Hospitality marketers know how important it is to have a website that ranks well on search engines. With the proliferation of new-age websites, Online Travel Agencies, review sites, and social media channels, the hotel industry is increasingly competitive. Meanwhile, search engines are constantly changing the way they rank websites, so it's important to stay up-to-date on how your hotel's website is performing to ensure you're staying competitive.
What are some SEO tasks that you're not doing? Have you updated your hotel’s website content to reflect changes in best practices? Is your website mobile friendly? These are just a few examples of questions worth answering before diving into the state of your hotel’s SEO.
If you're not sure where your hotel stands in the eyes of search engines, use this SEO checklist to complete a site checkup and see if there are areas that need improvement.
1. Verify your website pages are indexable
This may seem obvious, but before starting down the hotel SEO checklist, it’s important to ensure that every page is indexable by the largest search engine in the world. As simple as it seems, it’s not totally uncommon for a page to be de-indexed with an accidental ‘no index’ tag.
Search engines use crawlers that visit sites to automatically discover and index content. Crawler-based discovery can cause a variety of problems for hotel websites, including content being indexed incorrectly or incompletely, resulting in poor rankings or visibility issues if the crawl doesn't find all of a hotel website’s pages. By using a browser-based crawler tool, you can verify if your website is being indexed correctly by search engines.
A simple test is to type the URL of one of your hotel website's pages into your browser and see if the page appears in your browser. For example, if you type "www.yourhotel.com/dining" you should see your page. If this doesn't occur when you visit the page in your browser, it means search engines may not be properly indexing your site content. You can use readily-available tools to check the index status and make fixes through Google Search Console.
2. Identify your hotel’s priority keywords
To create an SEO strategy that will help you achieve your hotel's goals, it's necessary to clearly define your target keywords. For example, if your hotel is located in Los Angeles and you want to rank for searches related to "entertainment" or “downtown,” you'll want to make sure you aim for those searches by targeting the long-tail keyword as well as variations of the term. In this instance, utilizing specific keywords such as ‘Downtown Los Angeles’ in page titles, content, headings, and meta descriptions, should be part of your hotel’s SEO strategy.
There are a number of steps to help create a solid keyword strategy:
- Utilize a tool like Google Search Console or Google Analytics to see what keyword search terms are commonly used to find your hotel website.
- Identify competitors, including nearby hotels or hotels with similar offerings, and see what keywords their website ranks for.
- Determine long-tail keyword options. These are specific keyword phrases that are typically 4-6 (or more keywords) that travelers might search for. Are there destinations nearby? Does your hotel have specific amenities (wedding venue)?
3. Check your hotel website’s page titles
Page titles are one of the most important on-page search engine optimization factors. The title of a web page is seen by browsers at the top of a page and has a major impact on click-through rates from searchers to your hotel website. In addition to keywords, page titles should reflect the content on that web page. Make sure your pages all have unique, descriptive titles.
When thinking about page titles, hospitality marketers can look at data on Google Search Console, which shows impressions your hotel website is getting for keywords as well as clicks. A low click-through rate could indicate room for page title improvement.
4. Write actionable meta descriptions that match keywords
Meta descriptions are a hidden website element that provide a description of what users can expect to see on any given web page. Oftentimes (but not exclusively), this is what search engines will use on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) under your page title.
If you haven't done so already, make sure each one of your hotel website's pages have custom meta descriptions that clearly and accurately describe the page's content. Meta descriptions should be actionable and utilize priority keywords related to the page, such as amenities. Think of this space as 155 characters worth of advertising on the SERP.
5. Give your page headings a navigable hierarchy
The importance of headings on web pages has been debated, and they may not carry the same significance as they did a decade ago, but they’re still important to provide clarity to readers and to simply tell Google’s crawler’s what your website content is about.
Search engines use the text on a web page when determining how it should be indexed, prioritizing keywords in the process. Headings define a section of a website's content and are typically used to organize site pages into distinct topics of related content. If you're not already giving your pages headings, this is a practice you'll want to include on your site as it will improve how search engines crawl and index your website. Heading tags are used for defining titles that demonstrate the hierarchy of page content on a website. For example, an H1 would be the title of your website page, an H2 might be a subheading, and so on.
Because search engines crawl a website's headings, it’s important to use them fully and accurately. Not only will they help make your site more visible through search results, but they'll also help with the user experience by providing a navigable hierarchy on your hotel website.
6. Write descriptive alt-text for your images
It’s no secret the important role images play on a hotel website. In an industry centered on experience, seeing the hotel is a crucial part of the customer journey. From home page images to room-specific photos, hotel websites contain a large number of images. Given the importance of imagery in the hospitality industry, these images can carry enhanced SEO value for hotels.
All images on your hotel website should contain descriptive file names and alt text. Alt text provides a description of an image that search engines can understand and index. While alt text is an important accessibility feature for ADA compliance, from an SEO perspective it helps search engines ‘read’ your photos for its rankings. This helps not only with SEO, but also assists Google's image search results for your website.
7. Align your web page URL structure with keywords
In addition to page titles and meta descriptions, web page URLs play an important SEO role. A clean and simple URL structure allows search engines to easily crawl your hotel website’s pages and know what they’re about. If you haven't reviewed your hotel website's URL structure in a while, now is the time. Additionally, if necessary, consider changing your hotels' URL structures to be more search engine friendly and descriptive of the content they're delivering.
It’s best practice to keep URLs to 2-4 keywords, such as yourhotel.com/rooms-suites. Other URL structure best practices to keep in mind include:
- Don’t use stop words such as ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘and’, etc.
- Use hyphens and NOT underscores
- Only use keywords relevant to the page title
8. Conduct a backlink audit
If your hotel website has acquired backlinks (or incoming links from other websites) over the years, it’s important to check to see if they're still pointing to pages on your website. There are a range of SEO tools that will allow you to conduct a backlink audit. This process allows hospitality marketers to gain insight into what websites are pointing to their hotel website, including what text and links are used. With a little time and effort, a backlink audit allows you to identify both positive and negative influences on your hotel website's organic rankings.
After uncovering your hotel’s backlinks, look for links that no longer work and either remove them, redirect to correct hotel pages, or make necessary changes to get your links working. From there, hotels can improve their domain authority by disavowing toxic backlinks — essentially telling search engines to ignore the backlink in ranking factors. There’s a lot to know about when to disavow, so you may want to consult an SEO expert before taking drastic steps.
9. Improve your hotel website’s speed
When a guest searches for your hotel, there is a 50/50 chance they're doing so from their phone. If the web page doesn't load quickly, or if users face issues along the way, they'll likely move on to the next Google result and you could lose a potential booking. This is why Google has put a big emphasis on page experience and also shifted to mobile-first indexing, meaning it determines your hotel website’s page rankings based on its performance on mobile.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool can help hospitality marketers evaluate their hotel website’s speed and identify potential issues. From there, the report will provide actionable steps to help make the necessary changes that will improve performance and user experience.
10. Find and fix technical SEO errors
There are a range of SEO tools that will grade your hotel website’s ‘health’ based on a variety of factors. Ultimately, these grades are most often based on a website’s technical errors. Technical errors are mistakes that occur on your website that cause search engines to not index it properly. The errors can range from high priority to simple warning signs and be anything from coding errors, images with missing alt text, broken links and more. Of course, the magnitude of technical SEO problems will vary depending on how old your website is or how many pages it has. Either way, it's important to review technical errors you find on your hotel’s website.
Common technical SEO issues to clean up include:
- Multiple H1 headings on a page (you just want one!)
- Duplicate meta descriptions
- Missing H1 tag or meta description
- Broken internal or external links
- Missing alt text on images
- Pages using HTTP (instead of the secure HTTPS)
- 4XX errors (such as a 404 error page)
- Broken images
Competing for prime real estate in organic search results is challenging in the hospitality industry. Hoteliers need to be vigilant to increase their visibility online, including optimizing the SEO of their hotel’s website for better discoverability and organic traffic.
This hotel SEO checklist provides a few simple steps to improve how well your hotel website ranks for potential guests searching online. When that on-site work is complete, hoteliers should consider the other aspect of hotel SEO — optimizing for local SEO traffic.