Google rolled out a new algorithm update that is already causing widespread changes in both organic and local search engine rankings.
In August, Google rolled out a new algorithm update that is already causing widespread changes in both organic and local search engine rankings.
Although some specific types of websites appear to be affected more than others, all websites—including hotel and travel-related sites—should factor the latest criteria into their ongoing development and content plans.
Centered on the acronym E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness), the latest update is placing still-more emphasis on content quality and sourcing, as part of the search engine’s perpetual work to boost the relevance of its results. The new algorithm also appears to be favoring local business sites over broader, corporate pages.
“It would appear that the algorithm changes apply to both organic and local searches, rather than just organic searches,” said Sean Cornilliac, SEO Manager here at Tambourine. “Google says that it is trying to prioritize relevance, and we can surmise that it perhaps sees local businesses as being more relevant to searchers than large multi-nationals.”
The algorithm update is also connected to Google’s sustained efforts to prevent the practice of “keyword stuffing,” in which content is overloaded with targeted search terms, but may offer minimal information of use. Thus, the goal of E-A-T is to make hotel website designers write copy intended for real users, instead of search engine crawlers. So now more than ever, it’s best to strike a careful SEO balance, adding keywords carefully, while writing in a natural way.
“The ‘T’ in ‘E-A-T’ also becomes more important, as Google is working harder to determine which websites are the most trustworthy to show searchers,” according to another expert recent post on the subject.
“Hotels need to pay attention to EAT and take action to improve their trustworthiness in Google’s eyes.” Sean Cornilliac SEO Manager @ Tambourine
Focused on Health & Finance
At the moment, it seems the new algorithm is primarily affecting health and medicine-related websites, earning it the nickname, “The Medic Update.” It is also significantly impacting search rankings for what is known as “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) websites, such as those that handle online banking, e-commerce and investing, as well as sites that offer tips and advice on such subjects.
Hotel websites, while also impacted, are reportedly being affected at relatively lower levels than other websites. Still, there is a definite hotel/travel impact to the new Google algorithm, and therefore it’s essential to factor these changes into your company’s ongoing digital initiatives. There’s no “silver bullet” for the situation, Google says, other than continued content and website development.
“Google clearly states that there is no ‘fix’ for pages that perform less well,” said Cornilliac, “Other than to remain focused on building great content.”
How To ‘E-A-T’ Like A King
Google search relevance and site quality is primarily determined according to its Google Search Quality Evaluation Guidelines, which are used by more than 10,000 reviewers tasked with rating Google’s search results. Among those guidelines, E-A-T is cited as one of the key factors that determine the resulting Page Quality Ratings generated by reviewers.
Fortunately, there a number of things you can do to ensure great hotel website and search engine performance under the latest E-A-T algorithm criteria:
1. Commit to quality content
Granted, it’s easier said than done, but creating engaging, factual content about your region and destination is the key to driving hotel SEO rankings under the E-A-T algorithm and should be a main priority. Thin, outdated and spotty content simply isn’t going to cut it anymore; it’s vital to ensure the information presented in your content is current, robust and factual. Leverage inter-linking between posts on your site to make the content more comprehensive, provide links to sources and author bios for the purposes of fact-checking, and in the case of opinions, offer your justification/credentials to support those opinions.
For example, The Lotte NYC produces consistent, compelling content about New York City events and attractions that help the property build its (E) Expertise and (A) Authority for relevant NYC-related keyword searches:
2. Make your website trustworthy
There are also some technical, site-related steps you can take to improve your website’s E-A-T allure in the eyes of Google. This includes website trust-builders like converting the site to HTTPS and embracing GDPR regulations. You can also add or emphasize information on business policies like money-back guarantees, customer satisfaction promises, etc.
Visitors to non-secure hotel website pages will see this message… sure to cause abandonment
3. Reach your customers on social media
Social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube should be used in conjunction with hotel website content, in order to promote and validate the website. And as with your web content, social postings should strive to educate, inform and engage your users; misleading, untruthful and poorly sourced content should be avoided at all costs. If applicable, investigate plugins and apps that facilitate easy sharing of web content on social channels.
4. Add an ‘FAQ’ page
Devote time and resources (if needed) to create or expand your website’s frequently asked questions (FAQ) page, addressing the common concerns voiced by your customers. This bolsters your site’s perceived credibility in the eyes of Google, while also offering a genuinely valuable piece of content. Maintaining a solid FAQ is also linked to voice search optimization, so this effort can yield numerous benefits.
5. Revisit your ‘Contact Us’ page
The new Google algorithm is highly optimized for local SEO, with the idea that websites offering local information are more useful to searchers than sites that are decentralized or widespread. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that all local information for your business is up to date, including your “Contact Us” page. This includes embedding a Google map of your hotel’s location on the page, and updating/posting address info on each page, preferably in the footer.
This is especially important for hotels with significant F&B revenue and local visitation.
6. Cultivate your Google reviews
No one knows how much, but reviews certainly play a part in Google’s EAT score for your property.
Encourage customers to leave Google reviews for your hotel, including as always, a post-stay link for easy access to your reviews form or directly on Google or TripAdvisor. If your hotel is worth its salt, you needn’t worry about having perfect reviews; even neutral reviews are better than no reviews, according to Google, and a perfect score looks fake. Honesty and transparency are always the best policies. For more on the effects of reviews on your Google results, check out this great article from the folks at Trust You.
7. Add/enhance your ‘About Us’ page
Creating and/or beefing-up your hotel website’s “About Us” page offers numerous benefits, most notably, it adds credibility and relevance to the site’s content, so be sure to include all “social proof:” press mentions, awards, years in business and staff bios, in order to substantiate your standing as an expert source and trusted business.
And remember: This isn’t the first or last time Google will change its algorithm, so instead of trying to specifically “game” the new criteria, it’s always best to simply focus on employing a sound digital content strategy. If you continue to offer users transactional value and rich information, perpetually adding new useful content over time, the rest will fall in place.