How the Pandemic Changed Online Bookings and What it Means for Your Hotel’s SEO Strategy

By: O'Rourke Hospitality Team

If there is one lasting effect of the pandemic that swept the world in 2020, many economists and consumer experts agree — the push into the digital age has been sped up by many years. 

Take this stat for example: According to McKinsey & Company, e-commerce was forecast in 2019, before the onset of the pandemic, to reach 24 percent penetration by 2024. Last July, e-commerce penetration reached 33 percent. The sudden rise in online shopping behavior has been almost unimaginable. Bloomreach said 50 percent of people are now shopping online for something they had never bought online before the pandemic.

So, what does this have to do with hospitality marketing? We could go on and on listing shifts in consumer behavior as a result of the pandemic. Consumers are increasingly relying on online sources to make purchases and purchase decisions, and that trend will impact hotels. The vast majority of travelers already begin their customer journey online, and they will only become more comfortable booking directly through hotels or Online Travel Agencies (OTAs).

 

1. The online booking journey begins with search

There is no better time and place to reach a prospective traveler than at the start of their customer journey as they begin looking for travel inspiration and information. Google found that the average traveler spends 13% of their time online doing travel-related activities. When a user searches for ‘vacation in Boston,’ or ‘hotels near Fenway Park,’ or something similar related to your location, where does your hotel website rank? 

Focus on the keywords travelers are searching

Utilizing long-tail keywords on your hotel’s website is a crucial Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practice. These longer phrases more closely mimic the type of searches users are performing on Google and other search engines. You can use a tool like Google Trends to see what keywords are driving searches over time. 

Optimize your website for mobile search

More than 60 percent of Google searches are done on mobile devices, so it’s no wonder the search giant has put so much emphasis on your hotel website’s mobile performance. Did you know Google only considers your website’s mobile site performance to determine its page rank? According to Google, 53 percent of users will abandon a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load. You can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and PageSpeed Insights tools to see how your website is performing. Questions? Let us know and we’d be happy to take a closer look.

Fix these common SEO mistakes

Finally, when it comes to SEO, there is a lot to know. Here are a few of the common mistakes we see hotels make with their websites. For more insight on these errors, you can read our entire blog article on the topic

            1. Onsite SEO Strategy — Are your headings and meta descriptions optimized?
            2. Local Search UNAP — Are your URL, Name, Address and Phone in order?
            3. Site Speed and Performance — What technical issues are hurting your score?

2. Optimize your hotel’s image with Google My Business

There is more to Search Engine Page Results (SERPs) than the traditional search listings. Google also offers hotels (and other businesses) the ability to operate Google My Business panels, which are a prominent feature of the SERP. Hotels should take advantage of this tool, which provides the ability to offer information and allow for feedback. Features include: 

      • Website address
      • Address and directions
      • Phone number
      • Description
      • Customer reviews
      • Photos

By having a Google My Business page, your hotel can keep your property’s information up to date (including health information), solicit photos and reviews from guests, and communicate effectively. In fact, Google recommends hoteliers interact with guests who leave reviews. 

 

3. Provide a user-friendly online booking experience

One of the reasons OTAs took off in the 2000s was the ease of the experience. Travelers could find their preferred destination and search through a number of hotels with varying features and price points. More importantly, OTAs offered a streamlined and simple booking process. 

As marketing tactics like pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, metasearch and even tools like Google My Business continue to drive more direct booking opportunities, it’s critical for hotel websites to offer that same simple user experience. Here are a couple of tips: 

      • Simplify the booking process: A long and cumbersome booking process can lead to drop off just when a traveler is ready to convert. Keep your booking process simple, allowing users to choose their dates, provide the required information and confirm their booking. When completed, display a confirmation code and send off an email. 
      • Ensure your system is secure: There is nothing more important in this digital age than privacy and security. Find a booking engine that integrates well with your needs and, most of all, provides a dependable and strong security net. 

Have questions about how your hotel can improve your digital strategy? Get in touch or discover more of our blogs for hospitality marketers.

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