Hospitality marketers know that it's not enough to focus on one tactic when trying to increase visibility and grow their hotel’s business.
When it comes to those two factors — getting in front of travelers and driving direct bookings — hotels should be committing themselves to both Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). These two initiatives are powerful in their own right, but they work even better together.
If your hotel is attempting to drive more direct bookings, here’s what to know about SEO and CRO and how they should be approached in tandem.
How are SEO and CRO different?
SEO and CRO work together to improve organic reach and revenue, but they are distinctly different. It's important that hotels don't get confused with the two tactics. While SEO focuses on increasing your hotel’s search engine ranking and presence, CRO is about maximizing the number of completed bookings.
SEO: Search engine optimization is about increasing your hotel’s keyword count and ranking on search engines like Google so that your hotel’s website will show up when people search for keywords relevant to your hotel. This tactic mainly focuses on improving content on the website and optimizing title tags, meta descriptions, and alt-text on images for high-volume or specific keywords. For example, SEO optimization can include optimizing the content on your hotel website to target long-tail keywords (specific phrases of three or more words) such as "best family-friendly resorts in Hawaii.”
CRO: Conversion rate optimization is focused on maximizing the number of completed transactions from visitors who land on your site through marketing efforts, organically through search results, or by word-of-mouth. This is done by making your hotel website more user-friendly, which means improving both design and usability to create a better experience for visitors.
It's no longer enough for hotels to just focus on one tactic when they’re trying to grow their organic reach or direct bookings. Hotels should be incorporating both Search Engine Optimization and Conversion Rate Optimization.
What are the benefits of SEO and CRO?
Both of these methods are crucial for hotels to succeed in increasing both discoverability and direct bookings. If you're not focusing on both SEO and CRO, the results won't be as good; try either method alone and your results will suffer. Hotels must understand what each tactic does and how to utilize the tactics to improve both SEO and CRO to maximize performance.
Before diving into how this can be achieved, let’s first look at the benefits of each:
Search Engine Optimization
- builds site authority and trust for your hotel brand. Search engines like Google determine a website’s ranking based on several factors, but relevance to a search is a big one. When your hotel shows up at the top of page one of the SERP, it can amount to big gains in traffic and less of a need for paid advertising methods.
- increases organic traffic to the website by improving rankings in search engines so that more people will find you through long-tail keywords. By focusing on specific phrases travelers might search for to find a hotel like yours, you can maximize visibility.
- helps to build a large audience of engaged readers who can be turned into direct bookings over time with great content and word-of-mouth marketing. Organic traffic tends to be more qualified and can lead to higher direct booking conversion rates.
Conversion Rate Optimization
- increases direct bookings by improving the design and usability of the website to make it an easier experience for visitors, leading them to complete bookings.
- improves conversion rates with well-designed calls to action, pricing strategies, images and videos used on the website, and other elements that improve conversion rates.
- decreases abandoned bookings by making the booking process easier for users to complete. This means having easy-to-read pricing information and simple forms that are quick and intuitive.
How to make SEO and CRO work together
The best way to think about SEO and CRO is as two distinct marketing efforts that play off one another to increase direct bookings and, ultimately, revenue. For example, if a hotel optimizes its website’s content and headings to rank well for certain keywords that are frequently searched for by potential travelers when looking for a hotel room online, it can increase organic traffic. That leaves the door open for CRO to do its job by providing a customized and seamless user experience once the traveler lands on the website.
Simply put, if hotels can increase their potential customer base by using smart SEO tactics that match up with what people are searching for online, it can lead to more direct bookings in the long run. But making SEO and CRO work together can be easier said than done. To ensure SEO and CRO strategies work together, follow these tips:
Follow what the data is telling you. Before implementing an SEO or CRO strategy, it’s important to understand your hotel’s data and audience. Using Google Analytics and Google Search Console (or another preferred tool), hospitality marketers should identify what keywords and search terms are bringing users to their website. This data can help hoteliers make the best adjustments to content, headings, and meta descriptions to improve SEO, which in turn will lead to a better user experience by ensuring when a user arrives on the hotel website, the content is just as relevant as the search.
Give prospective travelers a connected experience. If a traveler lands on a hotel website from the search ‘Boutique Hotel Downtown Nashville’ it’s likely the website’s content, titles, and meta descriptions did their job to rank highly on the search engine. But what if the traveler clicks on the result and the website doesn’t talk about its downtown location or the unique experience that comes with staying at a boutique hotel? There is an increased chance the user will quickly exit and be counted as a bounce. This is where the connection between SEO and CRO becomes so important. While SEO can enhance a hotel’s visibility, CRO is all about user experience. And, when they don’t work together, they can have adverse effects on each other.
Make your conversion opportunities clear. While SEO is all about content and site performance, CRO boils down to design and usability. One of the primary reasons travelers drop off from a hotel website is because of unmet needs — they aren't able to find what they came looking for. This can be a problem if a hotel’s messaging, amenities, or user pathways aren’t clearly defined on the site. One way hoteliers can reduce the drop-off rate is by making sure to include more detailed information about different packages and amenities that are available. Using descriptive text or images of each option can help potential guests easily find what they're looking for. It’s equally important to ensure there are clear calls to action to guide travelers.
Improve your hotel website’s conversion rate through website design. Hotels that stay on top of their hotel’s website design and performance should have less to worry about when it comes to CRO. It turns out, there is a connection between booking conversion rates and user experience. When it comes to website design, there's a lot that can be done to improve the conversion rate on a hotel website. Above all else, the key is user-friendliness. If travelers struggle with navigating around on the website or figuring out where certain information is located, it can lead to a decrease in the number of completed bookings. Given the increase in mobile browsing and bookings, having a mobile-responsive design is at the top of the list for CRO. Any hotel website should be mobile responsive, load quickly (think of users on cellphone data), and have a clean, easy-to-read design with minimal scrolling.
Don’t forget about the booking engine. At the end of the day, bringing in prospective travelers through SEO and guiding them through the booking journey with CRO is only as effective as the booking engine. Hospitality marketers can effectively implement SEO and CRO strategies, but a cumbersome booking process unwinds all of that effort. Your hotel website should have a simple booking process that works seamlessly on both mobile and desktop. This can be done by ensuring there is no confusion about what should be done next when users are trying to book, limiting the steps on the booking process, and having clear instructions for each step.
With the power of SEO and CRO working together, your hotel website can be a powerful salesperson. But these two initiatives are not without their challenges — you need to know how to manage them in order for them to work in tandem.
If you’re looking for other ways to improve the conversion rate of your hotel website, read our 5 Steps to Make Your Hotel Website Your #1 Salesperson eBook.