The last few months of 2019 saw Google change its advertising tactics in an attempt to disrupt the online travel market, making it more expensive for OTA’s and hotels to attract bookers.
As a result, hotel owners have started shifting their focus towards other distribution channels to drive bookings. (Have a read of How rising OTA and Google ad costs are changing hotel distribution strategies in 2020 to learn more.)
One of these channels includes a hotel’s own website. As direct bookings allow you to keep your MCPB (marketing costs per booking) low and DDR (direct revenue ratio) high, your hotel website should be your most profitable channel.
After all, 96% of leisure travellers start their travel planning with an online search. So if you do your hotel website’s SEO right, there’s no better way to drive potential guests straight to you from the start.
But with constantly changing hotel marketing trends and ever increasing competition (700,000 hotels and resorts worldwide and counting), cutting through the online noise to stand out isn’t easy.
That’s why we suggest focusing on optimising three key parts before anything else: your website content, your SEO keywords and your user experience.
Improving your hotel website in 2020
1. Website content
If you’re not keen on spending a lot of advertising money to show up on search engine results, then SEO, aka search engine optimisation, is your best bet. While finding the right keywords here is important (more on that in point two), your website content has a huge impact on determining the number of monthly visitors to your site.
Simply put, the more often you create content that’s easy for Google to find, the higher your website traffic, and ultimately hotel bookings, will be.
So what sort of content does Google like ranking highly? The search engine giant favours websites that create frequent, high-quality content that’s relevant to their target audience.
You might have already guessed this, but blog posts fulfill the above criteria perfectly. If you publish frequent articles on topics that interest the people you’re trying to attract, you’re already winning at content marketing.
For hotels, we recommend blogging about local content. Use your knowledge of local attractions and events to write about why your hotel’s location is the perfect holiday destination for potential guests.
For example, if your target audience includes LGBT guests, then highlighting your area’s local gay scene is key. Here are four tips on how to write great hotel website content.
Besides being great to drive more relevant traffic to your site, blog articles are also great content to share on your social media channels. Win-win!
2. SEO keywords for hotels
In addition to creating new content, updating existing content with the right keywords will have a big impact on monthly traffic numbers as well.
What do we mean with the right keywords? Those keywords that your target audience is using to search for their next hotel.
If we continue with the LGBT audience example from above, then your potential guests might be googling terms like ‘gay-friendly hotel in Berlin’ or ‘best LGBT holiday destination.’
So how can you find out how your guests search for a hotel online?
Conducting keyword research will help you discover the key questions, terms and phrases your audience uses in the search process. Start off by noting down any keywords you think could be relevant, and then use online tools (for example Google’s Keyword Planner) to see how many monthly searches they get.
A good rule of thumb is to focus on long-tail keywords (three or four-word phrases that are specific to your hotel offering) as they will be less competitive than shorter ones. And less competition is good because it means you have more chances of ranking for them!
If you’re not sure where to start, check your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts to see what past search queries have brought traffic to your website.
By then using these keywords and phrases throughout your website, your audience will be more likely to find your hotel through organic search when they’re planning their next holiday.
It’s important to also use the keywords for images (yes, that’s possible) as it’ll help you outrank your competitors. Here’s how to optimise images for SEO.
Lastly, when updating content don’t forget to check you’ve optimised the meta descriptions for all your pages too. Meta descriptions are the snippets of copy that show up in search results below your website title.
Their goal is to summarise the page’s content, so the more relevant it is to what your audience is searching for, the more click-throughs you’ll get.
3. User experience
While you want to use SEO and content creation to drive the right people to your hotel website, at the end of the day, your goal is for it to be a hotel booking site.
So to increase your booking numbers, ensure the user experience on your website is flawless. It may sound silly, but the easier you make it for people to book, the more conversions you’ll have.
Start out by using Google’s PageSpeed Insights to check your site speed on both desktop and mobile. Noone likes a slow-loading page and even less so if they’re expected to add their payment details to it.
There are a number of fixes you can do to improve site speed, such as optimising images, minifying code, reducing re-direct links and utilising browser caching.
While it is possible to do these tasks yourself, they can get time-consuming very quickly. An SEO specialist or agency should be able to get these sorted for you.
Next, make sure that all pages lead people back to the booking page in one way or another. Ensure all blog content you create has clear call-to-action (CTA) buttons that encourage people to book at your hotel.
And if they’re not ready to book yet, don’t write them off just yet! Encourage them to subscribe to your email list instead by embedding a sign-up form in your footer.
They might have already booked their summer holidays, but if you entice them with insightful and regular email updates, who says they won’t book with you next year?
What’s more, potential guests always want to know they’re getting the best hotel deal when booking (don’t we all).
So on your check-out page, make sure to highlight that you always offer the best hotel price on your own website.
This will stop people from going to OTA booking platforms to compare prices, and will ultimately drive up direct bookings.
Last but not least, make sure that your user experience works on mobile as well.
Recent studies estimate that by 2022, more than one third of European supplier-OTA bookings will take place via mobile websites and apps. People are now also five times more likely to leave a website if it isn’t mobile-friendly.
Ensure your website has a responsive design so it is compatible, and views correctly, on different devices, including mobile and tablet.
If you use a content management system (CMS), such as WordPress, you’re likely already using a website theme that can adapt to all screens. If it’s a custom theme, you better double-check.
You can use Google’s DevTool to check your site’s responsiveness. Just right-click on any page, select ‘inspect’ and then toggle between desktop and mobile to see how it looks on each device.
If it isn’t scaling correctly, then you need to talk to your web developer!
For more information on this, have a read of how to ensure your hotel website is mobile-friendly.
The best hotel websites are 2020 ready – are you?
As Google continues to make it more and more pricey to show up online, ensuring your hotel’s website is ready to stand out from competition this year is key. If you have the right web designers, content creators, developers, SEO experts and time on hand, you can do it yourself.
If not, come chat to us and we can help. We’re experts at helping our member hotels increase direct bookings through online marketing. Find out how our hotel marketing services can help your hotel or get in touch today to discuss optimising your hotel website.
About HotelREZ Hotels & Resorts
HotelREZ Hotels & Resorts was founded in 2004 by Mark Lewis, an experienced hospitality industry professional and entrepreneur. Over the course of over a decade, the company has grown to be one of the leading hotel representation companies dedicated to marketing and connecting independent properties with bookers worldwide. HotelREZ now provides distribution, revenue, sales consultancy and marketing services and support to more than 1,500 hotels, apartments and hotel groups in over 100 countries including private label GDS chain code solutions. HotelREZ Hotels & Resorts is a SAAS company.
HotelREZ manages the brand Best Loved Hotels, a collection of unique global individual properties, with a dedicated GDS Programme, together with a Website and printed Directory, aimed at the high-end leisure agency and traveller. HotelREZ also incorporates the global World Rainbow Hotels, the world’s only GDS enabled LGBT global hotel consortia representing some 1200 hotels in 230 destinations across the globe.