First things first: Why should I put my resources into this?
Google and other search engines use an algorithm for local listings that is heavily based on how much they trust that your properties are legitimate.
Google looks bad if a search for “New York hotels” returns a bunch of locations that are actually closed. If Google’s results are inaccurate or off, fewer people will use the search engine, meaning Google serves less ads. And Google has made its billions serving ads. So you can see why Google has to vet hotels and other local properties before pushing them to the top of their search-engine results pages.
Of course, Google’s vetting process is all built into its algorithm, and the more you understand how its algorithm works, the better you’ll be able to use it to your advantage. The steps outlined below will help boost visibility in the hotel space on Google, Bing and the other local search engines.
1. Claim your local listings
I’m not going to sit here and tell you this is going to be a fun project, but it is an important one. Claiming local listings helps you ensure your name, address and phone number (referred to as NAP by digital marketers) is consistent across the Internet.
Remember the trust thing? How would it look if you signed your checks as John McStockton sometimes and Jon McGrifter other times? Not too good. It’s the same thing with your business listings. If your NAP doesn’t match across all your listings, Google is going to have trouble figuring out what’s correct. By claiming your listings, you not only show Google that you’re an active business owner with open locations, but you can ensure your listing information is correct.
Find out where your listings are claimed at GetListed.org.
2. Tweak your onsite location pages
We just covered the basic step you can take offsite to help get better placement. In this section we’ll go over some things you can do on your website to help rankings.
The corporate umbrella website conundrum
Let’s say you’re a hotel management group with a portfolio of hotels all contained on the same domain, SuperMotorInn.com, and you have 20 different locations in Oregon and Washington. The worst thing you can do from a search-engine visibility perspective is to have one large “Our Locations” page that lists the addresses and contact info of your 20 hotels. This isn’t bad by itself, but many companies don’t give each location its own dedicated page.
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Each location should have its own page onsite, optimized around the location. For example: www.supermotorinn.com/east-crabtree-hotel, www.supermotorinn.com/west-crabtree-hotel, www.supermotorinn.com/northeast-crabtree-hotel, and so on.
Single domain per location
It’s a little simpler if you only have one location per domain. (e.g., you’re a small boutique hotel with one location, or a B&B). There are still some things you can do to help boost your local visibility.
First, experiment with your location or directions page’s title tag. The title tag is the bit of text that is linked in the search engine results pages, and also shows up at the top of the browser:
Putting geo-specific information in title tags can help boost your location scent to Google, making it easier to rise to the top. Try either putting your entire address and phone number in the title tag, or some location specific keywords. For example: East Crabtree Hotel | Super Motor Inn | East Crabtree, Vermont
3. Get a little more technical
We’ve all heard of sitemaps, but geo-specific sitemaps are used far less often. These give latitude and longitude information to search engines, along with the NAP, in a structured code they can understand.
It might seem like repeating addresses and other location information is getting redundant, but it is important to make these small changes because they strengthen your credibility and lead to increased visibility—and the final goal of more rooms booked.
Here’s a handy geo sitemap generator.
A long and productive day
This might have been a bit aggressive for day 1 in local search engine optimization, but getting the above tasks started is a great first step in boosting your hotel’s visibility online. As search volume continues to grow every year and the way we research and book hotels shifts, the importance of building a strong foundation in the local search space will become even more important.
David Backes joined the sem agency Anvil Media, Inc as a Technical Account Executive in early 2010. David added several years of design and development experience to Anvil, along with his strong copywriting background. Today, David specializes in the hospitality and travel industry, along with technical Web design for conversion optimization. In addition to managing a variety of travel focused clients, David is Anvil Media's in house webmaster, designer and developer.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HotelNewsNow.com or its parent company, Smith Travel Research and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.