random words or numbers for every page, your site might look spammy. Be sure to choose keywords that are relevant to your brand and that focus on what users can expect to find. Also, avoid being too lengthy — Google recommends keeping your URLs "simple."
6. Emphasize your hotel’s location
Smart hotels make sure to include local SEO for their venue. Local SEO means emphasizing your location as a selling point for search engine results. Customers rarely just search for “hotel.” They want a hotel in the area that they're visiting, so phrases like “luxury Chicago hotel” are a great example of this.
7. Collaborate with high-quality blogs or news sources
Who you’re associated with online can make a big difference in your overall SEO, so you should make it a priority to get relevant sites to link back to you. For example, if your hotel has one of the best dining experiences in Portland, reach out respected culinary magazines or news organizations and see if they’d like to feature your restaurant. Not only will this help draw interest to your restaurant and your property as a whole, but it can help your SEO efforts as well, because when it comes to earning backlinks, the higher the authority of the website doing the linking, the better. Creating these types of partnerships is the kind of extra step that will give you an edge over your competition, both online and offline.
8. Develop a linking strategy
It's not only important to have backlinks from other sites. Google loves when you link to other pages on your website and other websites throughout the internet, too. One analogy to think about is a spider’s web. The more threads you have leading to and from your website, the stronger your hotel's SEO can become.
When linking to an outside source, make sure the website itself is updated frequently (check the date on their latest blog posts). Use external links from websites that are relevant to your industry but, in most cases, aren't a competitor.
When you link internally or externally, use relevant keywords as anchor text, which creates another direct thread from that subject on your page to the same subject on the linked page.
9. Use free products from Google
Google has some great free tools you can use to make sure your SEO elements are at their best. These include:
- Keyword Planner. This tool helps you figure out which relevant keywords and keyword phrases are best for you. You can see historical data, sort by average monthly searches, view competition levels for particular keywords, and more.
- Search Console. This tool will help monitor your search rankings so you can keep track of your progress. You can also use it to identify potential issues and submit pages for indexing.
- My Business. This tool, as defined by Google itself, is used "for businesses and organizations to mange their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps."
10. Remember to properly format and label images
Images are SEO gold, and there are a couple of ways to use them to your advantage. Before uploading them to your website, make sure the file names contain relevant keywords. Once you’ve added an image to your site, edit the alt text to reflect that keyword and subject as well. Thirdly, be sure to reduce the file size of your images (without compromising quality), which will help speed up your load time and reduce bounce rate.
11. Make your hotel website visually appealing
This may seem like a user experience tip, but in many ways, user experience directly translates to SEO. For example, if your website looks like it was made for an elementary school project and features blurry photos, visitors are likely going to leave sooner rather than later. This won't only decrease conversions, but can hurt your overall SEO efforts, too.
12. Prioritize site/page speed
No one likes waiting for a website to finish loading. If yours is slow, most visitors will close the tab or navigate away, which can hurt your rankings. Luckily, there are lots of ways to improve your site/page speed. To start, run an analysis using Google's PageSpeed Insights.
13. Be consistent
It’s important that you regularly update your website, because competitors who share new content or make adjustments more frequently than you have a higher chance of coming out on top. Don’t give them the opportunity – try to keep things fresh so Google’s algorithm knows your website is still relevant. It’s even helpful to update your existing content, especially if you have pages that are underperforming. Meaning, if you aren't ranking high for a particular keyword, conduct some more research to determine why, and find out what you can do to fix it moving forward.
14. Realize that improving your hotel SEO takes time
In fact, the age of a domain is a ranking factor on its own. But if you get started sooner rather than later, you’ll have a leg up on all the other brands fighting to get seen for your best keywords. It may take months or years, but making hotel SEO a priority is invaluable for achieving peak exposure. The impact of content is evergreen, and will continue to build over time.
Get started boosting your hotel SEO today!
And the end of the day, there are tons of ways to improve your hotel SEO. Even if you do a handful of these tips, you should see an improvement in your search results. But no matter what you do, keep these final thoughts in mind:
- Conducting keyword research, and then using those relevant keywords in places like title tags and URLs, is key.
- Many user experience factors — namely page speed and the quality of the actual content within each page — can contribute to search engine rankings.
- Customers want to find you – you just have to help them do it!
When hotel SEO is broken down into bite-size pieces, it’s a lot easier to manage and execute. Review your hotel website and find new ways you can improve search optimization.
Up next, check out these 7 hotel content marketing tips to help maximize visibility.