By: Melissa Lyons, Senior Natural Search Analyst
For hotel and resort owners, it's normal to be concerned by the big updates announced by Google this year. Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Carousel… what's next? It can all get very confusing. You're probably thinking, "what does this mean for my hotel?" and "how does this affect my marketing strategy?" "Is search engine optimization (SEO) dead?" Well I'm here to tell you, SEO is just as important, if not more important, than it ever was before! There are many things about SEO that will most likely never change, including the following:
- The need for high quality, relevant content (based on searcher intent)
- External Links (done the right way)
- Proper Markup (Organized HTML, CSS, proper use of schema.org, etc…)
- Ease of Use (this just makes logical sense)
I'll be honest; a lot of the changes over the past year have forced SEOs to change their tactics. From what I can tell, Google is trying to make searchers spend more time in the search engine results pages (SERPs), attempting to make marketers spend more money on ad space and priority placement, and most clearly, getting rid of all the spam that clutters up the search engines. Let's recap the biggest updates and what this means for the future of your hotel website's SEO.
The New and Improved Google Carousel
The Carousel removes the old "local pack" section from the organic results and moves everything to the top of the page in a horizontal view. When you click on a brand in this list, it takes you to a new search results page for that brand alone. This is Google's attempt to keep you in the SERP's for longer. While this does push organic results down further on the page, now the local listing results show first, at the top of the page. As always, this makes it important to have a verified local listing that is fully optimized with unique images and content. Ranking in the carousel is just as important as ranking on page one of the organic search results.
What might we expect to see in the future?
With the way Google gives priority to websites that pay for their services, I foresee a portion of this local carousel to become paid. Maybe just the first few spots, but this will give hotels yet another chance to get priority placement.
Keyword Data Unavailable and Hummingbird Go Hand-in-Hand
Well this is frustrating, isn't it? For the past several years SEOs have been using keyword data as a basis for their marketing efforts. Like I said before, Google is forcing people to change their approach to SEO. They want to see quality content that isn't keyword stuffed, and is relevant to what their searchers want to see. Pages must be based around themes rather than keywords. Removing keyword data pushes marketers to analyze entry pages that lead to a themed page rather than keyword details that lead to a site visit. Luckily for us here at Vizergy, we saw this coming and began to change our approach over a year ago. We write quality content based around a unique page focus rather than an exact match keyword phrase. Google's goal is to understand a searcher's intent; a search can have several meanings, and they want to lead users to the most relevant content. Our goal is to be that relevant content. Better, higher quality content, based around page themes is the most important aspect of on-page SEO right now. With a higher number of searches for brand terms and broad location searches leading to the homepage, it is difficult to know what terms are actually converting. But this is why having a clear page focus is now so important.
What might we expect to see in the future?
Since this huge algorithm change came about for on-page SEO, I foresee the next big update being based around external links. We have seen many Penguin updates (the latest being Penguin 2.1), but I expect something bigger, that really forces people away from bad link building practices. There are still marketers out there performing link spam on sites as their main technique for building links. This is unnatural, and will definitely be noticed and penalized by Google at some point. Just like Hummingbird and having no keyword data has changed the way we approach SEO, the next big link spam update will do the same. Google isn't messing around; they are getting smarter and finding ways to get rid of the spam. Our link building approach at Vizergy has always been to find real, quality websites that are relevant to our industry to link from, as well as high value directories that lead traffic to our sites.
For more than 20 years, Vizergy has served the hospitality industry with leading marketing technologies, knowledgeable talent and exceptional service for clients worldwide. The company deploys complete travel life-cycle marketing solutions from conversion-optimized website design to award-winning digital marketing programs, reservation solutions, media planning and execution. Vizergy's platform is touted as the #1 digital marketing system – easy to use, turnkey and SMART, and continually enhanced with tools to help hotels compete and maximize revenue. At Vizergy, hospitality marketing is not only our mission, it's our sole focus.