Content strategy – keep telling your story

This is Section 3 of the series ’45 things you can do to get more bookings’

Section 1 – Build a website and take bookings
Section 2 – SEO – get to the top of Google
Section 4 – Social Media & PR – talk to your people
Section 5 – Advanced Strategies – get that extra edge
Section 6 – Monitor your Progress – monthly stats are essential

21. Write and publish new content regularly

Back in the old days people built websites in much the same way they designed a brochure. It was a lovely, shiny piece of advertising, and it never changed. Those times have gone.

Nowadays, Google wants you to make regular updates to your website. They want to be sure your website is current so they can be confident about sending people there.

If your website remains static it will gradually slip down the rankings.

Aim to upload new content once a month at the very least.

Keep telling people about your hotel!

Present your content so busy people can read it quickly.

Let it ‘breathe’.

Notice how all the pages in this series are divided into easily digested chunks, each with a subheading. This lets you scan down the page and find what you’re looking for.

I’ve also added comics and pictures and coloured boxes like this one, to break up the wall of text and give your brain a break.

22. Original content

Google doesn’t want the same thing posted all over the place. They want fresh, original content.

They want your website to be the only place on the internet that tells this particular thing in this particular way.

Use this requirement as an opportunity to tell stories in your own voice. Connect with your past and future guests in a style that matches you and your hotel.

Use words, pictures and videos to show what it will be like when people come to stay with you.

The words on your website need to be unique

23. Relevant content

The content you upload needs to be relevant to you and your hotel.

Obviously, if you have a boutique hotel in South Western Australia you won’t write about potato farming in Switzerland.

However, if there’s a potato festival happening in your town next month and it turns out the guest chef is a potato farmer from Switzerland (and he’s staying with you!)… well, in that case you might mention potato farming in Switzerland. You would even include that tasty Swiss potato recipe which you’re serving in your restaurant as a special for the next month.

Be the authority on your subject.

Google loves to send people to websites that give the right answer the first time.

24. Use lots of very good images

Don’t limit yourself to a few images.

If a picture is worth a thousand words make sure you’re communicating entire novels with your superb collection of gorgeous photos.

You can use images you’ve taken with your own camera but remember that many of your competitors have brought in professional photographers and their websites are looking stunning as a result.

Invest in good photography as soon as you can.

Do not under any circumstance use images you’ve randomly lifted off the internet. Furthermore, make sure you can prove your right to use all images on your website.

Google “Getty Images Demand Letter” to find out why this is important.

Below is a good example of a photo that evokes a feeling. It’s easy to imagine we’re snorkelling in the gorgeous waters of New Caledonia. That’s our little boat over there. Sigh….doesn’t it just make you want to be there right now?

(I got this image from Unsplash – a website filled with beautiful, free photos. You should use images of your own environment, of course. )

Invest in good photography as soon as you can

You MUST optimise images before uploading to your website

How to optimise images before uploading to your website
snorkel the gorgeous blue waters of New Caledonia - this is an example of an image that evokes a feeling and makes us want to be somewhere else

25. Name images properly

Imagine you captured a beautiful image of a table in your restaurant. The tablecloth is whiter than white, the cutlery is sparkling, there’s a candle burning in the middle and the napkins look thick and luxurious. It’s very inviting.

You download it from your camera. It’s named IMG_3541.jpg.

Google doesn’t know what IMG_3541.jpg is about so your image needs to be renamed before it gets uploaded to your website. Call it something more like restaurant-table-setting.jpg.

And then give it a nice alternative description. Oh wait, that’s the next point…

Don’t upload images straight from your camera. 

They have meaningless names.

26. Use alt tags

Think of the ‘image alternative text’ as a description for the visually impaired.

It is actually used to help visually impaired people understand your website, but given that Google is itself visually impaired, there’s a huge benefit to using this field properly because you’re describing what the picture is about.

A lot of businesses don’t use alt tags properly. If you do, you’ll be ahead of the game.

In our example above, your image alternative text for your restaurant table image might be ‘a table in the Sea View restaurant, Rockingham, Western Australia. The tablecloth is whiter than white, the cutlery is sparkling, there’s a candle burning in the middle and the napkins look thick and luxurious.’

Writing good alt text for images can feel tedious so it’s a job that’s often done poorly. It’s worth putting in the time and effort to do it properly.

Note that we didn’t ‘stuff’ keywords into that alt text. We didn’t write, ‘Sea View Restaurant, Rockingham, Western Australia. Restaurant in Rockingham. Rockingham restaurant with ocean views. Best seafood restaurant in Rockingham.’

That’s not natural. It’s no help to a visually impaired person and is clearly just trying to game the system. Google has been known to penalise businesses that try to gain an unfair advantage by doing stupid things – where by penalise I mean ‘disappear from the search results’.

If you focus on providing people with what they need in a natural manner, whilst also making it easy for Google to understand what questions you’re answering, you’ll go far.

Advanced Super Tricky Tip

Do you want to see if other people are using alt tags?

Assuming you’re using the Chrome browser, right click on that New Caledonia pic just above and choose ‘Inspect’.

See how it says ‘alt = “snorkel the gorgeous blue waters of New Caledonia – this is an example of an image that evokes a feeling and makes us want to be somewhere else”?

That’s the alt text I put in.

You’ll find a lot of people, especially your competitors, are not doing this, or at least not doing it well.

Alt tags are an easy way to gain an advantage because hardly anyone is using them properly.

Yet it’s so easy!

27. Produce regular video content

Over the last few years video has become increasingly important, yet the majority of hotel owners are not producing video content on a regular basis, if at all.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is worth a thousand pictures.

People know that hotel photography is full of trickery. They know that a wide angle lens makes a room look bigger. They know that lighting changes everything and makes even the ordinary look special.

Potential guests want to know what your place is really like. They’ve worked hard in a job they might not even like for 50 weeks and they want their 2 weeks of holiday to be perfect.

They’ll do whatever they can to get around your propaganda, which is why Trip Advisor has become so influential.

The problem with TripAdvisor is that you’re not in control of the message. You need to tell your own story in your own way.

Video is an important part of your storytelling. It lets you show your guests the things they want to see ‘in real life’.

It’s really important to remember that all video content doesn’t have to be highly professional. Videos that are down to earth and quickly put together are just as likely to get good engagement and result in bookings.

The key is to do it regularly. Every video you add to your YouTube channel will benefit the rest of the videos in your collection. You will be pleasantly surprised to see that every month, every video gets more views.

Producing videos doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. 

People just want to see what your hotel is really like. 

28. Use photos and videos taken by your guests

Your guests are taking photos and shooting videos constantly. Are you using those?

I managed a small resort in Vanuatu in 2013 and we had a few guests arrive with lovely big cameras and solid photography skills. They were more than happy to share their photos with us – and they agreed we could use the photos on our website and social media. What a win!

It meant we could show the resort and the island through the eyes of guests that were visiting for the first time.

Don’t limit yourself to these rare opportunities though. It can be difficult to coordinate getting photos off people’s devices but you can get around this by buying a small point and shoot camera. Give it to willing guests and ask them to take a few photos and videos throughout their stay. Remember to get it back before they leave!

Guests are already taking photos and videos of your hotel and your local area.

Use them!

That’s the end of Section 3.

Head to Section 4 – Social Media & PR – talk to your people

Cath, can you help?

Yes, I can.

I work one-on-one with hotel owners to help with all these things so you can get more bookings.

Find out more here.

What do you think?

What else do you do to increase bookings?

What have I missed? Have you spotted a typo or some other error? Do you agree or disagree with a particular point?

Or, if you found this information helpful please let me know. My casual thought about putting together this series turned into an obscene amount of time, blood, sweat and tears, so I would be chuffed to hear from you.