SEO – get to the top of Google

This is Section 2 of the series ’45 things you can do to get more bookings’

Section 1 – Build a website and take bookings
Section 3 – Content strategy – keep telling your story
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

13. Attend to SEO

“SEO” is a huge topic that covers many different areas.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It’s the art of getting found by all the search engines, especially the biggest of them all, Google.

‘SEO’ is such an all-encompassing topic that at least half the things in the other 5 sections of this series are considered part of SEO strategy. For example a responsive website is important for SEO. Google does not like websites that can’t be used on mobile and they’ll favour other results first.

If you’re not already thinking about SEO as one of the most important things you do to attract guests, you‘ll want to make this a priority.

SEO expert Corina Darnborough wrote a superb introduction to SEO. I also interviewed Corina for a Power Tip.

POWER TIP – Corina Darnborough

SEO Strategy Consultant
Plan your website structure for optimum SEO benefits.

14. Keywords – Primary and Secondary

Keywords are important words and phrases about your hotel business.

Rather than blindly writing about all sorts of things, sit down at the start and work out exactly what words you want to focus on. Then, make sure your content includes those important words and phrases.

If you choose ‘accommodation yourtown’ as an important keyword, for example, you would ensure that this exact phrase is used appropriately in multiple places on your website. It might appear on your homepage, in various stories, in image titles and alt tags, and as part of video titles and descriptions.

Don’t focus on simple, generic, industry-wide words, because there’s too much competition which means you’re unlikely to reach the first page of the search results. For example, the word ‘hotel’ would be a poor keyword on its own. Try ‘yourtown hotel’ or ‘hotel yourtown’ instead.

It’s important to note that going mad and using your keywords in every single place possible is a poor strategy. Google is not stupid and they really dislike it when people try to game the system.

Use your keywords naturally.

Identify a small amount of primary keywords as well as a collection of secondary, supporting keywords, and ensure they’re included so that Google knows what your website is about.

Keywords are the words people use when searching for a business like yours.

Include them in your website, but do it naturally.

Don’t ‘stuff’ your website with keywords.

15. Long tail keywords

Long tail keywords are longer phrases that people might use when searching. They consist of more than 3 words, are highly relevant to your business and have a lot less competition and lower search volume than individual keywords.

Examples of long-tail keywords might be:

Bed and breakfast in Albany
Child-friendly Mandurah hotel near the beach
Hotels near beach Western Australia
Western Australia hotel deals

Read up on the topic of keywords and make sure you know which ones you’re focussing on.

Your aim is to become the first result when people type in those queries.

Long tail keywords are more specific search queries.

“Wedding venue in Esperance”

16. One H1 per page

H1 stands for Heading 1. It’s a bit of ‘behind the scenes’ coding that tells Google which you consider to be the most important heading on your page.

Google uses your H1’s to help figure out what you’re talking about on each page of your website.

Imagine you’re scanning a huge book, quickly trying to find something specific. Each page has one large, bold sentence that stands out from the page and tells you what the rest of the page is about.

Clearly, you’d only want one of those on each page. If there were 4 big bold sentences competing for attention, it would slow you down.

H1’s are the same. One per page tends to work well.

An important note of clarification here – years ago it was essential that you only used one H1 per page. Nowadays you won’t actually get penalised for using more than one H1 on a page, if it makes sense to do so in different sections and you do it correctly.

It’s still not a bad rule to follow though, because it helps you to think about laying out your site with one topic per page, making it easy to understand.

Headings help Google to figure out what your page is about

17. Link building

If Google sees your business referenced by others, it assumes you have some level of authority. Therefore it’s highly valuable to have other websites link to your website.

All links are not created equal however. A link from a highly respected website is much more valuable than a link from a dodgy ‘link farm’.

As with everything to do with websites and SEO, you need to build links in a natural way. Trying to manipulate the system for your own gain will end in tears.

I have linked to several websites on this page, which will give them some SEO benefit. Those pages contain great content and I linked to them because I thought they might help you to further understand the topic I was talking about. This should be a clue – create content that’s so good that other people find it easier to link to your content than to write about the same thing all over again.

On that note, here’s a link to a good article about link building. It’s actually Chapter 7 of “The Beginners Guide to SEO”. You might want to have a bit of a look around in there, it’s quite good. Chapter 5 is about keywords, which we discussed above.

Invite Travel Bloggers to Stay

‘Influencers’ are people who have an engaged audience. They have popular blogs, YouTube channels and/or Instagram accounts and some make a living out of travelling the world mentioning the places they stay.

The more influence someone has, the more you’ll pay. Some of the big YouTubers have an audience far in excess of the most successful TV shows.

Bloggers with a smaller audience might be happy to have a free getaway in exchange for a story.

One of these each month or two will add up to a lot of stories about your business over time.

Plus, there’s a fascination about the concept of ‘travel blogging’ so if you’re constantly linking to stories written about you by travel bloggers people will start to assume there’s something particularly special about your place. It’s ‘social proof’.

Remember to add the articles to your ‘In the News’ section, and share them on your social media.

Important note about links from bloggers

Google would prefer that bloggers use ‘nofollow’ links when reviewing products they don’t pay for. This means you wouldn’t get the SEO ‘link juice’, however you would still receive all the other benefits of high quality links.

Here is Google’s article about Best practices for bloggers reviewing free products they receive from companies.

Here’s a good article about The Hidden Power of Nofollow Links.

Important note about links in general

If anyone ever links to your site, try to make sure they hyperlink your business name rather than other words.

LIKE THIS – We stayed at a gorgeous place called Ocean View Hotel.

NOT LIKE THIS – We stayed at a gorgeous place called Ocean View Hotel.

It’s good when good people link to your website

18. NAP, Google map pack and Google my Business

You might be feeling like a nap about now, but that’s not what we’re talking about. NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone Number.  In this section we’re particularly interested in how to get your business to show up as one of the top 3 businesses in Google’s ‘Local 3-pack’.

For example, if I Google “B&B Margaret River” I see 3 businesses suggested as a starting point. These 3 places have a significant advantage over all the other B&B’s in Margaret River.

Aim to be in the top 3

Map pack results for B&B Margaret River

The important thing about NAP is to be consistent (although we’re still not talking about the importance of a little lie down after lunch).

Your name, address and phone number should be exactly the same in every place it’s used.

This, however, is just one part of showing up as one of the top 3 in the Google map pack.

If you read this article, How to rank in Google maps 3-pack, you’ll notice that many of the things they talk about are already mentioned on this page.

One thing not yet mentioned however, which is very important, is to correctly fill out your Google my Business profile.

You need to fill out your Google my Business profile

19. Improve listings on places such as BookEasy

Is your property listed on your local tourist bureau via a system such as Bookeasy? Chances are your listing needs to be improved.

A while back I did an audit for a large tourist bureau in which I discovered that less than 5% of all properties had ‘great’ listings. The other 95% needed improvements.

Do the words on your listing properly tell your story? Do they entice visitors to book you?

What are your images like? Compare them to other listings in your area. You’ll find two quite different types of images.

First there are the professional shots – gorgeously lit and beautifully composed. They look fresh and appealing and they scream of appeal.

Then there are the homemade shots. Invariably they look sadder and paler by comparison. The lighting is poor and everything looks small and a little bit shabby. These images are much less likely to make a potential guest hit that Book Now button.

It can be depressing to do an objective analysis like this because the first thing you wonder is how much you’re going to pay for a professional photographer. Ask around; find out who others are using and how much they paid. It might be less than you think and you’ll be able to use the images for a long time.

Assuming your property actually is delightful, paying a professional photographer will be money well spent.

How does your listing compare to others?

Does your hotel look like the best one?

20. Sort out your Trip Advisor rankings, if you can

Trip Advisor has become a giant in the travel industry. They used to claim the title of ‘world’s most trusted travel advice’ but ran into problems when they couldn’t prove that reviews were from real travellers. Now they just call themselves the ‘world’s largest travel site’.

One of the reasons you need a list of ‘45 ways to get more bookings’ is to overcome the disproportionate power of TripAdvisor. You don’t want someone else’s company having a monopoly on testimonials about your business.

If your business is not already on TripAdvisor you might want to consider leaving things that way.

If your business is on TripAdvisor you need to proactively manage your reviews. People who enjoyed themselves tend not to leave a review unless they’re asked.

Send an email a few days after your guests leave, asking them to give you a great review if they enjoyed their stay. Ask them to write to you directly if there was anything they were unhappy about. If you can automate this process, so much the better. Little Hotelier allows you to automatically send an email to guests a few days after they leave.

You might want to read “What You Don’t Know About TripAdvisor” for more insight.

Proactively manage your reviews.

Ask happy customers for a good review.

Respond to any negative reviews in a polite and respectful manner.

That’s the end of Section 2.

Head to Section 3 – Content strategy – keep telling your story

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.