Best SEO Practices for Hotel Websites
As technology evolves, the rules of SEO change. This is valid for any online entity, not just for hotel websites. The following information will summarize some of the well-established SEO practices and will detail the emerging SEO-musts of 2018.
Technical SEO: Build Your Site Right
Put your best foot forward and build your site right from the start.
- Set your preferred domain (or canonical domain) URL and let Google know.
- Set canonical ULRs for your entire site.
- Plan a well-balanced site tree, with proper, semantically optimized URLs
- Optimize site navigation for users and include breadcrumbs on pages
- Submit your XML sitemap to Google in the Google Search Console.
- Create a robots.txt file
- Test and improve the page speed of your website
In addition to these general technical SEO issues, websites should also meet other requirements to rank well in 2018.
Mobile-first is a priority
Google now demands mobile-friendly sites. The search engine rolled out its mobile-first index in March 2018. According to official Google statements, sites that respect the best practices for mobile-first indexing rank better in mobile SERPs.
If in the past the desktop website was considered the primary for indexing in the SERPs, with the rolling of the mobile-first index in 2018 things changed, and Google now prefers indexing mobile-ready URLs first.
With this change, SEO changes too: while in the past all SEO efforts were focused on the desktop version of a site, and mobile versions often had lighter content and poor technical SEO; now you should focus on mobile SEO too.
According to Google:
“If you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to change anything. But, if you have a site configuration where the primary content and markup is different across mobile and desktop, you should consider making some changes to your site.”
And Google goes on, recommending said changes:
- Use structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version.
- Use the robots.txt testing tool to verify that your mobile version is accessible to Googlebot.
- Verify your mobile version in the Search Console
You should also make sure that:
- You have social metadata like OpenGraph cards and Twitter cards on mobile and desktop too,
- You have equivalent page titles and meta descriptions on both – with shorter titles for mobile for a more appealing display in mobile SERPs
- Include high-quality, optimized content: text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos – in crawlable and indexable formats.
- When using link rel=hreflang elements for internationalization, link between mobile and desktop URLs separately.
You can use the Mobile-friendly test to see how your pages perform.
Still, mobile-first means more than having a responsive website that adapts well to all types of devices, but designing the entire website prioritizing the mobile experience. This would mean a clean interface designed for mobile users: large buttons, easy scrolling, captivating imagery, and a very fast page load.
But, more importantly, the booking experience on mobile must be flawless: secure, fast, and trustworthy. Here are some statistics from The Criteo Travel Flash Report for 2018 the support the must-have mobile booking statement:
- Mobile accounts for 45% of bookings for OTAs
- Travel players with a booking app make 60% of transactions on mobile devices.
- 80% of last-minute bookings are made on mobile devices.
- Hotels generate 61% of bookings on the desktop, 6% on tablets, 33% on smartphones.
The takeaway: when you make mobile-first a priority focus on the booking engine too.
Consider AMP pages
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are useful for sites with rich content but they are also likely to gain more and more popularity for sites of all sizes because the aim of the AMP project is “building the future web.” Here are the main arguments to use AMP:
- Pages and ads published in the AMP open-source format load near instantly on mobile and desktop alike
- Faster load speed will likely give your site a boost in the mobile SERPs
- AMP boost conversions and decreases bounce rates
- AMP powers Google featured snippets on mobile (so Google favors AMP)
So far, AMP is useful mainly for news sites and blogs, but also for landing pages for Google Ads. So, you may want to set up Google Ads campaigns with AMP landing pages even if you do not use AMP for your entire site. And, if you have a blog on your hotel site, use AMP too.
Voice search is big in 2018
With the rise of voice search, the rules of SEO change too. Optimizing content for voice search is considered more than a best practice in 2018: it’s a top priority. Here are some statistics that support the argument:
- Alpine.AI estimates there are over one billion voice searches per month. (January 2018)
- The voice shopping market is expected to grow from $2 billion today to $40 billion by 2022 (Alpine.AI)
- Almost 70% of requests to the Google Assistant are expressed in natural language, not the typical keywords people type in a web search (Think with Google, May 2017)
- 52% of consumers who own a voice-activated speaker would like to receive info about deals, sales, and promotions from brands. (Think with Google, August 2018)
- 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020 (ComScore, 2016)
- 22% of voice search users are looking for local information (KPCB Internet Trends 2016)
The numbers show that it is imperative to optimize for voice search now.
We will discuss in-depth, how to optimize your content for voice search in a future article. Until then, here are some basic tips:
- Write QA-style content that answers to possible user questions. Focus on queries that begin with where, what, how, and when. Example:
“Can I see the sea from my room?
Yes, sea views are available for all room types.”
“When is the best time to visit [destination]?
The best time to visit [destination] is summer, when the weather is warm, and the sea temperature allows you to swim and practice water sports all day.”
- Use long tail keywords – three words or more and write in a conversational style.
- Apply correct structure data markup (schema.org) to give voice-enabled devices rich information about your business and content.
- Improve your local listings in Google My Business, Facebook, and other sites that use location recognition.
User experience matters
Another critical aspect impacting SEO in 2018 is the user experience, but we have previously discussed, in detail, why SEO cannot work with UX. The takeaway from that article is that as SEO cannot function without UX, user experience alone cannot work without SEO. So, optimize both to maximize your chances for good rankings in the SERPs.
Furthermore, to improve the user experience on your website, add more content that captures the attention and sparkles imagination. Video works wonders in this regard. When hotels include destination videos on their sites, like hotel tours, aerial views of the property, videos featuring things to do at and outside the hotel, users will linger longer on the site. This improves one of the metrics that can help your website rank well in the SERPs: dwell time, one of the Google RankBrain ranking factors.
As Backlinko defines it, “dwell time is the amount of time a Google searcher spends on your site after clicking on your result.”
So, optimize your site to increase dwell time. Video and images work wonders among chunks of text of 200 words, but you can also separate paragraphs with headings, lists, tables, and interactive content.
All forms of content that are useful for the site visitors and offer additional helpful information are highly recommended by Google, even in their Search Quality Evaluator’s Guidelines. In fact, do familiarize yourself with this manual to learn what types of content Google appreciates as quality content.
Instead of conclusion…
Continue creating evergreen content, showcase your hotel in detail, with compelling images and video, and have a faultless booking engine. But monitor your performance in SERPs continuously and keep an eye on your competition to see what they do to maintain their positions in search engine results on mobile and desktop alike.
SEO will continue to change. AI technology will push boundaries further. You may soon need to adapt to different technologies, build apps for wearables, create virtual reality showrooms, and so on. Be prepared to embrace these changes to remain competitive.