SEO for Independent Hotels: What, Why and How
By Sophie Tremblay, Digital Marketing Specialist at Net Affinity
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is crucial to your hotel's online visibility on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. SEO is complicated and constantly in flux, so it's no wonder so many people don't even know where to start.
We'll be telling you about:
- The Basics – What is SEO?
- Why does your hotel need optimisation?
- Tools to help you get started with SEO
What Is Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the strategy, comprised of both creative and technical elements, used to increase the authority, visibility and presence of a website organically in search engine results.
Your SEO will tell search engines everything they need to know about the quality of your content, its relevance to specific topics, and how much you can be trusted. SEO is all about your organic presence. Its purpose is to driving unpaid user traffic to your website – the real golden egg for website traffic.
Winning or losing in the SEO game is mainly dependant on three things:
- The structure of your website
- Your website's content
- Your site's relative authority based on who is linking back to and mentioning you.
It is a combined effort between technical efforts and front-end content. What goes on behind the scenes is just as important as what's visible to the public.
The user's experience is key. if they don't like what they're getting or have trouble navigating, search engines will know, and your website will suffer for it.
Why Does My Website Need To Be Optimised?
It's pretty simple, really. If your website isn't search-engine optimized, it'll be an uphill battle to appear in search results organically.
Imagine searching your hotel's name in Google and appearing on the third or fourth page, rather than right at the top. It's a nightmare, but all that could be avoided with a little SEO tweaking to your site. Your brand website should be the first result when people are searching for your brand name – after all, that's a highly targeted search that means they're interested in you, specifically, and are likely to be much closer to a booking then someone looking for 'hotels in Greenland'.
Important Seo Terms To Know
Understanding SEO starts with understanding the crucial elements of SEO that make up your website.
The Metadata is the text that informs the search engine of the content of the page. Metadata is mostly invisible to the user, hiding behind the scenes in your website's HTML. Your metadata is important, not only because it informs the search engine to your page's content, but also because it often appears as the page preview text blurb in search engine results. The meta title is what appears first, followed by the meta description. Make sure that your hotel's name and essential keywords appear in these fields.
Links are golden to your website's SEO. Backlinks, other websites linking back to your site, are the holy grail.
However, the more is not always the merrier! Accumulating a large number of backlinks from reputable and respected sources will skyrocket your own authority, but even a small handful of backlinks from spam-filled or untrustworthy sites can be highly damaging to your overall ranking.
SEO is constantly changing and evolving to keep up with technological developments and trends. The latest (and perhaps greatest) shift has been regarding mobile activity. Google, the world's largest and most frequented search engine, has placed the importance of being mobile-friendly at the top of the list.
A responsive website is one that is easily accessible and capable of adapting to different devices, something that is now absolutely essential to successful SEO. Failing to have a responsive website or one that specifically caters to mobile devices could spell the end of your search engine visibility.
Crawl and Index:
In order to gather all the information it needs to correctly identify and rank your website, search engines must first crawl and index it.
The crawl is the process of going through every page, word, link and element in your website. The crawl is done by what is called a spider or bot, which is just a fun name for the system that carries out the crawl.
Next comes the index, which is essentially the result of the crawl: a complete database of everything found. Your index is an important thing to keep track of in order to ensure everything is accessible and that search engines are getting all the information you want them to. Small snippets of code like robots.txt or noindex that can be added to HTML will stop the page at hand from being crawled by the search engines. Pages worth hiding are thank you pages, error pages and those still under construction.
Your website's sitemap is a comprehensive guide of every page your site contains and its overall structure. Usually it comes in the form of a list of all the pages on your website that are accessible to both crawlers and individual users. This is important to your SEO, as it is essentially a roadmap to your site for search engine crawlers.
Keywords are arguably the most important aspect of SEO. Keywords and terms are the foundation of search engines, and therefore an important element to your SEO. Having the correct plan for research and implementation of keywords is central to proper keyword use. A solid research foundation can help you determine the most important keywords for your hotel. Even the smallest variation could make the difference. It may surprise you to know there is a big difference in terms of SEO between "hotels ireland" and "hotels in Ireland".
Your website needs these key terms and phrases to help the search engines return your pages for specific queries. Keywords are complicated, and it's definitely worth talking over your keyword strategy with a marketing professional.
If this is all sounding a little daunting, fear not, you are not alone. Along with marketing agencies and experts, there are several useful tools you can use to get ahead in the SEO game.
Here are some of our favourites:
Google Search Console: Search Console offers you insights into your keyword ranking and an overview of some of the technical aspects of your SEO. This will give you a clear indication of where your page stands with regards to their search engine, which, with Google being top dog and all, is a very handy place to start.
SEO Profiler: This is a great overall tool that will crawl your site and clearly flag all critical errors, minor mishaps and suggest ways to better your website from a technical perspective.
Moz Bar: The Moz Bar is a free Chrome Extension that helps you get all the advanced metrics you need for your website by giving you instant metrics whilst viewing any webpage or SERP. This is an ideal tool for competitor analysis, as it allows you to assess authority, keywords, link metrics and more on any webpage you surf.
Screaming Frog: Don't let the name deter you! Screaming Frog is actually one of the most in-depth and effective SEO analysis tools out there. This useful software will crawl all your websites' URLs and fetch important onsite elements to help you better analyse your technical SEO. It may look daunting at first, but it can give you absolutely all the answers you want if you know where to look.
With these SEO basics under your belt, you are now ready to start developing your hotel's SEO strategy. To help you along your journey, stay tuned for the next article in this SEO series, all about keywords. SEO can be challenging, but it's not insurmountable and even the most technically limited hotel can take control of their search presence. Good luck and happy optimizing!
Copywriter and Content Marketing Executive