COVID-19 Recovery Series: Boosting Natural Search Traffic
The most efficient way to increase search engine rankings.
By Bill Jefferson, Senior Analyst, Natural Search and Trish Leighton, Sr. Manager Search Marketing Services at Vizergy
With COVID-19 disrupting the hospitality space so intensely, we are left wondering what the landscape will look like as we emerge on the other side of this pandemic. With hotels having to shut their doors, airlines flying mostly empty planes, and travel at a near standstill, the only silver lining is the time we now have to take a step back, measure the effectiveness of our previous digital efforts, and take the time to make a plan moving forward.
While the hospitality industry has seemingly taken a step back from digital marketing efforts, Google is moving along without delay, including updates to their search algorithms. Their search engine keeps running, data keeps firing, and its business as usual. This means for us that taking a break from SEO is not an option.
If you've checked your recent website visit data, it's likely you've seen an enormous drop in visits overall, and a larger drop in booking engine visits and actual reservations. Many of your website visits could be just checking to see your cancellation rates or contact information, or to get information about your on-site restaurant's current offerings.
Luckily, keyword rankings haven't dropped in kind, even though we are still seeing preference given to OTAs for page 1 organic results. So what can you do to mitigate any negative SEO impacts right now? Simple answer - don't let your SEO go on furlough.
We have outlined the most important best practices to keep in mind now and in the near future as we keep our eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel and prepare to usher the travel industry back to business.
Here are a few tips to see you through and make sure your website remains set up for success when the travelers start clicking again.
Stay Flexible and Spread the WordIf you have adopted a more flexible cancellation policy, it is best to make sure it's spelled out very clearly in your content without needing the visitor to click around to find it.
In order to capture the bookings that are being made now and as people start to travel again, being able to cancel without penalty is of utmost importance to travelers. But putting this in more places than just your on-page content is key.
Make sure you update your meta descriptions and even page titles to tout the no cancellation fees. When a would-be guest is searching Google for hotels in your area and your result mentions your flexible cancellation in the search results, you may very well get that click and booking over your competitor.
Local Listing AccuracyPay attention to your local listings across the web, especially the heavy hitters like your Google My Business and Bing listings, Facebook profile, Yelp and TripAdvisor listings.
Are they up to date with your current status? If you are temporarily closed, does it say so? Google has confirmed that a temporarily closed status in your business listing will not negatively impact your rankings or visibility.
Showing accurate information is important. This holds true for any on-site outlets on your property as well like spas or restaurants. You need to note if you are serving food, what times, and if you deliver, have take-out open, curbside pickup, etc.
No Major Website UpdatesSince Google recently rolled out another substantial search algorithm update in March, alongside a major disruption in website traffic, it is best to hold off making large scale design or content updates right now.
Continue to make any tweaks or add related content as you see fit, but website overhauls and redesigns will add another layer of disruption that muddies the waters a bit too much.
Since large website updates and launches tend to result in volatile website traffic as Google is tasked with re-crawling and indexing a new site, how the search engine responds is an indicator of anything that may hamper performance. But right now, with traffic being impacted by algorithm changes and the pandemic, it would be impossible to know if a new website is impacting rankings.
It's best to wait until search trends and traffic begins an upward track again so that any negative trends from a website redesign can be identified and corrected.
Stick to Your ScheduleSome things should not change during times like these - mainly your good habits of outreach and visibility overall.
If you are used to posting on social media channels a few times a week, keep doing it! If you send monthly emails to your loyalty customers with special deals and promos, keep sending! Make sure your usual touchpoints to your vitally important guest base remains intact.
People WILL be booking hotels again soon and you should be in front of them and communicating how your hotel has adjusted for the times and how eager you are to welcome them back. Your returning guests are likely to be the ones who come back first because they know you, trust you, and will feel safe staying with you again.
At the end of this all will remain an industry ready to dust itself off and adapt to the new post-pandemic traveler, however that may look. Keeping your website up to date, your information accurate, and your property visible in the crowded digital landscape will help you through the recovery curve and back to business as usual.
Bill JeffersonMore from Bill Jefferson
Trish LeightonMore from Trish Leighton
About Vizergy® Digital Marketing
Vizergy serves the world's hospitality industry with conversion optimized website design and fiercely competitive tools to maximize revenue. Our formula for success includes cutting-edge technologies, proven digital marketing programs and the best professionals in the industry. At Vizergy, hospitality marketing is not only our mission, it's our sole focus.
For more than 20 years, Vizergy has relentlessly developed and deployed the best marketing technologies and talent to serve thousands of hospitality clients with excellence. The company deploys complete travel life-cycle marketing solutions from responsive website design and development, to proven award-winning digital marketing programs, reservation solutions, media planning and deployment. Vizergy's platform has long been touted as the #1 digital marketing system for hospitality clients, easy to deploy, turnkey and SMART, empowering clients to win in today's complex and competitive hospitality industry.
For more information, please visit www.vizergy.com.
Contact: Ryan Ridge | Vizergy | +1.904.389.1130 | [email protected]