True story: I used to hate SEO. As a hotel marketing manager sitting on-property, it felt like this big, challenging, technical task hovering over everything I did…
Corporate built our hotel website and I added the content, but was it any good? Why wasn’t my hotel ranking for anything other than our brand name? How was I supposed to optimize for search with limited editing ability? Why couldn’t I get the hang of this fancy, expensive keyword tool they set up for us?
Thing is, SEO rarely offers any “quick wins” or instant gratification. You really need to have your house in order, so to speak, before you’ll see any real results from your search optimization efforts.
It took me a while to understand that SEO is not some one-and-done task to be crossed off your marketing to-do list.
Any time you create content for a new hotel promotion or try to capture new traffic with a blog post, optimizing for search engines should be baked right in, from ideation to publication. You don’t even need to be all that tech-savvy to understand SEO.
If you’re a hotel marketer, there are plenty of things you can do right now to set yourself up for success.
Part One: Make your hotel website easy to use
One of the best things you can do for your hotel website is to improve the user experience.
Search engines like Google consider a lot of different ranking factors when deciding which pages get top placement on search engine results pages.
Does your website load quickly? Does it function well on a mobile device? Is it easy to navigate around, find the right info, and importantly, book a room?
Even with limited editor access, there ARE things you can do to make it easier for potential direct booking guests to find and use your hotel website.
1. COMPRESS YOUR IMAGES AND VIDEO FILES
Big media files slow everything down!
Compressing them means making the file size smaller without sacrificing quality. Ask your photographer or videographer to give you compressed files, or do it yourself using a service like TinyJPG.
In the meantime, it’s a good idea to check your hotel website’s page speed. As a general rule of thumb, your pages should ideally load in 2 seconds or less.
2. USE FORMATTING WISELY
Formatting contributes to overall user experience, but it also tells Google what your content is about.
Most pages will have a primary header (aka Header 1) in a larger font, which should be your main page title.
Additional headers (Header 2, Header 3, so on) decrease in page hierarchy, but are useful for breaking up your main text with subtitles, making the content more readable.
There are other things you can do with your page formatting that may help your hotel rank higher on Google.
- Include your primary keyword in Header 1.
- Try to get variations of your keyword into your subtitles, and naturally throughout the text itself.
- Add links within your content, both internal (other pages on your website) and external (relevant other websites).
- Don’t cluster huge novel-length blocks of text. Break it up! Use negative space, bulleted lists, simple design elements, or images throughout the page.
Formatting is important on desktop, but it really makes a difference on mobile, where users are scrolling or skimming content on a small screen.
3. CHECK FOR BROKEN LINKS
When a potential guest or meeting planner lands on your site, you don’t want them clicking on a link that doesn’t even work!
If you’re comfortable using Google Search Console, you can check for broken links there. Otherwise, run your hotel website through a free broken link checker
Anywhere you’ve linked out to another website that has moved/removed their content, simply update the link to the correct URL, take it out entirely, or find a new source to link to instead.
If you’re linking to an internal page, double-check that you’ve added the right URL.
4. GIVE EACH PAGE A PURPOSE
Contrary to popular belief, “Book Now!” isn’t the purpose of every page.
Other calls-to-action might be “Explore our destination guide” or “Download our meetings ebook.” Each page should revolve around a clear purpose or theme: showcase your hotel rooms, explain your function space, introduce your local area, etc.
An even simpler way to think about this is to align your purpose with your primary target keyword — more on that in a moment.
Part Two: Create content your guests will love
We don’t always have much power over our website design, so if you do one thing to improve your hotel SEO strategy, let it be this: Create content your guests will love.
Before you get caught up in hundreds of different ranking factors and SEO assumptions, all you really need to know is that Google wants to help people solve their problems.
Ask a question. Get the best possible answer. That’s what a search engine algorithm really boils down to. So how can your hotel be that “best possible answer” for a potential guest?
5. FOCUS ON HIGH-QUALITY CONTENT
Sometimes, less is more. Hotels don’t need to publish a 3,000-word blog every day or create a landing page for every single keyword you hope to rank for.
What you SHOULD be doing is focusing on making your content as high-quality as possible.
Ask yourself what someone looking at your Rooms page is looking for. What do they want to know? What questions might they have? What are their concerns or pain points?
Personally, I think most hotel websites should have a blog, especially if you don’t have a strong chain brand name behind you.
So what kind of content will you publish? What do your guests want to know about your destination? How can you answer their questions better than TripAdvisor or the OTAs?
This brings us to the next point….
6. BE SMART ABOUT KEYWORDS
Keyword research is important, but you need to pick a race you can win!
I’m sorry to break it to you, but your chances of ranking #1 for “new york hotel” are slim.
SEO for the hospitality industry is tricky because your hotel business faces steep competition from Online Travel Agencies like Expedia, Booking, and even TripAdvisor. Their websites are established, drive tons of traffic, and are considered “high-authority” by Google.
Along with search ads, hotel search results pages (aka SERPs) are full of unique “local business” placements like maps and image carousels, which don’t always appear for other types of queries.
When it comes to actually using keywords on your hotel website, it’s important that you write for people, not search engines.
Part Three: Don’t forget about what happens off-page
Search engine optimization is not just about content, keywords, and page speed. There’s a whole other world of things to consider outside your website, too — particularly for hospitality businesses.
Local SEO for hotels is a major piece of the puzzle!
Here are two things you can do outside your website that help your hotel rank higher on Google:
7. COMPLETE YOUR GOOGLE MY BUSINESS LISTING
Google My Business is a FREE online business listing. If you haven’t already, claim yours and make sure it’s completely filled out.
Ideally, you should add high-quality photos, fill in your hotel amenities, and encourage guests to leave you Google reviews (and respond to them when they do).
At the very least, make sure you’ve filled in a website URL, hotel name, hotel address, and hotel website that’s consistent everywhere else you’re listed online.
8. BUILD (HIGH QUALITY) LINKS
My final SEO tip for hotels requires a bit more effort, but link building absolutely needs to be on your radar.
Link building means getting other established, credible websites to link to yours. This “backlink” is one of many signals Google uses to tell whether or not your hotel website is trustworthy.
Hotels can easily get backlinks on many high-quality listing sites, like your destination’s tourism bureau or local media outlets. Working with (reputable) bloggers is another option.
If you happen to hire a PR person or agency, make sure you’re working with someone who understands SEO — these two functions MUST work together.
Can you believe this post has only scratched the surface?
Social media is fun and flashy, and paid advertising is great for a quick win — but SEO is the most valuable long-term recovery strategy.
Making a few simple changes to the way you approach your hotel website content can be a powerful way to secure long-term growth in brand awareness, traffic, and ultimately, direct bookings.
To quickly recap, here are 8 simple hotel SEO tips to help you rank higher on Google:
- Compress the images and video files on your website
- Use headers and format your text so it’s easy to read
- Check for broken links
- Give each page a clear purpose
- Focus on high-quality content
- Be smart about which keywords you target
- Complete your Google My Business listing
- Build high-quality links from other websites
Hopefully, this simplifies what many hotel marketers consider a confusing topic. Prioritize making your hotel website a valuable, trustworthy resource for potential guests — I assure you, it pays off in the long run!