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Dangerous Hotel Search Engine Optimization Myths Exposed.

By Josiah Mackenzie
June 2009

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of making your hotel's website easier to find in search engines. With the majority of people beginning their travel planning process with a web search, SEO has become an increasingly important discipline for hotel marketers.

However, there is some misinformation floating around the web, being propagated by quack "gurus." Some of these myths are outright lies, but they are more likely to be tactics that no longer work: constantly-changing search algorithms make SEO a rapidly changing science. I want to debunk some of these myths before they hurt your optimization efforts.

Basic Tactical Myths

Myth: Adding a lot of keywords to your page's title will help rankings

Fact: Stuffing the title with keywords will give the appearance you are a spam site. Since Google will only display up to 68 characters in the title tag (cropping to complete words), I recommend you write a short, people-friendly title that contains one or two of your most important keywords.

Myth: HTML META tags such as keywords and description are very important, and should be stuffed with as many keywords as possible

Fact: Meta tags don't play that big of a role, and again you definitely don't want to stuff your tags with keywords if you want to avoid being penalized as a spammer. You do, however, want to write a compelling Description tag. That's what people see when they perform a web search, so you want to encourage clickthroughs with a strong benefits statement.

Myth: Adding every keyword to every page is good

Fact: Doing this confuses search engines - and your guests - about the purpose for each page on your site. Instead, group your target keyword list into themes - and use one theme per page. 

Myth: Trading links is a good idea

Fact: Exchanging links may be a good idea for referral business, but don't do it for SEO purposes. Google's Matt Cutts has explained they don't reward reciprocal links like they do one-way links. Instead, create great content that naturally attracts links.

Myth: You should submit your site to search engines

Fact: That may have helped 10 years ago, but today search engines can find you. If your website has existed for more than a week, there is a strong chance Google has already found you. A better strategy is to get links from existing websites. I've taken several brand-new websites to Google PR4 (a ranking importance measure) in less than 3 weeks.

Myth: Submitting your links to directories is the best way to improve your ranking.

Fact: Google frequently penalizes sites that get listed in shady directories. Since it can be hard to determine the legitimacy of a site, pursue a better way and create some great content. If you're publishing great stuff and interacting with other people online, getting backlinks is only a matter of time.

Many of the above myths have been debunked by others, and thankfully are becoming less common. But every few weeks I still hear someone asking about these tactics, so I wanted to put them to rest. Let's move on to more high-level misconceptions.

Dangerous Strategic Errors

Myth: SEO is a hoax

Fact: As we see success stories from companies of all sizes, this is less common than it used to be. When done correctly, natural search engine optimization can be your most effective method of bringing new visitors to your website.

Myth: SEO is a one-time event

Fact: The notion that you can improve your search ranking by just changing a few website components is false. Today, search engines look at dozens of factors to determine how relevant and useful your content is. 

Myth: Your goal is #1 ranking for your top keyword

Fact: While you should aim for the top position for a popular keyword, your real goal should be to rank near the top of results for dozens (if not hundreds) if different keyword combinations. A quick review of your website analytics will reveal that people find you through hundreds of different search queries. For this reason, you need to build your internet presence to be as large as possible.

Myth: Search optimization is a job for the web designer

Fact: Optimization is a strategic marketing function, and has nothing to do with design. It requires comprehensive keyword research, a knowledge of branding, and careful targeting of guest personas.

Myth: It's all about the rankings

Fact: It's actually all about how many qualified potential guests you bring to your website, and how many of them book a room. Rankings and overall traffic are meaningless unless you can convert that into sales.

For tactics that work, read Josiah's popular SEO Guide for Hotel Websites on the Hotel Marketing Blog.

This article was written by Josiah Mackenzie, Managing Director at Gradigio Hotel Marketing.


Josiah MacKenzie
Gradigio Hotel Marketing



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