I recently got a call from a luxury hotel marketing manager, inquiring about SEO. She hoped that we could just ‘fix’ her website with a magic SEO wand and, abracadabra, her hotel website would appear on top of Google.
And the thing is this used to be partly true. Until the last couple of years, you could boost your ranking by cheating the system; buying links from fake sites, stuffing your page with keywords, etc.. But Google has caught up with the bad practices and penalised a lot of websites caught with their pants down.
So how does a boutique hotel win its way to the top in an organic and sustainable way?
But when you figure out how much you’ll be spending per click (and per sale) you might want to embrace this brave new world. And the key is to start thinking like a travel publisher. By producing original, quality content that people will want to link to and share. Resulting in sending constant, qualified traffic to your website (i.e. hot leads who are soon planning a visit to your destination). Let’s dive into it.
GET YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER
Making sure your website is optimised is of course still vital. Depending on who you ask, this roughly accounts for 30% of SEO. There are many factors that can have an impact on it, but I’ll assume your agency did a good job and that you have a well built, mobile responsive website.
The first point is using the right keywords, especially in your home page. You have to write your copy with Google in mind. Think about what people would be searching when booking a hotel in your area, and write the copy backwards, making sure to use the relevant keywords.
For example, you’d be surprised at how many boutique hotels don’t actually mention ‘boutique hotels’ or their destination anywhere on their homepage. They are trying to stand out from the competition by using other superlatives, which is a great, but how do you expect Google to know what your website is about if you don’t even refer to the most simple terms like ‘boutique hotels'?
Next is the content on your site. Google wants to see quality content. It will always give preference to a hotel that has invested in rich media, pictures, videos; content that is helpful to the audience, content for content’s sake serves no purpose. And a site updated frequently with fresh content. Treat it as your own garden, planting new seeds, watering it and attending it to it with a loving hand. Compared to your competitor’s site that hasn’t been updated since 2009, and isn’t mobile friendly, you will win the battle hands down.
ACT LIKE A TRAVEL PUBLISHER
But the real key to SEO success is back-linking. The most important factor in helping Google determine the popularity of your hotel is how many websites link to yours. These websites need to be popular, authoritative and relevant to your industry. That means a link from the Condenast traveller website is a big bonus. A link from a well-known travel blogger is great. However, a link from your neighbour Chinese acupuncture practice will carry little weight.
In order to get links though, you need to first create content people will actually find interesting or useful. There are several methods to get you started. But let’s go with a simple one, the destination guide. Find the most popular travel guide on your destination and make it better or complement it with new information.
Google ‘your destination’ + travel guide to see what’s already up there. For example, when I Google ‘Lake District’, one of the automatic suggestions is ‘Lake District walks’. Which suggests it’s a popular search. You then get an article from the Guardian, '10 of the best walks in the Lake District' that has already been shared 2,668 times. Clearly content people enjoy to the point they want to share it with their friends and family.
So put your creative brain to work and think how can you do it better? You could be more useful by adding a convenient map to the walks for people to download. Or split it in categories: '5 great family walks’, ‘8 great walks that end up at a pub’. try the more dramatic approach, ‘the three most stunning walks in the Lake District’ or be seasonal. 'Best autumn walks’. You could also make it more visually appealing and add more pictures of the scenery and even videos. And if you can’t write, find someone who can (Travel writers for hire are easy to find).
ACT LIKE YOUR OWN PR AGENCY
Creating great content is only half the equation. Without promoting it, it’s a complete waste of time and money. Now that we have valuable content, you need to reach out to relevant influencers. Here are some examples that you can apply to your own destination:
- Check which links your competitors are getting (with sites like backlinkwatch.com) and contact them yourself
- Ask friendly partners you recommend your guests to (activities, restaurants, etc.) to link back to you
- Local press and relevant magazines
- Destination experts and influencers
- Tourism boards
- Popular bloggers and influencers, can you invite them to do and document the walks in exchange for a free night in your hotel?
- Target the relevant communities. Finding walks addicts in England shouldn’t be too complicated.
- Spread the word on social media. The more your content is distributed on social media, the more likely Google will interpret it as positive brand signals that your website is worth pushing up.
This needs to become a routine. Publishing one great article / guide a year is not going to have an impact. But once a month might be a good start. You can then move to other activities and consumer niches (e.g. Yoga, history buffs, photography amateurs, etc.) or occasions e.g. Romantic weekend, special Christmas shopping guide, etc.
There are as many opinions about SEO as there are people calling themselves ‘SEO guru’, but to summarize, you can’t really go wrong by following these three steps:
- Make sure your site is optimized for search engines
- Think like a travel publisher, find the type of content people already share about your destination, do it better and keep doing it
- Actively promote the content to relevant influencers to get views, links, traffic and convert them into guests.
- See what keywords search engines see when scanning your website
- Check which websites link to you or your competition
- A good resource for SEO resources and tips, in plain English
-Why you need to update your blog frequently:
- Some good content examples:
Zodiac apartments did a very simple guide to Ibiza that was well received, which required almost no budget, just some time.
With more budget, Hotel Maximilian in Prague created a great video series Praguing around https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8aY6P8nvRI
- Find content and influencers