In years gone by hotels depended on word of mouth, walk in trade, press coverage and even the Yellow Pages to get them found.
Now though, the advent of the digital age has facilitated a monumental shift in how people go about discovering potential accommodation.
These days, your hotel audience is almost certainly found online. But while your audience may be found online, there’s a good chance your hotel isn’t.
So why is that?
Well, there are many forms of digital marketing that can come into play to raise your hotel’s profile. However, one of the biggest factors is your search engine ranking – i.e. where you appear in Google’s search results.
Of course, there are other search engines out there (said in best BBC voice) but the reality is that Google is king, accounting for 92% of all online searches worldwide.
While Google maybe king, much like in royal courts of days gone by, gaining the king’s favour is easier said than done.
Let’s look at what’s barring your way to the top.
Unless you’re in a very fortunate position or extremely remote, it’s very unlikely that you hold the monopoly in your locality. There will be other hotels – not to mention rival offerings such as Airbnb – chomping at your heels and turning the heads of potential guests.
Google, being an automated algorithm, doesn’t hold a candle for your hotel over that of your competitors. There’s no customer loyalty there, or acknowledgement that your front of house team is exceptional and that your beds are extraordinarily comfortable.
That’s not to say though, that there can’t be recognition of these elements.
Google relies on what you tell it.
The intelligence behind search engine technology is astounding, but it’s an intelligence that’s been honed to recognise certain factors; factors that are taken into account when determining your hotel’s ranking in the search results.
It’s worth pointing out here, that Google has the best of intentions at its heart. It wants to provide the most relevant results for its users. If you have a fantastic hotel that offers an outstanding service, then Google wants its users to know that.
However, it’s up to you to make Google aware of this.
So how is that done?
Relevant content is essential. You need to talk about your hotel’s offering in a natural way, but while ensuring it’s relevant, covering the key words and phrases that Google will associate with a hotel.
Google crawls literally billions of pages to throw up its search results, taking more than 200 criteria into consideration as to what it puts top. Key words are, funnily enough, key to that, with Google looking at the most common to work out just what it is you offer – so make sure yours are relevant. Tools such as Google Keyword Planner can help here.
While your hotel website needs to have relevant content, it also needs regular, fresh content. Blogs are great for this. You can talk about your latest offers, local attractions, new menus, upcoming events and more – all of which is relevant and new.
It’s not just words that need to be uploaded. Google values ‘rich’ media, with its algorithms appreciating content that’s delivered in multiple formats. Video can play a large part in this, particularly if hosted on the homepage. Not only can it properly convey your offering to tentative guests, it also looks good to Google, as does plenty of appropriate imagery.
Active social channels
If you’ve got active social media accounts pointing to your hotel, Google’s algorithms will take that into account too. So, utilising Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the like, whilst serving to put you in front of a potentially massive audience in their own right, also does you a favour with your search ranking.
Another nod to video here – hosting videos on a hotel YouTube channel can be a big plus too, as Google owns YouTube, so it gives it that extra credence.
You might have an exquisite website that looks fabulous and has great content, but you also need to ensure you optimise the pages, ticking off the relevant mechanisms. Task your website provider with ensuring this is the case and that the relevant technical aspects have all been covered off.
Make it mobile friendly
This should go without saying these days, but so many people search for information on their smartphones (estimated to be 3 in 5 Google searches) that your website must be optimised for mobile use. If it isn’t already; make that a priority.
High authority links
The Holy Grail for many SEO specialists, getting high authority websites to link back to yours provides a massive boost. These are respected websites with lots of traffic, with the foremost of these being leading news publications. The logic works, that if the BBC, Telegraph, Guardian or Times are talking about your offering and willing to link back to it, then it must be legitimate, right? Google’s algorithm regards such things as de facto endorsements.
So, those are just a few methods of getting found on Google. Many individual threads weave together to form a more complex tapestry; focus on one thread at a time and the bigger picture will look after itself.
David Barrett is Managing Director of Pic PR, a communications agency that specialises in hospitality, offering a mix of PR, video, social, SEO and copywriting services to a range of hospitality clients, including HOSPA, Altis Hotels, Driftwood, Storrs Hall, Alexander Hotels and The Cornwall Hotel.