By Erica Garza

With Google releasing over 500 algorithm updates each year and search engine results constantly in flux, SEO best practices are always evolving. And with search engines contributing at least 50% of bookings on hotel websites, website SEO must be kept up to par via high-quality, helpful, engaging and relevant website content.

Choosing the correct SEO vendor is a crucial factor in creating and implementing an efficient digital marketing strategy. Consider the following questions when deciding on the right vendor:

1. Do you have experience in Hospitality SEO?

Inherently different from the common retail site, a hotel website requires a unique set of standards and best practices in order to function properly and accrue revenue. A hospitality website must speak to both the travel consumer and the search engine in precise balance using engaging, quality content that has been optimized with strategic, geo-centric keyword terms. Users will learn about the property while being presented with clear calls-to-action to complete the booking process with ease. Along with unique, relevant property info and consistent brand tone throughout, the site must position the hotel as the hero of the destination.

HeBS Digital has been consistently evolving SEO best practices for the hospitality industry over the past 18 years and published the first white paper on SEO in hospitality back in 1998. No one else in the industry has perfected this proven method of success.

2. Do you create engaging, quality content?

Google's ongoing algorithmic updates dictates website content must be deep, relevant, unique and editorial. In order for websites to avoid penalty (i.e. falling in the search engine ranks or being trashed altogether), there must be no duplicate content, no heavy ads and no spelling or factual errors, among many more high standards. Creating a structured content creation plan that adheres to these standards is not just recommended, but required. For instance, adding pages about events such as nearby college graduations, annual happenings or popular sporting events will help to create more depth in the site, give more real estate to targeted keyword terms and increase PPC campaigns' quality scores.

HeBS Digital's team of SEO experts takes the Google pulse daily, always staying ahead of best practices and adjusting strategies to best fit the fastidious needs of today's search engine.

3. How do you factor in the Hummingbird update?

Content for the hotel website must align with the standards of "editorial quality" as mandated by the Hummingbird update. Local destination content is more important than ever, as this algorithm means to gather better, more intuitive results for users via conversational and destination-specific search queries. It is now crucial to overhaul your current website by adopting the latest CMS technology and create quality content that accurately represents your property and its destination. By doing so, Google will reward you handsomely.

The latest Google Hummingbird algorithm update simply emphasizes the copywriting strategy that HeBS Digital has used for years and perfected at this point. Generating high-quality content that engages and informs users is key.

4. Do you employ page-centric vs. keyword-centric approach?

Last year Google "celebrated" the end of the keyword-centric era and ushered in the page-centric era. This new initiative is in tune with Google Panda Update, which punishes low-quality content that provides poor user experience and engagement. In other words, Google shifted their affection from keyword-centric to page-centric content. Low-quality, keyword-stuffed content is now prone to punishment at the hands of Google, while high-quality, helpful, engaging and relevant content is rewarded with high search engine results page placement. Any hotel website without sufficient depth of content would have a hard time with search engine rankings.

HeBS Digital recommends a minimum of 25-35 content pages for a select service property, and 35-50 pages of content for a full-service property website. A large full-service hotel or resort's website should begin with 100 pages of content. Utilizing the website's CMS platform, create landing pages for each hotel special offer, package or promotion, as well as for events at the property or in the destination.

One of the first steps in ensuring quality, page-centric content is to hire professional SEO copywriters that are knowledgeable in the hospitality industry and well-versed in Google's latest practices. But that's not all. They must also be capable of producing engaging, fresh, appealing content that users want to read. HeBS Digital's team of experts can be called "travel writers" in their own right, seamlessly creating unique and compelling content that appeals to both the user and Google.

5. Is all SEO, copywriting, paid search, design and development done in-house?

Many interactive and digital marketing agencies outsource their services, resulting in delays that will cost your business precious traffic and dollars. With today's complex, three-screen (desktop, mobile, tablet) digital environment that integrates social media and must adhere to the constant changes in best practices, you need a partner who fully understands these complexities and knows how to maximize revenues from every angle of the property website.

One of the distinctive qualities of HeBS Digital is that we DO NOT outsource any of our marketing efforts. From website design and development to paid search, social media and, of course, copywriting and SEO, we have complete control over the entire project from start to finish and can implement best practices and latest technological innovations throughout the whole process.

6. How do you tailor SEO for mobile devices?

With the explosion of the three screens, hoteliers must now manage campaigns for desktop, mobile and tablet devices, with each device requiring a different approach, strategy and tactics. Like desktop, quality content is the biggest necessity for a mobile site. The Google Panda algorithm updates favor mobile websites with rich visual and textual content that is fresh, engaging and optimized for search engines. But, users favor content that is short, concise and easy to navigate.

HeBS Digital understands three-screen technology down to a science, especially its newest related phenomenon, cross-device use. A study done on cross-device use reveals that, in the span of one day or less, people are using multiple devices to accomplish the same task, such as booking a hotel. To make the most of this complex user behavior, be sure to partner with a team that knows how to profit on the latest technological advancements.

7. What role does local search play in SEO?

Over a third of all searches are local in character. Hoteliers have noticed that local search listings, such as Google Places, generate an abundance of website visits and bookings based on a separate algorithm. The first step to securing a strong presence in local search is to claim and optimize listings on Google Places, Yahoo Local, Bing Local as well as main data providers. Information must be factual, verified and concise. In addition, hoteliers can also improve their local search rankings via a robust link-building strategy.

At HeBS Digital, local search is a priority in every one of our SEO services and campaigns. Hotels serve localized areas and by using a proper citation acquisition plan we vigorously seek to bring that local relevance to the forefront of your search engine listing.

8. What link-building efforts do you seek and how are they affected by the Penguin 2.0 update?

Google's latest Penguin update (2.0) further penalized link farms and purchased links. Paid links now have very little SEO value. It is imperative that hoteliers pursue unique "organic" links with relevant anchor text, such as editorial links and mentions of the property, listings on local CVB websites, local colleges, and nearby convention centers, theme parks and attractions. It is also incredibly strategic to developing editorial and engaging content on the hotel website, which then becomes valuable resource to local and regional directories, destination sites and blogs. It is also imperative to collaborate with local bloggers to have your hotel mentioned and linked to in their blog postings.

These are just a few of the many of evolving factors search engines consider when determining rankings. To stay on top of all the latest algorithm updates and search trends, partner with a digital marketing agency like HeBS Digital that stays informed of all things search-related.

9. Do you have a proprietary CMS (Content Management System) that will allow me to keep my website content fresh?

One of the biggest factors in a revenue-generating SEO strategy is having the ability to update website content consistently and keep the website content "fresh" with up-to-date algorithm adjusts, new hotel offerings and packages, events or happenings at the property or in the destination. Having a state-of-the-art CMS allows for adding an unlimited number of pages, updating 100% of the content on these pages, changing all photos on the site, creating photo animations on every page and creating unlimited landing and marketing pages and promo tiles for special offers, packages and events.

Today's hotelier must have immediate access to a Responsive Design on Server Side (RESS)-enabled CMS technology, which allows single-dashboard management of the website content for all three screens (desktop, mobile and tablet). This CMS must function as the core of your digital marketing, where every website update, social media post and image can be published with the click of a button.

HeBS Digital's proprietary CMS equips hotel clients with an award-winning, fast, cloud-based CMS, developed exclusively for hospitality use. HeBS Digital's CMS provides an easy-to-use 'Page Manager Module' and 'Image Manager Module' to allow you to manage all content seamlessly across three screens, saving you thousands of dollars every year.

10. Do you use BrightEdge to provide ongoing SEO support after the website launches?

Producing SEO-enhanced content that adheres to Google's latest updates, along with designing, building and launching your property's new website is just the beginning. SEO is not a static initiative, and to be to be successful, hoteliers' SEO strategy must be consistently tweaked and updated to capitalize on new revenue opportunities.

With as many changes that happen online and best practices consistently evolving, a property website that is not supported by digital marketing and up-to-the-minute SEO efforts will only last so long on the web, producing minimal revenues over time. In order to keep online bookings coming and revenues growing, any new property website needs ongoing SEO services to ensure the new website generates optimal revenue and addresses the property's business and occupancy needs year-round.

Therefore utilizing intelligent SEO technology such as BrightEdge, the most sophisticated search engine ranking and analysis tool in the marketplace today, is essential not only to understand what SEO opportunities your own website is missing, but what are the SEO strengths and weaknesses of your competitors in order to capitalize on their weaknesses and outdo their successes.

In addition to BrightEdge, it is imperative that your SEO is managed by a full-service digital marketing firm in order to not only maximize revenues from natural search, improve the Quality Index of your paid search campaigns, and stay abreast of all the search engines' updates, but also integrate your SEO efforts with your property's multichannel digital marketing campaigns, from SEO to SEM to email marketing, online media and retargeting, social media and mobile marketing.

HeBS Digital's Website Revenue Optimization Consultants and Account Managers are intimately involved in the actual website development process, and post-launch utilize the full digital marketing toolkit: SEO, SEM, Online Media, Email Marketing, Meta Search, Reservation Recovery Applications, Multi-Channel Marketing, Social Media, and much more, to ensure that property websites are living up to today's strict guidelines for SEO success and continuing to produce revenues that grow considerably over time.

About the Author and HeBS Digital

Erica Garza is Senior Copy+SEO Specialist at HeBS Digital, the hospitality industry's leading full-service digital marketing, website design and website revenue optimization consulting firm based in New York City (www.HeBSdigital.com).

HeBS Digital has pioneered many of the best practices in hospitality digital technology and marketing, and direct online channel best practices and strategies. The firm has won over 250 prestigious industry awards for its digital technology, including its proprietary MetaSearch Gateway, digital marketing and website design. These awards include numerous Adrian Awards, Davey Awards, W3 Awards, WebAwards, Magellan Awards, Summit International Awards, Interactive Media Awards, IAC Awards, and others.

HeBS Digital works with a diverse portfolio of hospitality clients; restaurants to major hotel brands, luxury and boutique hotel chains, resorts and casinos, hotel management companies, franchisees and independents, and CVBs are benefiting from HeBS Digital's direct online channel strategy and digital marketing expertise. Contact HeBS Digital's consultants at (212) 752-8186 or success@hebsdigital.com.

Contact: Sara O’Brien

sara@hebsdigital.com / 212-752-8186

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