The SEO Strategy Checklist for Hotels and Hotel Groups
Competition in the travel space is at an all-time high. To really thrive, you need to win the SEO game to meet your guests where they’re shopping: online. The hospitality scene is experiencing bustling innovation thanks to technology. Want to be sure your marketing is as tech-savvy as your consumer? Look to this SEO strategy map for hotels and hotel groups to boost online visibility to meet your goals: increasing occupancy and outshining the competition.
Your Essential SEO Strategy Checklist
You’ve heard it before, and you’re going to hear it a lot more — your hotel needs an SEO strategy. That phrase might ring over and over again in your head, but the technicality of it seems daunting. Not so — SEO is more than just code behind the scenes. Even without in-depth technical knowledge of how it works, you can set up an SEO strategy that aligns with your hotel’s business and marketing objectives.
By following this checklist, you can create a thoughtful, powerful, and successful SEO strategy designed to take your hotel’s online and search presence to the next level.
How to Focus Your Hotel’s SEO Strategy
Taking the right measures to plan your strategy can change the course of your success. Without a solid, measurable plan in place, your hotel SEO strategy is much more likely to fail.
An SEO strategy has grown to include much more than a handful of related keywords and a site refresh. Today, we need to look at SEO differently. A strategy needs to be thoughtful in its approach, and it needs to be able to cover everything from immensely tech-related subjects to light, yet poignant content marketing that establishes credibility while showcasing your hotel as a leader in its space.
This multifaceted approach takes time and constant effort to maintain, but when it’s done correctly, the outcome can be great for your hotel — improved search rankings that drive traffic to a website that converts well and engages users, all leading to more reservations and revenue.
Here’s where to focus your hotel SEO efforts for maximum gain:
- Authority and Trust
In this checklist, we’re going to dive deeper into each of these sections of a successful SEO strategy so you can start crafting the best plan for your hotel.
There’s no better feeling than crossing something off a list. This one will be different. When you are done checking all of these boxes off of your hotel’s SEO strategy checklist, you will have more than just a strategy. You will have an actionable plan in front of you with most of the major steps complete. So, get your pen and paper ready — let’s start hacking away at this checklist.
Step 1: Building Your Hotel’s SEO Strategy
Crafting the best strategy starts with having the right information at your disposal. Before you even begin crafting a plan, you’ll have to dive a little deeper into some core topics surrounding your business. Start by answering the following questions honestly — it may take some time.
What are my goals and objectives?
First, set out to completely understand what you want this plan to accomplish.
Do you want to increase conversion, booking and occupancy rates?
Do you want to change your brand’s reputation?
Do you want to become a trusted resource in your space?
No matter what your goals and objectives are, make sure they’re listed clearly.
To create a goal, you must have your current state accurately defined. Take time to benchmark your current status in conversion, reputation, content, authority and traffic, then set goals as to where you would like to see these areas grow in the future.
In the crowded hospitality and travel space, this is especially important. Now is the time when you can differentiate your hotel brand from the competition and really start to gain traction.
Who am I trying to target?
Who would you like to see walk through your lobby?
How do they look?
What are their goals?
What is their journey to get into your hotel? (Their customer journey, not GPS directions!)
Note the type of guests that you are trying to target and try to get into their minds to better understand how they measure success. You can use that information to create a plan that will effectively meet those needs.
How are competing hotels excelling — and do I want to excel in a similar path?
In the travel industry, you need a clear picture of the competitive landscape to create an image, story and platform that will stand out from the rest. Take time to research your competition and note what they’re doing well. Whether you want your hotel to target a specific demographic or a specific need, you will need to identify exactly who you are playing against.
To answer the questions above, you will need to check off the following:
Perform a Current SEO Audit
Understand how your site is built. Note any penalties that you have or are in danger of hitting and note your site speed. These will give you a better idea of your site’s current infrastructure. We’ve even compiled a list of SEO tools that could come in handy.
Perform a Backlink Audit
Your backlinks are a huge part of your brand and site’s reputation. It determines how high you rank (we’ll dive deeper into this below). See the number of links you have and where they’re coming from. Ensure anchor text is present and accurate.
Perform a Conversion & Content Audit
Compelling content is the key to success. It’s what leads viewers to your site and converts them into guests. We’ll get into content marketing more a bit later, but during this audit, you should take into account what your current site is saying and how it is being said.
Understand & Research Relevant Keywords
To find the best keywords for your hotel to target, you need to analyze their search volume, searcher intent, difficulty level and their stage in the marketing funnel.
Assess Your Performance & Business Goals
As mentioned before, you need to have a path paved for your business. This takes your strategy from a thought to an actionable plan.
Determine KPIs for Your Strategic SEO Plan
Document all of the above-listed research — all of it. This will assist you in tracking progress along the way and getting your team up to speed. Your KPIs showcase how effectively your hotel is achieving these key objectives.
Step 2: How to Fill More Beds with Conversion Tactics
Conversion — it’s what you care most about. How can you use SEO to fill more beds in your hotel?
Well, to start, we have to see how, where and what you’re currently presenting to your site visitors in hopes to convert them.
Analyze Your Critical Conversion Pages
Analyze the critical pages on your website where visitors are making the first contact with your hotel — by phone, form, sign up or purchase/booking. Take a more in-depth look at a few key elements on your page core pages — the flow, the content, the calls to action/buttons and the overall experience that visitors have.
There are endless ways that the design and flow of your space can encourage conversions. From enticing dynamic pricing to informative chatbots, your site can flourish with the right combination of UX improvements. Today, consumers rely on the ease of booking in the travel industry. With a few simple UX improvements, you can create a seamless experience for your site visitors.
Are you communicating the most vital information to convert a visitor? Is it clear what the visitor needs to do to convert? Ensure all of these facets are clear, concise and optimized for a pleasant, easy experience. It may help to find a “guinea pig” that’s unfamiliar with your website to provide their feedback on the booking experience so you have a fresh view of the customer’s experience.
Make Updates to Improve Customer Experience
In the consumers’ mind, planning a trip requires a lot of research and organization. If you can make your platform simple, clear and easy to use, customers will be more likely to return to your hotel over others. They may have a brighter outlook on their stay because of how quick and easy their booking experience was. The less points of friction the better, right?
Take Your Findings & Make a Plan
Now that you have a better understanding of where you currently are, it’s time to use that information to better your site. A few key elements to take into consideration for your conversion optimization plan should be:
Map Out Your Conversion Pages & Opportunities
Just like we talked about above, you need to understand how well your current pages are performing. Take this to the next level by looking at key metrics like traffic, bounce rates, time on site, micro-conversions and actions taken. These metrics will help you better understand where you should focus first.
Craft Content in Funnels
There are multiple paths in the marketing funnel that are aligned to different personas and different steps of their buying journey. Rather than just crafting content for any and all customers, try crafting content specific to these areas. You can get into the mind of a consumer and better communicate to them through carefully crafted copy that makes a strong appeal to them during their respective conversion phase.
Test, Test & Test Again
Optimizing content to increase conversions takes time and testing. Running simple A/B tests for content that lives on these high-conversion pages is key to understanding the right information to deliver to customers. The outcome of these simple tests will drive better content overall and help increase conversions on landing pages, lead forms, PPC landing pages and more.
Optimize & Wireframe Critical Conversion Pages
Now, after you have completed all of the analysis above, it’s time to put it into something tangible. Use your findings from the areas above to craft optimized wireframes. These are just the basic outlines of what your page will look like, say, and do.
Step 3: Build Presence & Credibility with Content Marketing
Throughout this entire checklist, we have referenced content and content marketing a lot. Content is king — it’s critical for communicating with customers, gaining customers, establishing credibility in your space, staying current and much more.
You’ve gained traffic to your site through keywords and targeted planning, but the content is what will turn those visitors into customers. Content nurtures buyers through the marketing funnel and helps your site rank well with search engines. Ultimately, it helps you communicate your unique brand to customers around the world — and what your hotel has to offer.
Create Invaluable Types of Content for Your Hotel Business
A solid strategy uses constant and consistent publishing of new content. The world of publishing can sound intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. If you have a site, you have a publishing platform. Content should be used to target, inform, create awareness and ultimately convert new visitors. There are many different ways to present this information. Below is a checklist of invaluable types of content that a hotel or hotel group can create to communicate effectively to consumers:
- Blog content
- Whitepapers, e-books, guides and educational resources
- Landing and sales pages
- Product copy
- Visual content (e.g., infographics, photos, etc.)
- Video content (e.g., explainer videos, demos, etc.)
- Webinars and slideshares
- Press and media releases
- Social media content
- Text and display ads
For hotels specifically, you can use these pieces of content to make your brand an established resource for travel, comfort, and expertise in your specific area or industry. Talk about local attractions, present fresh perspectives on the destination and showcase the people and places that make up your hotel’s community.
No matter if the content is evergreen or seasonal, publishing content that centers around what is happening right now in the areas where you operate can help keep your brand in front of potential customers and keep them at the top of the funnel. Be sure to plan content that showcases exciting local events far enough in advance — you want to appeal to your audience while they’re planning their vacation, typically a couple months before they would actually arrive. You probably have a good idea of how far in advance your customers book, so layer that into your content planning.
Most of the content types that we mentioned above can be self-published. Blogs, ads, press releases, white papers, landing pages and more can all live on your hotel’s website. You can craft, publish and manage all of this invaluable content on your very own platform.
Step 4: Building Your Hotel’s Authority & Trust
Building authority begins with content. Links to your content are one of Google’s favorite trust signals.
Both your customers and Google’s crawlers need to read researched and thoughtful content that’s published regularly to build a connection with your brand. To become an authoritative presence in your field, it is essential to develop, deploy and manage your content marketing campaigns. While one of the most prominent places that a majority of content lives on your site is your blog, this content can be published on multiple channels.
Content posted throughout your site can influence your rankings and your perception with readers. The more quality content you publish and promote, the better your chances are of getting readers to come back to your brand. Once readers establish trust in your brand, they might even share your content, too.
Authority Building Checklist
Your content strategy must include thoughtful link building, outreach to publishers, public relations, social promotion and, of course, content marketing. Let’s dive a little deeper into how these channels can influence your authority with both readers and search engines.
Authoritative links come from relevant and trusted websites. Building up the number of authoritative links that drive back to your website shows that other, trusted resources also trust your brand. By increasing the number of authoritative links to your site, you can improve rankings, drive referral traffic and increase your visibility in new markets.
For hotels, gaining authoritative links from reputable travel bloggers, local tour companies or even popular review sites are crucial. By acquiring a link from one of these sources, you can expand your reach through someone or something that already has a robust and trusting following.
Social media is a great way to form even deeper bonds with your audience and expand your reach, too. Through considerate, engaging and consistent posting, you can gain a strong following that can help you increase your authoritative presence in your industry. You can also use social promotion to create quality links and referral traffic as well.
Using social media in the travel space is necessary. Today, many travelers gain inspiration from targeted posts that expose them to new and exciting locations. By posting engaging photos, facts and information about your hotel or its location, your content can end up in front of new customers that are ready to convert.
Digital Media Relations
Not only do you have to maintain a great relationship with your audience, but ensuring that you have great relationships with media outlets is crucial as well. Creating mutually beneficial digital media relations key to building and acquiring traffic while achieving your business goals.
Get familiar with the digital publications in your market. You’ll want to know how their audience overlaps with yours. It’s also a good idea to reach out to the publication and build a relationship. You never know what could come if it — link opportunities, contest partnerships, advertising, sponsorship or even a mutual relationship in which you offer special rates for their writers.
Much like link acquisition, you can use guest posting as a way to gain relevant and authoritative links while also tapping into new audiences.
Guest postings can be done in two ways. You can create content for other reputable publishers to publish or you can publish content written by other reliable sources to post on your site. For you to gain the most for your own SEO gain, crafting content for other sources to publish can be great. But, it can not be too far from what the source typically posts or how they usually speak. The closer you can tie your post to your source’s niche, the higher the benefit.
Step 5: Optimizing Your Platform for Maximum Attention & Conversion
Optimization is both a standalone pillar and an integral part of every pillar in a successful SEO strategy. It has many meanings, but when creating a plan specifically for SEO, it is a data-heavy, analytics-fueled part of every area of your strategy.
Optimization should be the backbone of your entire SEO plan — from start to finish to maintenance. Optimizing is your way of keeping all of the hard work you have done thus far working for you for an extended period of time.
As you know, the world of SEO is ever-changing. Google’s own recommendation for optimization frequently changes, making it critical to optimize your efforts consistently. This will allow you to rank higher, perform better and get in front of more potential customers.
We’ve listed a few areas that you should continuously focus on optimizing to reach Google’s standards below:
- Title tags, metadata and internal links (on-page SEO)
- Content throughout all stages of the marketing funnel/customer journey
- Booking, service or contact application optimization
- Social media management and profile optimization
- Backlink management
- Optimization for your site to fit mobile restrictions and best practices
Implementing & Measuring Success
Feeling good about all your checked boxes? You should be. Your thoughtful, expert-crafted SEO strategy is ready to take your hotel’s online presence to the next level.
But, every plan, no matter how well it is crafted, can fail without the right tracking, maintenance and measurements. While this isn’t one of our five pillars, it is by far the most important step in the success of your SEO plan.
Success Measurement Checklist
The stakeholders must determine how and who will implement, track and report the SEO strategy to ensure that it’s not only carried out correctly, but also maintained for the most success.
Your team can only improve what you can measure, which means that the stakeholders must also work with the team to set crucial KPIs that actually reflect the success that can tie back into the overall business goals.
In each of the five pillars, there will be a set of KPIs and success indicators that you need to track. These will need to be defined before the rest of the plan is developed and often before it is implemented, as well.
- Total Website Traffic
- Social Media Engagement
- Organic Website Traffic
- Domain Referrals
- Linking Domains
- Conversions/Booking Engine Submissions
- Sentiment Analysis (Reputation/Authority)
These are just a few of the many KPIs that you might consider tracking for success. Learn more about specific KPIs per pillar here.
Implementing Your Hotel’s SEO Plan
SEO agency or in-house — who should implement your SEO strategy? This is the final question you have to answer before you start optimizing your hotel’s platform. And, there are many considerations to be made.
SEO Agency Implementation
Bringing in an SEO agency comes with the added value of expertise. While you may have a plan crafted, they may be able to perfect it further to ensure you are getting the most out of your partnership. They can implement swiftly and navigate the complicated technical issues that can eat away at your time and budget.
Bringing on an SEO agency may seem like a large cost, but with a solid SEO plan that is implemented correctly and quickly, you can start to expect returns on your investment quickly.
Time is one of the most valuable assets that a person can have. Because a team is handling the heavy lifting, your day-to-day won’t be interrupted with new, challenging feats.
Having a team in-house gives you instant access to SEO professionals. But, if you don’t have a trained SEO team in-house, you will need to spend time, energy and money learning the intricacies of both the technical and non-technical aspects.
Do you have the budget to hire out help? Or, do you have the budget not to. In-house implementation takes a lot of time and learning, which can eat away at your budget. Plus, you’ll be on the hook for the bill when your team purchases tools that an agency may already have.
Time is invaluable to your hotel. Bringing SEO implementation into your job may complicate your schedule. And if this team falls under your department, it could mean more time spent on employee management and HR.
This could be one of your most important decisions. Ensure that all stakeholders are involved in this conversation so your hard work is executed in the best manner for your operations.
Work With Us
Digital Current can help you create, execute and measure an SEO strategy for your hotel(s) that works. We have the technical skills, content creation capabilities and online web management strategies that can help you achieve higher search results and gain more customers.