The search universe is vast and changing, and hoteliers must keep abreast of what’s fact and what’s fiction. Here are five myths debunked.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Over the past several years, numerous misconceptions have emerged about search and how it operates. For hotel marketers, this has caused a lot of confusion.
As competition between brand.com and online travel agencies heats up, hoteliers must be mindful of the following search engine optimization myths:
Myth No. 1: SEO no longer matters.
If you want your websites to show up in search results, you need to pay attention to SEO, sources said.
“It is here to stay, and it’s something that we have a focus on now and moving forward,” said Tim Johnson, director of e-commerce for LBA Hospitality.
“Search engines are still a customer-preferred travel and research planning tool,” said Tim Peter, managing director of Tim Peter & Associates, a full-service, e-commerce and Internet marketing consulting firm. “Regardless of what some in hospitality might say, search engines are still alive and well.”
With keyword competition and pay-per-click costs on the rise, a strong hold on organic placement is ideal, said Shaun Coleman, director of sales and marketing for the South Seas Island Resort in Captiva Island, Florida, which is managed by Interstate Hotels & Resorts.
Such strong organic placement can give you a competitive advantage when it comes to search ranking and selling and marketing expenses, Coleman added, especially when operating an independent hotel such as South Seas Island Resort, as explained in Odysys' blog post "8 SEO myths that matter to indie hotels."
Myth No. 2: I don’t need to worry about SEO if I use Google Adwords.
SEO and Google Adwords do two different things.
Google Adwords allows you to set a budget for advertising and only pay when people click the ads. The ad service is largely focused on keywords.
SEO is the process of affecting the visibility of a hotel’s website or Web page in a search engine’s unpaid, organic results.
“Adwords falls in to SEM (search engine marketing), and SEO really lends a hand to rank higher,” Peter said. “Generally I suggest using a mixture of both SEO and Adwords to make certain utmost coverage in SERPs (search engine result pages).”
Adwords comes in handy during slow occupancy months because it allows you to pay for placement that your hotel’s not getting through organic SEO, Peter added.
Coleman said Google Adwords is “very important” for his hotel, reiterating that if you can’t deliver high indexing and relevancy on terms via organic, you must play in the PPC marketplace.
Myth No. 3: The copy on my hotel website doesn’t need updated.
“If you update your content once a year, that’s probably not enough,” LBA’s Johnson said. “But you don’t have to do it every day.”
Having a regular process is what matters the most, Johnson said, be it once a week, once a month or every couple of months. The focus should be on updating your website with unique and original content that is useful to travelers.
“If you don’t have something to say, you’re not going to help yourself by saying meaningless garbage,” he added.
Coleman recommends updating website copy at least once a month.
Myth No. 4: Link overload helps local SEO.
A balance of links and quality content will help boost local SEO, especially if the quality content is shared on social media where backlinks are created.
Search engines are continually pushing for relevant local information, sources said, so hoteliers who become trusted keepers of that information and index accordingly will win.
“Sources have claimed that Google will give up to 15% of its algorithmic relevance to local SEO,” Coleman said. “That will most likely continue to grow as search evolves.”
Local targeted SEO and keywords play a huge role in garnering additional traffic to a hotel’s website, therefore turning more lookers into bookers. This has increased in importance particularly with the growth of mobile search traffic, Peter said.
“The big thing shaping search right now is mobile,” he said. “Because of that, all searches that are done via mobile contain certain locale information in the search.”
That’s why hoteliers should have their map entries correct on Google and a mobile-friendly site, Peter added.
“Local SEO has significantly risen in importance,” Johnson said. “SEO is now more about how useful our site is to the end user than how adept we are at gaining Google’s ranking system.”
Myth No. 5: My hotel needs to have a blog to rank well.
“No doubt that the way to improve the user experience is by content and making that content localized,” Johnson said.
But in order to rank well within search engines, hotel marketers should have a balance between well-placed keywords and unique content, Johnson added.
However, having a solid content strategy such as operating a blog can help increase traffic from social, Peter explained.
“Things that make you do well in search are the same things that will attract views (on social),” he said.
It’s important to also draw parallels between the content and search terms. For example, future travelers will most likely search for weddings, not marriages.
“If you write a whole bunch of content about marriages and not weddings, people who search for it aren’t going to find you,” Peter added.