In this installment, we're going to focus on the more difficult parts of SEO. This is to get your property to show up in search results while people are researching the area, things to do, attractions, events or even before they know where they want to go.
We put this type of SEO in the "Awareness" bucket because the types of efforts and traffic you will generate here often doesn't convert into bookings. Awareness SEO is how you improve a search engine's overall perception of your website's "EAT" - or Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. As your website's EAT improves, its ability to rank for competitive keywords like "hotel in [destination]" improves as well. In other words - all boats (rankings for your site) rise with the tide (increase in EAT).
Growth SEO Requires Time and/or Money
Website EAT is perhaps the most important criteria for search engine rankings! This is the area where you, the customer, are responsible for success as it requires proactively marketing the property online and off via listings, PR, and reviews.
Many smaller properties with limited marketing budgets may not be able to do a lot of this type of SEO. Creating content, sponsoring events, memberships, chasing PR opportunities, etc - this all requires money and/or time. If you have neither, head back down the roadmap to the foundational, relationship, & transactional marketing that you can do. Many people get upset by this and expect SEO to be easy or free, but as digital marketing has matured, it's also become more competitive and monetized.
SEO for Growth Part 1: Links & 3rd Party Listings
The most strongly correlated website ranking factor in Google is links to your website from 3rd party websites. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Google wants to give the best results possible for a search. They have to use the data available to do that. Links to websites, mentions of business names, reviews, and social signals all indicate quality. There's also an expectation - being listed on websites where Google would EXPECT your property to be listed goes a long way towards earning trust.
Now, there are a few gotchas when it comes to links:
- Most of the links in our industry cost money. Whether that's listing on a 3rd party site like bnbfinder.com, or becoming a member of the association to be listed in the directory.
- The basic link opportunities are all the same - so if you and your competition all have the same listings, you're going to struggle to outrank them.
- As a rule of thumb, the easier a link is to get, the less it is worth. In fact, any 'get links quick' scheme is likely to backfire. Follow the next steps below.
What to Do: Build Links and Listings to Increase Your Website's EAT
- Download - Odysys Link Building Guide: https://www.odysys.com/learn/link-building-guide/
- Watch - How to Level-Up Your SEO With Links: https://www.odysys.com/webinars/all-about-links-innkeepers-wod/
- Tools - Track Your Competitors and SEO (Odysys Tool): https://support.odysys.com/en/articles/658892-track-your-competitors-and-seo
- Related Add-On Services: Local business listing optimization (part of all website subscription bundles)
Next Steps: Annual Link Strategy Review
You'll want to evaluate links & listings based on whether they have actually driven traffic and/or bookings. Don't forget to look at "first-click attribution." What's that? See: Odysys Academy Sept 2019 - scroll down to the "Q&A Webinar Recording" and watch chapters 5 & 6.
A spreadsheet is handy for this exercise:
- Review the Odysys Link Building Guide - identify the opportunities that will work for you, your property and your budget and make a plan for taking advantage of those.
- Write down all the links you've paid for in the last year, along with how much the fee is, the traffic, bookings & revenue for that listing & link. Evaluate whether that link/listing was worth the cost (a spreadsheet is handy for this).
- Review your domain authority vs your competitors using the Odysys SEO Tool. A DA of 35 is about the highest we've seen for most indie hotels/b&bs. A DA of 30 is serviceable in most competitive markets, and mid-to-upper 20's tends to be fine for less competitive areas, but it is all relative. Your DA vs your competition will dictate whether you need to focus on building more links for EAT's sake, or whether you can just focus on the links that drive bookings.
SEO for Growth Part 2: Blogging & Content Marketing
Increasing the depth and breadth of relevant, high quality content on your website is another way to earn EAT for your website. However, just writing content with keywords in it won't work for you. You've got to put together great content that your guests would find valuable or useful in planning their trip or experiencing your area. In addition, you've got to market that content.
Next Step: Increase Your Website's EAT Through Blogging & Content Marketing
- Watch - Blogging & Content for Direct Bookings
- Download - Innkeeper's guide to blogging: https://www.odysys.com/learn/guide-to-blogging/
- Plan - Editorial calendar template: https://www.odysys.com/learn/blog-editorial-calendar/ (Don't like ours? Turn to Google - there are lots of free templates available)
- Plan - Create audience personas: https://www.odysys.com/learn/guest-persona-template/ (read: https://www.odysys.com/blog/understanding-your-ideal-guest/)
- Related Add-On Services: Blog Post Writing & Social Media Distribution
Annual Blogging & Content Marketing Review
Blog posts don't usually drive bookings. The purpose is to increase EAT. The goal of blog traffic is to introduce your brand and attract followers/subscribers who you can continue to market to over time. Therefore the metrics for success should match. At its most basic, you want to see growth in followers & subscribers, and engagement with blog content on your website, email newsletters and social accounts.
- Review how much search, social & referral traffic comes to your blog pages and converts to emails subscriptions.
- Review growth and engagement from social followers on the accounts where you've been marketing your content.
- Benchmark these numbers and review your year over year performance for growth.
- Identify which posts perform the best on your site and on social, do more like that. If posts aren't resonating, review and update your personas, the type of content you're creating, and how you're marketing it.
Done? Just kidding - this part is never actually done. But if you've planned out your editorial calendar, and taken advantage of the link opportunities you're able to, you're on your way.
Buying Links and Blogging Sounds Terrible, What Else Can I Do?
The other way to rank better in search results is simply to buy your way in with keyword ads. If you've got more money than time, this route is for you. We're more than happy to help: Odysys Professional Services - Google/Bing Keyword Advertising
Need more blogging ideas & help? I like this list - the article is a bit old but it is still relevant: https://searchengineland.com/make-blog-local-destination-win-local-search-215354
We also have some great blogging resources: