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Establishing a strong online presence is critical for lodging operators to stand out from the ever-increasing competition in the market today. In 2021 alone, Booking.com spent over $3.8 billion on marketing efforts, and other OTAs and big hotel brands have followed suit – dominating online hotel searches, driving organic listings down the page and making it harder for independent properties to compete for direct bookings.

Thankfully, there are some easy (and free) ways for properties to boost their online visibility to effectively compete against OTAs and other properties for direct bookings.

Update your Google Business Profile

In 2022, Google processed over 8.5 billion daily searches, accounting for 92% of all search engine traffic and nearly half of those searches had local intent. To take advantage of the mass volume of traffic channeled through Google, lodging operators must ensure they have an active Google Business Profile. This free profile is displayed in popular travel search results, including Google Search, Google Hotel Search and Google Maps, to help travelers discover properties and book direct. In addition, it improves search engine optimization by ranking the profile higher on organic searches.

Lodging businesses should use their Business Profile as an extension of the property’s website to increase visibility and encourage direct bookings. To maximize the benefits of a profile:

  • Select accurate and relevant categories
  • Highlight hotel attributes and amenities
  • Update the profile regularly – consider refreshing images and copy on a seasonal basis to help guests better visualize their stay
  • Include important keywords and search phrases
  • Use accurate, high-quality images

Ensure NAP consistency

NAP refers to name, address and phone number. It’s imperative that these three attributes are consistent across online listings to ensure travelers can easily find the listing through local SEO. While this may seem straightforward, even the slightest error can throw off search results.

The best place to start is with a list of all the places where a property’s NAP information exists, including local listings, review sites and other business profiles, and confirm that contact information is consistent. This will not only streamline the user experience and build trust within a traveler's mind but will also help influence local ratings to beat out competitors in the same area.

Include citations and backlinks

Citations and backlinks are hyperlinks on other websites that direct back to a property’s website. These can help to boost a website’s search rankings as search engines use them as a signal for high-quality content. One of the easiest ways to increase citations or backlinks is to reach out to local tourism or travel associations to inquire about partnership opportunities and benefits.

Associations typically have strong domain authority (a high search engine ranking score compared to competitors) and are more valuable than sites with lower domain authority. Owners and operators should inquire about membership opportunities that include a citation and link back to their website.

Remember, think quality, not quantity when it comes to backlinks. A link from a website with high domain authority or trust provides a powerful boost to the origin site’s authority, and also means increased exposure and visibility on the linked content.

For additional backlinks, lodging businesses can reach out to publications that have written about their property and request a link to their website. For example, if a travel blogger recently wrote about a specific property, the owner can reach out and ask if they’ll include a link back to their website.

Citations and backlinks are all about consistently identifying new opportunities to slowly build domain authority and drive more website traffic. For example, inclusion in local guides published either by a media publication or website, or even another local business, that is supported or promoted with social media, PR and partnership channels, will typically result in organic backlinks. And remember to share content versus duplicate it - quality content and cross-promotion performs better.

Develop a review strategy

Reviews are the most powerful tool to build trust with potential guests and encourage them to book. 81% of travelers frequently or always read reviews before booking a hotel. They also play an important role in improving SEO rankings as search engines consider the number, quality and age of comments in their rank. The more consistently reviews are gathered, the more successful this strategy will be.

As part of your hotel marketing strategy, it’s important to gather customer feedback throughout the guest journey. Consider adding a touchpoint throughout a guest’s stay to ask how it’s going. If there are any issues, it’s easier to conduct service recovery to increase the likelihood of a five-star review. Afterward, follow up with a post-communication survey to gauge their satisfaction. For those that are extremely satisfied, send them a link to Tripadvisor or Google to leave a review.

Drive More Direct Bookings

And remember the performance of Google free booking links and Google Hotel Ads is tied to Google Business Profiles, so make sure to continually monitor and update the profile for optimal success.

With a bit of time and the right strategies, independent properties can boost their online visibility and generate more direct bookings without a big budget.

About Cloudbeds

Cloudbeds provides the platform that powers hospitality, driving streamlined operations, increasing reservations and revenue, and enabling memorable guest experiences for lodging businesses of all sizes and types across the globe. The award-winning Cloudbeds Hospitality Platform seamlessly combines solutions for front desk, revenue, distribution, guest acquisition and guest engagement in a single unified system, enhanced by a marketplace of third-party integrations. Cloudbeds was named No. 1 PMS and No. 1 Hotel Management System by Hotel Tech Report in 2022 and recognized by Deloitte's Technology Fast 500 in 2021. For more information, visit www.cloudbeds.com.