When you work in the hospitality industry, you care about booking guests. You want people staying in your hotel, eating at your restaurant, or both. If you’re a new property, or trying to diversify your marketing tactics, the biggest question is always, where do I start?
This guide will walk you through the steps that we at Crunchy Links feel will bring leads to your hotel.
Let’s start with expanding your search visibility.
Jump to a section:
- Step 1: Expand your search visibility
- Step 2: Optimize your technical SEO
- Step 3: Establish a relationship with potential guests
Step 1: Expand your search visibility
Enhance your local SEO
Big national brands have to compete with other national brands for foot-and-web traffic. On top of that, Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s) are taking up more and more online real estate, making it harder for national hotel brands to make their own bookings. But as a hotelier, you have an advantage. You only have to compete with hotels in your immediate area. If a family wants to vacation in Chicago, they aren’t looking for hotels in Washington, D.C.
This means your Local SEO should be in the best shape possible. Do you know if your local information is consistent across Yelp, YP.com, Google My Business, Bing, Travelocity, and other directory websites? Do you own your profiles on these directories?
Local directories are great ways to validate your essential information, known as UNAP. UNAP stands for
- Phone Number
If people search for you on any directory, you want them to find your correct information. Otherwise, you’re losing out on a lot of potential guests and potential revenue to your competition.
Besides earning potential revenue, search engines also reward you for syncing your information across all the data sources.
Here’s a tool from Moz to check basic data aggregators to make sure you’re good to go. Just remember that Moz shows some, but not all, the data sources. There are over 50 different data sources you need to track and sync your information. So you’ll need to do a little manual checking of your own to keep track of your UNAP.
Let’s walk through an example of Local SEO optimization using Google My Business (GMB). You’ll want to make sure the below is taken care of:
- Claim your account: If you haven’t already, be sure to claim your GMB listing.
- UNAP: Now that you’ve claimed your GMB, be sure to add your UNAP information.
- Categories: In this section, you can list the services you offer. If you are near the local airport, you can categorize yourself as an “Airport Hotel.”
- Description: This is the place to add any unique value proposition you have that will entice an Internet searcher to click through to your website to research more or book a room. For example, if you have a pet-friendly hotel, call that out right here. If you have a big pool, call that out, too.
- Hours: Most hotels are 24 hours, but do you have a restaurant on-property? Do you have special hours for your front desk? Be sure to list them here.
- Images: If a potential visitor hasn’t been to your hotel before, how do you entice them? PHOTOS!
Ask guests for reviews
Another part of your Local SEO strategy is to solicit reviews. Yes, ideally you want guests to leave reviews on your website. This won’t always happen, however, so let’s give guests every possible place to leave a review. Plus, potential guests will look up your hotel on multiple channels: your website, Yelp, Tripadvisor.
And they’ll want to see reviews of your hotel.
Make sure your Local channels are ready to receive reviews and encourage honest reviews of your business on both TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google. Potential guests can also click over to your website from these Local directories since you’ve optimized your UNAP. This will bring traffic to your site, giving search engines a positive signal about your organic visibility.
One last thing: if you receive a negative review, make sure to reply. In fact, you should try and reply to as many reviews as you can, both positive and negative. Most people just want to be heard, and potential guests will appreciate you taking the time to address any concerns. You also build lifetime value with guests, prompting them to remember you the next time they come through your area. TIP – Make sure that you reply to reviews in an authentic and helpful tone and voice. Also make sure to keep your brand’s voice in-mind as you are speaking as a representative of your brand. This means avoiding casual verbiage, slang, or abbreviations, or coming across as combative or only providing excuses for legitimate complaints. If your audience (both the reviewer and others reading those reviews) feels you are genuinely doing your best to rectify a negative experience, they will be more likely to still consider your property for their next stay.
Create social media accounts
Your future guests are on social media.
There are over 2.5 billion active users on Facebook and Instagram, both of which we recommend hotels use as their primary social media channels. Depending on your organic and paid strategies, you can reach hundreds of thousands of people who are looking for places to stay while on vacation.
If you aren’t on social media, you’re missing these potential guests and potential revenue.
Running an ad in a newspaper or magazine can give you some exposure, but can be extremely expensive. Social media can help you expand your brand awareness and get you in front of national audiences with proper use of hashtags, popular events, and paid ad strategies. You’ll get a better ROI this way because you can specifically target your desired audience using Facebook’s and Instagram’s platform.
As you audit your website and gather data on your audience, you can use this data to retarget people with similar demographics on social media. This way you can hyper-target your ads and not waste money.
Build a website
The online landscape for hotels has changed quite a bit over the last 20 years. If you don’t have a website, you’re losing out on many potential bookers. Not only that, but your competition is growing. It’s no longer the one hotel up the street that’s your competitor. You’re also competing against and relying on OTAs to fill your rooms each night – and at a cost. OTAs such as Expedia, Booking.com, Priceline, and Travelocity to name a few, can make up as much as 80% of your Room Nights if you are too reliant on their marketing power and reach into your potential guests looking to book a stay in your area. If you want to compete against them and get your fair share of your market, (including that hotel up the street), you need a website, too.
This goes for big brands that have many extensions to them. You may not think that operating a vanity website is important, but trust us, it is. Let’s take a closer look at what vanity websites can do for big hotel brands:
- They push down OTA websites, giving you a larger share of the SERPs
- Because of this additional SERP space, you’re able to potentially increase your monthly revenue:
Here’s the kicker. Google will show local results to book hotels. And guess who steals traffic via google ads? OTAs. So to get the best results, you’ll want to create a vanity site then make sure to set up google ads to bid on your hotel’s name. This adds an extra layer of protection for your hotel brand. This way you’ll be protecting your brand across all search marketing channels.
OTAs will inevitably be a part of any hotel’s sales process, but in order to maximize profits, it’s best to try and limit OTAs to only bring in non-branded bookings – meaning people looking to book a hotel and don’t know about you. OTAs can take up to 50% commission on bookings. Why put in all the effort into building your brand, if OTAs will end up taking half of that money? Investing in a vanity site can help you regain margins and increase revenue.
Create quality content
The best way to go viral is with good content. Infographics, video, podcasts, guides, all hosted on your hotel’s blog. There are so many ways you can get yourself and your hotel in front of new audiences, just by writing about the hospitality industry.
Market your content
You’re experiencing content marketing right now. This is a piece of content we wrote to help hotels and management companies understand marketing, and how to do some marketing for themselves. You might never have heard of us if not for this, and all we’re doing is sharing a bit of our knowledge with you.
Become quality content
Are you a Subject Matter Expert? Then share your knowledge with the world through interviews! Talk to newspapers, bloggers, vloggers. All of these content creators are a great source of quality backlinks. Not only will you potentially increase the authority of your site, you’ll also increase your own visibility, leading to additional interviews and links.
Powerful tool, right?
And your content doesn’t need to only live on your blog. For greater exposure for your brand, work with local newspapers, blogs, and influencers and collaborate on creating content together. This will both expand your reach and your potential customer base. You can create design assets and share some quotes from the piece and post it to attract additional traffic. You can also syndicate a large research piece or white paper with a larger publication, getting a backlink and additional traffic that way. By investing a little time and effort, you can build a following and potential clients.
Step 2: Optimize your technical SEO
Audit your website
You really should conduct an SEO audit quarterly. The data you collect and look at will show your website’s performance, and help you create strategies to improve it. First, log into your analytics platform. Next, take a look at your organic traffic over the last year, and try to answer the following questions:
- Did traffic increase?
- On what pages?
- Were any changes made to them? What were those changes?
- You may be able to replicate these changes to increase traffic to other important pages
- Did traffic decrease?
- On what pages?
- Were any changes made to them? What were those changes?
- You might need help from other marketing channels, or your developers, to find all the changes
Optimize your website
Once you have the answers to the above questions, utilize SEMRush and do the following:
Search your own domain and bucket your keywords like this:
- Top (positions 1-10)
- Striking distance (11-25)
- New content potential (25+)
Once you have them in buckets, ask the following questions for each set of keywords:
Top positions – What can I do to improve click-through rate on these pages to get more traffic?
Pro tip: Work with your PPC channel head. Ask for what calls-to-action (CTAs) performed the best, optimize your website title tags and meta descriptions with these CTAs.
Striking distance – What’s missing between my website and the top performers?
Pro tip: Perform an incognito search for the keyword in a new browser and audit the top five organic listings. What can you see that’s missing from your page? What can you add that would be unique for your website visitors?
New content potential – How many of these keywords actually deserve their own page?
Pro tip: Use SEMRush to compare your webpages to your competitors. How many and what keywords are they ranking for that you don’t? Where are you competing? How can you be better? This will give you an idea of how much content you need to create, where you are in the market, and what your content strategy should be going forward.
Why is this important? You’re going to use the above keywords to optimize your website and increase the number of people who can find you. When people type something into Google, Bing, Yahoo, or Youtube, they’re using keywords and keyphrases to conduct a search. These keywords and keyphrases are how search engines know what web pages are talking about. That lets them know which ones to surface, depending on the keywords used in the search.
Triage your pages based on the above data, and figure out how to add, modify, or remove pages in order to help your keyword rankings.
Audit and optimize your backlink profile
Backlinks are a vote of confidence in your website. With a healthy, robust set of links pointing to your domain, you’ll send signals that can potentially help you rank higher. With a poor backlink profile, your website won’t have the proper trust factors that search engines look for when trying to rank websites.
That’s why you need to audit your backlink profile. You want to keep pruning the poor quality links pointing to your site and find areas where your website could use additional links. You want to build a legitimate backlink profile to help your hotel rank well in search.
Cull low quality links
Any webmaster can point a link to your site. This is great when the website pointing to you has a very high domain authority, and is a high quality site. It’s less so when the site is terrible and the authority and relevance infinitesimal. Cleaning up your backlink profile to remove these links is the first step you should take.
Make sure the links pointing to your website are legitimate. We know that link building is time-consuming, thankless work that comes with more rejection than success. This can lead to a lot of frustration, and ignoring a backlink profile, or purchasing links. Yes, this strategy can work in the short term to build your authority and improve your ranking. But, once your website is flagged, you’ll be penalized and deranked. Some websites penalized for illegitimate backlink profiles never recovered.
Build a proper backlink profile
The best way to build a healthy backlink profile is by creating high-quality content. Infographics, video, podcasts, guides, white papers, etc. There are so many ways to get your hotel in front of new audiences by exchanging your expertise for backlinks.
The more low quality links you have pointing to your site, the more search engines will judge your website. It’s not the only signal they use to rank your website and pages, but it’s a pretty big one. Here are a couple of things you can do to improve your backlink profile.
Here are a few other ways you can create a healthy backlink profile:
- Sponsor a few local non-profits and ask them to place a link on their website
- Ask a few blogs if you can write a unique blog post for them, and include a link to your website
- See who’s linking to your competitor, and ask websites like theirs to link to you
Optimize your website speed
Did you know that the average Internet user expects your website to load in under two seconds? Yeah, two seconds. Any longer and potential guests bounce off your site.
How do you check the speed of your website? You can use Google’s page speed tester to find out your site’s page speed, and get suggestions on what you should fix. We’ll give you a look under our hood right now, so you can see what the page speed tester looks like:
Mobile page speed looks good. Our site, however, is a bit faster on desktop:
Once again, after you use the page speed tester to find out your website’s stats, you’ll see some things you can fix. You should bucket them in this order of priority to make the most impact on your website:
- Properly size images
- Simplify your code
- Enable text and image compression
You can work with your developer on how to get all that done. If you’re using WordPress, there are plugins you can install to automatically enhance your website’s speed. Here’s a list of vetted plugins that we use:
- BJ Lazy Load
- Cache Enabler
- Compress JPEG & PNG images
If you use Squarespace to host your website, then here are a few other things you can do to help speed up your website:
Okay, now we’re getting a bit more in the technical weeds. Schema is probably something you’ve never heard of before. Schema is a code that you add to sections of your website to further help search engines learn more about what’s on your webpages.
A great example for hotel properties would be to add “hotel” to markup your homepage, and “product” for individual room types. You can even markup individual property photos with “photo” schema.
What makes schema technical is injecting the code on your website. But there are a lot of options that take that technical complexity away, like schemaapp.com.
Here is an example of what schema code looks like, from schema.org:
Make sure you’re injecting the right code.
Now that you’ve gotten into the technical side of your digital footprint, you can move onto relationship marketing.
Step 3: Establish a relationship with potential guests
In the hospitality industry, it isn’t about the first stay. It’s about every subsequent stay thereafter. This is known as Lifetime Value (LTV), and there is only one way to enhance the LTV of your guests:
Build a healthy relationship.
With relationship marketing, you’re focused on creating a long-term relationship with your guests, not just trying to grab quick leads and sales potentials. You want to establish trust as quickly as you can before a guest even contacts you. Let’s talk about some ways to do this.
Post on social media
We’ve suggested you create social media profiles. Now, it’s time to use those profiles. With your social media posts, you’ll create a community of followers who see your posts, and build a relationship with you. They’ll like, reply to, and share engaging posts. This turns them into clients, which turns into revenue.
You can also micro target out-of-state areas with paid ads to promote yourself. Spending a little bit of money to produce an ad on Facebook and Instagram can bring you additional clients from feeder markets, and additional potential sales and listings. This is a great alternative to running hugely expensive ads in newspapers or magazines. And because you’re targeting people who are interested in staying in your area, you know the traffic to your site will be quality.
You can use your website analytics data to see the top metro areas of your website visitors. Start by targeting the top three-to-five and see how that impacts your website traffic and conversions. For more strategies and tactics, check out our “Paid Media Beginner’s Guide.”
One example of organic content you can post on social media are video walkthroughs of your event space. Not everyone will be able to see your space in-person as they’re narrowing down their selections. Creating these walkthroughs gives your website visitors a way to see your event spaces in-situ.
You can also ask anyone who has your space booked if you can take some video of their event to use as promotion. Showing off how your space looks when filled with people can make a huge difference, especially if your local competitors don’t have these onsite assets.
Not only will you extend the reach of your property event space and show it off in an imaginative manner, you can also entice people who attended to leave positive reviews and recommend your hotel to their friends on social media channels. If you want more help getting started, check out our “Organic Social Media Beginner’s Guide.”
If you’ve been collecting emails through bookings, signup pages on your website, or other means, you can use those emails to retarget interested people. Send them offers and rates that can only be redeemed through a special code, supplied in the email. Use this to track how many people use those deals and offers so you can tweak the rate, the time of year you send them, and the need periods they’ll work best for.
You can also use email marketing to send monthly newsletters, keeping your past and future guests interested in what’s going on at your property. Read more in our “Email Marketing Beginner’s Guide.”
Marketing isn’t easy, and it isn’t quick. The above ideas we’ve shared should get you started on the way to building up your impressions, traffic, and bookings. If you’re thinking, “holy $*!T, how am I going to get all of this done,” you may need to hire an SEO specialist. Hell, you may need to hire an agency. Before you do, make sure to check out our guide on how to figure out if you need an internal SEO specialist or an agency.