You’ve taken the time to create a great marketing strategy to boost your hotel’s group business, including in-depth guest personas, a solid email marketing plan, and even some tactics taking advantage of LinkedIn. But is your hotel taking full advantage of the biggest marketing channel of them all? Sixty-one percent of all traffic to websites comes from search, with 85% of that traffic coming from organic search. That means having the basics of technical search engine optimization covered is critical to your hotel’s success.
Technical SEO is the process of optimizing your hotel’s website to make it easier for Google and other search engines, such as Bing and DuckDuckGo, to find it and load it. These small changes that you make to your website can lead to giant gains in search rankings and web traffic. Improving a hotel’s website for SEO can be complex, but the process can be simplified by focusing on some key “high-value” elements which we will cover below. Keep in mind that this post focuses more on the technical aspects of your website as opposed to things like keyword research, link building, and creating relevant content.
So, let’s take a look at the top six technical SEO strategies your hotel needs to drive traffic and boost your search rankings for group business.
Discover the top 6 technical SEO strategies for hotels:
Before we dive in, let’s talk about why SEO matters for group business. After all, with the ease of sending out RFPs you may have more leads coming in for group bookings than you can handle. But are they all high-quality leads for the types of group bookings that you’re targeting in 2020? Do you feel like you have a mountain of lower quality leads with only a few high-value needles in the haystack? This is where SEO can make all the difference.
Optimizing your website for search engines means that your content will get found for the search terms that are most relevant and important for your property, your brand, and your target audience. It means you’ll be getting high-quality leads from interested and appropriate groups more often. And it means that your efforts to create segmented landing pages, offers for specific event types or industries, and high-quality content will not go in vain. Technical SEO ensures that your hard work gets seen by the right people at the right time.
1. Improve your website loading speed to get more traffic.
Your first item of business should be making sure your site loads quickly. This is the No. 1 technical SEO mistake made by most hotels. In fact, the average Google Page Speed Score in the hotel industry is just 47 for mobile and 52 for desktop. This score is considered “poor” by Google, which looks for a score of 85 to be considered “good.” Users across the world expect sites to load in just 2 to 3 seconds, but hotel websites are taking 10, 20, or even 30 seconds to load, leading to large waves of users abandoning the sites and choosing to book somewhere else. Google is more likely to rank a fast website over a slow one, meaning more people will visit your website for free through organic traffic. Faster websites also see lower bounce rates, higher average time spent on the site for each user, and higher conversion rates.
You can learn about your own website’s load speed by comparing the information from a few free tools. Google PageSpeed Insights will show you what Google sees when they crawl your site. Your Google Analytics page will also give you a breakdown of site load times from various regions - just navigate to Behavior → Site Speed → Overview to take a look. Finally, tools like Pingdom, GTmetrix, and WebPage Test all measure site load times a little bit differently and can give you an idea of how your site is doing.
Once you know your total site load time, you’ll need to take a few steps to improve it. The simplest ways to improve website load speeds are:
Use a content delivery network (CDN). CDNs store the files associated with your website all over the world, so that load speeds are consistent no matter where the user is when they access your site.
Limit your use of plugins. It’s common for plugins to pile up over time to solve various marketing challenges. Have your team take a look at all of your current plugins and make sure they are necessary - each one will add to the time it takes your site to load.
Configure browser caching. Many planners will visit your site multiple times before booking an event. By setting up caching you will be able to load most of the information very quickly, and only need to load new information each time they visit.
2. Make your site easy for search engines to crawl and index.
Google can’t include your site in its search results if it can’t read your page. A site map is a simple file created for search engines to understand the structure of your site and how it's organized. If you use a content management system then you likely already have an automatically generated XML site map. But if your site is static, you will need to generate your own site map and keep it up to date.
Another issue that may affect search engine crawling is including non-essential pages in your site map, leading to clutter during indexing. You can get around this by non-indexing your low quality or low value pages. You have two options for doing this: “disallow” certain pages using a robots.txt file or including a noindex meta tag. While these options will clean up your site map, you should be careful when changing these settings. Playing with these settings can introduce errors and harm your website, so you’ll want to reach out to your development team or technical staff to lend a helping hand.
Once you have a clean and well-organized site map, you’ll want to submit it to the Google Search Console for indexing. This takes away the element of chance in terms of Google crawling your site, and instead requests that the search engine takes a look. It isn’t instant, but your site will generally be indexed within 24 hours.
3. Ensure consistency with your hotel’s schema.
Schema, or structured data, is code that helps search engines understand specific pieces of data from your website. Ensuring consistency in your schema means that the information you give about your hotel is always the same, no matter which page on your website an event planner visits. Here’s the information you need to include and make consistent in your schema:
Your hotel’s name
Your hotel’s street address
Your hotel’s phone number
A brief property description
A photo of your hotel
Your hotel’s star rating
Typical room rates/price range
Reception opening hours/check in hours
Features and services, such as meeting rooms
A parent company, if you're part of a chain
Schema is included in the html of your site, so you’ll need to work with your development team to add it and update it. Keep in mind that the information within your Schema should remain consistent not only throughout your website, but also across social media channels, the Cvent Supplier Network, your marketing emails, your Google My Business page, and your RFP responses. Work with the rest of your marketing and sales team to take a look at this basic information across all channels and make sure it’s consistent.
4. Establish trust with search engines and users by securing your site.
It’s no secret that event planners and group organizers establish relationships with venues that they trust, and then tend to return to those trusted partners again and again. One of the fastest ways to lose that trust is to send planners to an unsecured website. When you install an SSL on your server, your website can be accessed using the prefix https instead of http. This indicates that any information transferred between your website and server (such as usernames, passwords, personal data, etc.) is encrypted.
In the past SSL was important mostly for e-commerce websites, but it's now common practice for all websites to have an SSL installed. Check with your development team to see if you have an SSL installed; if not you’ll need to contact your hosting provider. You’ll then need to follow a migration procedure to activate SSL on your website without losing your current search rankings.
5. Add breadcrumb menus for easier navigation.
A breadcrumb menu is a set of links at the top or bottom of a page that allows users to navigate to a previous page or to the homepage of a website. It serves two purposes: it helps users navigate without needing their browser’s back button, and helps search engines better understand the structure of your site. This guide from Google is a helpful tool for learning more about breadcrumbs.
6. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly.
Having a mobile-friendly website is no longer optional. Event planners and group organizers are constantly on the move, and many will research a new venue on their mobile device in between site visits, other events they're organizing, and meetings with vendors. With the introduction of the mobile-first index by Google, if you don’t have a fast, mobile-friendly website, your rankings will suffer.
You can check the mobile friendliness of your website using a tool on the Google Search Console. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’ll need to work with your development or graphic design team to start making some changes. Ideally, your website should be responsive, with one version of the site that appears on both mobile and desktop according to how users access it. You should avoid using popups on mobile, and make sure that the mobile site loads in less than 6 seconds. Take a look at these tips on designing a mobile-friendly site for more information.
Improve your hotel’s technical SEO!
As you can see, by focusing on just a few high-value changes to your hotel’s website you can vastly improve your search engine rankings and visibility to event planners.
Implementing these top technical SEO strategies for your hotel will increase traffic from relevant group booking audiences and boost your group business.
Don’t forget to craft a website that will impress event planners once they get there. Take a look at our top tips for increasing conversion through stronger calls-to-action.