Over the years the mission statement for successful on-page SEO for hotel websites remains the same:
Make sure to follow best practices to position your website for the greatest chance of visibility in the SERP. Provide a superior user experience that is reflected through highly relevant content, well structured navigation with easy path to book.
Search engine optimization continues to evolve. Every year the nuances of the game changes slightly with new technical developments, new announcements or hints from Google and changing competition. Only brands and websites that continue to evaluate themselves against this mission statement and evolve to meet its demands will succeed. Don’t let your competitors push past you in the SERP to capture a larger share of the market. Make sure your hotel’s website is positioned for success with these straight forward, yet complex steps for on page search engine optimization.
Step 1: Ensure Search Engines Can Access & Index Your Hotel’s Website
- Check your meta tags and robots.txt file to ensure you’re not blocking the search engine’s ability to crawl important content on your site. If the search engines can’t crawl and index your page content chances are you’re not going to be as visible in the SERP as you could be.
- Make Sure Your Site is Secure - Google announced HTTPS as a ranking signal all the way back in 2014 (per this Google webmaster blog post). Then in 2018 Google started labeling sites as “Not Secure” in search results to warn (and scare away) potential visitors. If you haven’t transitioned your site to HTTPS, do it now.
- Submit XML Sitemaps with Valid URLs to Search Engines - Log into your Search Console & Bing Webmaster Tools accounts and submit XML sitemaps that contain valid URLs. This provides an easy, accurate outline of pages and content that are important to the search engines directly. This helps to make sure your important pages are found, crawled and indexed.
- Structured Data/Schema Markup - It’s not new (it was actually first launched by Bing, Google & Yahoo in 2011), but it’s something Google has been hinting at and talking about more as it relates to their ability to understand the content on your webpage. That means that pages that use structured data markup are able to provide a more easy to digest way for the search engines to understand their page content and match them up with relevant searches. Hint, Hint - that’s a big piece of how Google and other search engines rank your page. You can learn more here on our blog post about “What is Structured Data? A Guide for Hotels”.
Step 2: Create A Hotel Website With Content and Media That Deliver a Valuable and Relevant Experience for Users and Search Engines
Take a look at the SERP. How does your hotel’s website page compare to the top results? Does it provide a superior experience? Is it well optimized for your priority keywords?
- Experiential Images & Video
- Great imagery & visual content is important for travel sites. This seems like a no-brainer, but still important to call out. Number of images ranked 3rd in SearchMetric’s 2017 Ranking Factors for Travel, behind just word count and overall content relevance. It’s also important for conversion. Make sure your hotel’s website allows the visitor to truly experience what it will be like on property before they even arrive.
- Make Sure Your Files Are Compressed - Page Speed is important - large media files take a long time to load. Ensure your beautiful imagery isn’t causing your site to load slowing. A slow loading site means the visitor may bounce before you even get a chance to show them your beautiful hotel images.
- Optimized Alt Text - Not new, but still important. Make sure all images on your site have Alt Text that is descriptive of the image content AND contain keyword focus.
- Well Optimized Key SEO Elements
- I like to call these the foundational elements of on-page SEO. Make sure your page titles, meta descriptions, H1s, H2s etc are optimized for your priority keywords.
- Richly Descriptive On-Page Copy - One foundational piece of SEO that has been important for years is on-page copy. This is one area where many hotel website miss the mark. Many times during development phases of a new website, content is overlooked or not given much thought. Many hotels simply scrape content from their previous website or just throw a few sentences on a page that don’t offer much value to visitors or search engines.
- Substantial Text & Word Count Is Still Important - Most of the time a hotel’s website copy lacks substantial text and word count. According to SearchMetrics 2017 SEO Ranking Factors for Travel, word count is actually at the top of the list for importance/correlation to higher rankings. SearchMetric’s study found the #1 ranked page for hotel san francisco had a word count of 2,074. While there are many other factors that play into this rank, it shows the continued importance of on-page copy. Oh and don’t forget to incorporate keyword & semantic keyword usage throughout your copy.
- Optimize for Voice Search - For the most part, hotel marketers should worry about an optimization strategy that encompasses all devices. While voice search shares ranking signals with other device types, there are a few ways to ensure your site is well optimized for potentially voice dictated searches. Below are a couple ways to ensure you’re optimized for voice search. You can learn more here on our last blog post about voice search for hotel websites.
- FAQ pages - When people search with their voices, they tend to dictate in the form of a question. One essential way to optimize your site for searches that could be voice related is to set up an FAQ page. This FAQ page could include questions and answers about your hotel but it can also include questions about the local area - opening you up for exposure at the top of the marketing funnel, during consumers’ research phase.
- Structured Data/Markup - similar to other device types, optimization of page content with structure data markup is very helpful for exposure in the SERP.
Step 3: Optimize Your Hotel Website for User Experience Across Devices
- [Page Speed] - Consider page speed the new “mobile” in terms of SEO focus. For years Google pushed marketers to be ready for mobile, then it transitioned to a mobile first index. This mobile first index includes page speed as a ranking signal as we reported in our last blost post about page speed for hotel websites. If you’re not making this a priority you’re website is going to fall behind. Fact is, if you’re not trying to improve your website speed you’re already losing out on conversions and revenue.
- [Device/Mobile Responsive] - Gone are the days of mobile specific websites. Google and other search engines recommend responsive design for smartphone-optimized websites. You want to optimize performance for the user’s journey across all devices, whether they are using a phone, tablet or desktop device.
- Clear & easy path to find important information and to book [Clear Path To Book] - well structured website navigation and a clear path to book for users is essential if you want to optimize for conversions. If visitors can’t find the information they are looking for they are going to leave your site and look elsewhere, like competitors sites and OTAs. Make their experience easy with well thought out linking, expansive and quality content and clear calls to action.
This roadmap for successful on-page SEO in 2019 is only a piece of the larger SEO puzzle. To be successful in the search engines your hotel has to establish a strong brand reputation that search engines can pick up on through a variety of ranking signals. These include other domains linking to your site (think local or national partners, events, community sites), social mentions and signals, and growing brand recognition through advertising on a variety of channels (social, paid search, TV and offline channels). To be successful in search engine results your job with SEO is never done. You must continue to update your site, expand your reach and grow your business’s reputation as a unique, valuable brand.