News for the Hospitality Executive
Innocent Ignorance or Crime and Punishment:
The Perils of Duplicate Hotel Web Content
By Max Starkov, January 25, 2010
Duplicate Web Content Defined
Duplicate Web content is when two web pages with different
“largely identical content.” These two pages may reside on the same
(internal duplication) or on two different sites with two completely
core URLs (external duplication).
What are the reasons for duplicate Web content?
In some cases duplicate content is a result of hoteliers’ “innocent ignorance”. Example: a hotel signs up with an online travel agency (OTA) and completes the OTA questionnaire, providing the OTA with hotel descriptions which are an identical copy of the content descriptions from the hotel own website. When the OTA publishes these descriptions on its own website without editing or altering them in any significant manner, then we have a clear case of duplicate content under two different core URLs (external duplication).
An example of internal duplication is printer-only versions of web pages on the hotel website.
In other cases content is deliberately duplicated across the Web in an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings or win more traffic. These deceptive practices are usually performed by shady SEO vendors or self-taught in-house “experts”.
In all cases, in the eyes of the search engines such duplicate content practices, if served within the search engine results, result in a poor user experience.
Duplicate Content and the Search Engines
Generally speaking, search engines hate duplicate content. Why? The search engines are working very hard to index and show pages with distinct information. For them duplicate information is not beneficial to the search engine users and inhibits the user experience. Duplicate content is “spam.” This is the reason why when two or more Web pages are identified as "too similar", one or more of those Web pages usually disappear from the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Google’s own guidelines to webmasters are very clear: “Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.”
The search engines perform duplicate content filtering throughout the three main parts of the search engine process: spidering or crawling, indexing, and query processing. In this way some duplicate content is filtered out before Web pages are even added to the search engine index, some during the process of cataloguing new content (indexing), and later, when responding to user searches and serving the SERPs. The end result is that typically duplicate content is not displayed in the search results.
What do the search engines do when they discover duplicate content?
Internal Duplication:Hotel Websites and Duplicate Content
Providing content about the hotel to other sites is inevitable on the Web. This is not a new phenomenon. All hotels provide hotel and room descriptions to various third-party sites, branding and distribution partners, etc:
In other words, hoteliers cannot avoid sharing content descriptions about their hotel with other sites. But hoteliers have to be very smart about it and avoid providing duplicate content to any external distribution or marketing partner site. Unfortunately, this has been a serious problem in the industry for many years: hoteliers provide the third-party sites with exactly the same content descriptions found on their websites. Why? It is much easier to “copy and paste” than write “significantly different” hotel and room descriptions.
The inevitable result of the existing practices is that many of these third-party sites like the OTAs know SEO (search engine optimization) techniques far better than the hotels do, and the result is that the OTA listings end up higher in the search engine rankings than the property’s own content.
Unique Content to the Rescue
So what should hoteliers do to avoid their own sites being excluded from the search engine results or not indexed at all by the search engines, or being ranked lower than third-party sites?
To begin with, avoid duplicate content at all cost. Make sure that all content descriptions about the hotel are “significantly different” across the Web:
By providing unique hotel and hotel product descriptions on
own website, your site will have a clear advantage in the eyes of
users and search engines alike, compared to all other sites that
duplicate content descriptions about your hotel. Therefore, creating
the best, deepest, most unique and relevant content (textual and
about your hotel on your own website, naturally optimized for the
engines (SEO) as per best practices, should become a top priority for
hotel in 2010.
Sharing textual and visual content about your hotel with third-party distribution and marketing sites is inevitable. In the same time hoteliers should avoid at all costs having content from their own website duplicated on other sites to avoid the hotel site from being marginalized in the search engine results or de-listed by the search engines altogether.
Hoteliers should strive to create the best, deepest, most SEO-friendly and unique content (textual and visual) about your hotel on your own website, complimented with the following action steps in 2010 aiming to position your hotel website as the most sought-after source of information about your hotel:
Max Starkov is Chief eBusiness Strategist at Hospitality eBusiness Strategies (HeBS), the industry’s leading Internet marketing strategy consulting firm for the hospitality vertical, is 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 ROIs.
A diverse client portfolio of over 500 top tier major hotel brands, luxury and boutique hotel brands, resorts and casinos, hotel management companies, franchisees and independents, and CVBs 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 2010 Top Ten Internet Marketing Resolutions / Max Starkov & Mariana Mechoso Safer / January 2010|