SEO is a digital marketing strategy that is constantly evolving at a rapid pace. Every year Google rolls out between 500 and 600 algorithm updates and tests that makes it very difficult for hoteliers to plan their organic search strategy for 2019, let alone the next three months. This is why more luxury hospitality brands are partnering with the best hotel marketing agencies with expertise in SEO and growth-driven strategies.
This article will look at some of the big changes Google has made and explore how these changes will likely impact a hotel property’s ability to perform well in ranking and conversions from organic traffic. This article will also forecast the 2019 landscape for hotel SEO, with best practices and ideal strategies.
Google RankBrain Has Made SEO Harder
In 2016 Google rolled out RankBrain, an AI and machine learning hybrid component to its algorithm, and the third largest ranking factor. Since its addition, Google has been self-educating itself by studying search click behavior in relations to search queries, and the buyer-focused needs behind them. In other words, over the last few years Google has been studying the pairing of search terms with ranked content, and how audiences engage search results in order to continuously improve user quality.
Audience Targeting for Hotel SEO
One of the most frequently missed opportunities for improving SEO efforts exists in the world of audience targeting. Most luxury hotel brands feel they already know exactly who their clients are, and what they look for in accommodations. While they certainly know their customers better than anyone else, there is an inherent bias that prevents them from truly delving deep to mine those specialized requirements and pain points that, if met, will lead to bookings. After all, the best luxury hotels generally have impressive views, great spas, access to shopping, amazing pools, and good food. So when a hotel brand dives deeper and discovers what those little pain points are, conversions will go up just by meeting that “extra special must-have” that most other properties ignore in highlighting.
Going into 2019, audience targeting tactics for luxury hotels will require creating detailed buyer personas. These are semi fictitious representations of actual buyers that uncover high-level points about their identities while revealing finer details that play big parts into how they digest hospitality-related information, and how they make a booking decision. Understanding what they do for work, family status, hobbies, income level, and even what the biggest letdowns are they face when staying in boutique hotels will help you fine-tune your content marketing and SEO strategy to reach the right people with the right messaging.
Setting a Healthy Domain Environment
When it comes to SEO-focused hotel marketing, the domain’s platform optimization is almost always neglected. This involves page titles, head tags, image ALTs, meta descriptions, and rich snippets or Schema. Each of these plays a pivotal role into how Google crawls a website to understand its intent, offering, and who its ideal customers are.
The best hotel marketing agencies tackle this in the onboarding process. Because most luxury hotel brands are very particular with their messaging, voice, and look SEO specialists collaborate with their hospitality clients to find a perfect middle ground where the meta description, tags and page titles meet brand guidelines while still being effective for profitable organic search results.
When it comes to meta descriptions, maintaining a branded voice while reflecting the page’s content with 100% accuracy will be crucial to SEO success in 2019. Remember, modern shoppers do tons of research before making a purchasing decision, especially hotel guests. The meta description is what will entice them to click on the link, and once they are in your site, their level of engagement will generate powerful signals to Google resulting in better ranking and an increase in domain authority. In order to create a winning meta description for 2019, hotel marketing agencies maintain the hotel brand’s tone, offer an incentive, and make sure it reflects the page’s content otherwise users will bounce out and create an adverse impact on SEO.
Selecting the Right Keywords for Hotel Marketing
Using keywords to rank content that converts to bookings in 2019 poses a challenge for hotels, as they will be traipsing into a digital landscape ruled by RankBrain. Using the right keywords, in the right context, means everything. And almost every hotel brand is doing this incorrectly.
Most hotel SEO strategists attempt to rank for broad keywords that get the highest search volume. Their logic is “the more eyes your content gets, the greater the conversions”. This is an ancient approach to SEO, and it garners few bookings. This strategy basically ranks keywords to the moon with zero conversion strategies.
Today’s savvy hotel marketing agencies take those high-volume keywords, and repurpose them into buyer-focused keywords that speak to a customer’s needs. And while you are working to rank for these keywords, the broad keywords will eventually rank anyway via association. These “low-hanging fruit” keywords might get less search volume than broad keywords, but they convert to booking by more than 70 percent. For example, ranking for “luxury hotel” might get you an average of 1000 impressions per month with 10 conversions, while “modern seaside luxury hotel” might get 300 impressions a month and 60 conversions. Ultimately, SEO is meant to convert room bookings from organic traffic, and not just rank for the hell of it.
Web Page Optimization is Crucial for Hospitality Marketing & SEO
The textual content existing on a website plays more than 70 percent into its ability to rank for the right target audiences, and the bulk of a hospitality marketing campaign relies on creating a positive online user experience that ranks the right content for the right buyer audience. The problem is (for SEO) that most luxury hotel brands like to keep that minimalist, clean look which leaves very little room for the printed word. This is where hotel marketing agencies shine; the SEO department works closely with their creative development team to draft a layout or design hosting just enough textual content displayed in a manner that’s broken up by large high-definition images to ensure that streamlined aesthetic look while not scaring away visitors with the semblance of too much text. The concept is shared with the hotel’s marketing team, and through collaboration web pages are created to aid heavily into the ranking and converting process.
Hotel Blogs are Crucial for SEO
2019 is destined to be the year of the blog. According to the Content Marketing Institute, blogs played an integral role in mid-size businesses converting business from organic traffic within the first eight months of 2018. But growth-driven blogging has become inherently harder to do because it requires an advanced understanding of traditional and digital marketing, advanced writing skills, a mastery of SEO, and inbound skills (if inbound and marketing automation will be part of the strategy).
Keywords will play heavily into both web pages and blogs. And any robust strategy will mash blogs and web pages together as a foundation to reaching ideal audiences with custom content.
Hotel marketing agencies use buyer personas, competitor analysis data, and growth hacking tactics within social media to discover the topics guests care about. They also note the common pain points people address in open forums or in travel groups, as well as the finer details that garner joy.
Once all the necessary data is farmed to create blogs that will most likely generate tons of shares, comments, and that will convert to bookings, the strategy can be pieced together. 2018 saw a slight boost in organizations using the cluster blog model, and this strategy will grow in popularity for boutique hotels. This is when you have a set number of blogs that each address a unique topic, within a certain context, that speaks to a particular buyer persona. Each blog will link internally to another that addresses a similar topic, while progressing to the next logical step in the three-part buyer’s journey. Each blog will also link to the pillar page. The pillar page will almost always be the homepage, or the booking page for a particular property. The cluster model provides a massive source of rocket fuel for SEO, it delights guests by giving them a user friendly experience in navigation and finding the right content, and Google loves it for its structure which allows for easy crawling. Your guests likely consist of young couples, business professionals, families, and older guests who have various needs all expecting to experience a luxurious lifestyle. The cluster model of blogging allows hotel marketing agencies to craft the right content for highly-targeted audiences with a CTA that motivates them to book a room. Creating content silos is an antiquated practice. 2019 will demand audience-targeted blogs for savvy guests who invest time in researching hotel properties before making a booking.
SEO will be Used Within a Growth Marketing Stack
Finally, SEO’s place for hotel marketing in 2019 will surface in growth marketing stacks. A growth marketing stack is a custom set of tools and strategies that work together to achieve a set of specific goals, such as increasing RevPAR or hitting quarterly booking goals. This is where SEO, paid media, inbound marketing, PPC and marketing automation talk to each other and form a cohesive growth-driven strategy.