|By Max Starkov and Jason Price, September 2006
Strategic Linking in hospitality and its important by-product, Link Popularity, are part of hotelier’s toolkit for building a robust Web presence and taking advantage of the Direct Online Channel. Strategic Linking achieves two important goals: a) exposes your website to incremental traffic and highly qualified potential bookers, and b) builds your website’s Link Popularity, a crucial criteria used by the search engines to determine how to rank the website in the search engine results).
Strategic Linking is the business strategy to establish links from highly relevant and authoritative websites to your website i.e. to build the “Link Popularity” of your hotel website. Link popularity is an important criteria used by the search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo, etc) when ranking a website. The higher the link popularity and the quality of the links, the better the chances for a top position in the search engine results.
Link popularity refers to the number and quality of incoming links that are pointing to your website. Outside websites consider your own website important and wish to link. In the search engines’ view, incoming links to your website are considered important since each incoming link is a “vote of confidence”. Otherwise, why would any site link to your hotel website if it hasn’t found something of value? Search engines recognize the number of incoming links in its algorithm that determines placement rankings, which may explain why you may appear on page 10 while your competitor appears on page 1.
Why Strategic Linking Makes Sense?
Strategic linking pursues two important objectives:
Business Objective: Position your website at all touch points with potential customersLink Popularity Dos and Don’ts
Link popularity is an ongoing process and in this sense a hotel should never stop building its link popularity. Link Popularity is definitely an important step in the creation of “multiple points of entry to your hotel product.”
Another important issue is the question of the outgoing links. The search engines perceive an outgoing link (i.e. link from your website to another website) as a sign of “weakness” of your website- obviously your site lacks certain content and that is why it needs “help” from another site.
Outgoing links may have negative impact on the link popularity of the website, especially if its link popularity is low. On the other hand the hotel has no control over the websites it links to: they may feature your competition or an online discounter as it is often the case. It is very expensive nowadays to attract traffic to your website, and you do not want to lose it to other websites that easily.
A few critical steps can launch a successful link strategy. First, determine the high quality sites that are relevant to your hotel product and customer segments, and desirable for your link creation strategy. Such rating tools to help consider include measuring their own link popularity, Google Page Index, and Alexa rating. These can help determine the robustness of one website over another for incoming links. Second, develop a link creation list by category. Then list major and minor players within each of these categories using a rating tool. Third, physically, and often laboriously, reach out and build links, paid or non-paid. You may be surprised how many high quality websites offer free links. Lastly, create a budget as many of the higher quality links have monthly, quarterly, or annual charges. Fees for links from high quality sites are worth the investment. Here are examples of categories to consider in the link creation process:
The actual link count is not a stagnant figure and may at times decrease before it increases. One obvious reason is that the website with the incoming link may no longer exist. It may also explain changes in the search engine algorithms with higher or lower restrictions on what they recognize and value as an incoming link. The general trend should be for overall growth and this may not be in link count alone. At the 2006 Search Engine Conference in New York City, search experts suggest a few high quality links (links from relevant and high traffic sites) may outweigh a large link count but from low traffic, low respected sites.
Strategic Linking and its by-product, Link Popularity of the hotel website, are important aspects of the Direct Online Marketing and Distribution Strategy of any hotel company. Strategic linking can produce incremental traffic, qualified bookers, and immediate results, while keeping the hotel company in full control of the brand and pricing strategy.
Strategic Linking is an ongoing process. In this sense a hotel should
never stop building its link popularity and should aim to grow its link
popularity on an ongoing basis. Consider seeking advice from an experienced
Internet marketing hospitality consultancy to help you build a robust Strategic
Linking and Link Popularity, and utilize the Direct Online Channel to its
fullest potential. From experts who can teach hoteliers and their staffs
best practices and provide crucial professional development, as well as
guide hotel company’s direct Internet distribution and marketing
strategies, including search marketing and online brand building strategies,
e-CRM, website optimization and email marketing strategies and online sponsorships.
About the Authors:
Max Starkov is Chief eBusiness Strategist and Jason Price is EVP at Hospitality eBusiness Strategies (HeBS), the industry’s leading Internet marketing strategy consulting firm for the hospitality vertical, based in New York City (www.hospitalityebusiness.com).
HeBS has pioneered many of the "best practices" in hotel Internet marketing and direct online distribution. The firm specializes in helping hoteliers build their direct Internet marketing and distribution strategy, boost the hotel Internet marketing presence, establish interactive relationships with their customers, and significantly increase direct online bookings and ADRs. HeBS helps hoteliers control their online brand and price integrity and drastically lessen dependence on online intermediaries and other expensive channels.
A diverse client portfolio of over 300 top tier major hotel brands, multinational hospitality corporations, hotel management and representation companies, franchisees and independents, resorts, casinos and CVBs and has sought and successfully taken advantage of the firm hospitality Internet marketing expertise. Contact HeBS consultants at (212)752-8186 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Also See:||Hotelier’s 2006 Top Ten Internet Marketing Resolutions / Max Starkov and Jason Price / January 2006|
|Search Engine Marketing in Hospitality / Max Starkov and Jason Price / September 2005|
|Brand Erosion, or How Not to Market Your Hotel on the Web / Critical Online Distribution Issues Revisited a Year Later / Max Starkov / June 2003|