Ah Google! It has been here for so long, doesn’t it seem like it’s part of you? My goal is to show you as a hotel how Google works, and what tactics you can use, from minimum viable tactics to kick ass search domination all in one handy blog post.
The anatomy of the search results page
So my lovely people, have you looked at what appears when you search, as a potential guest may search? I have handily screenshotted it below, and colour-coded the various blocks for the term “Hotels in Liverpool”.
1) Adwords – you can get into this by doing a pay-per-click Adwords campaign (A topic for another day).
2) Organic search results – Note how this is dominated by big travel sites, with the odd hotel in. I’ll show you how they got there.
3) Google Plus Local (Google Place For Business) – Wow, look at the emphasis on these map related relevant results, and you too probably can get in here!
4) Google’s Hotel Finder – Another way Google monetise cities/larger areas. Lucky you if this doesn’t appear for your term or you are a “bed and breakfast in <town>”
5) Related Information – How the hell did this hotel get their Wikipedia here!? Genius. Google often plays with what it displays, this is one such variant. Doesn’t mean it’s here to stay.
6) Related Searches – Useful in working out “what do people search for?” and you can work on these keywords
The first point I want to make is that you could theoretically appear in 3 or more of these places on this search term first page. You could appear organically, in the map section (Google Places for business) and Adwords. Oh, and via 3rd parties travel agencies listings. That would mean that you have first page dominance and more likely to get a clicks and custom.
What are the keywords people type in, and how many searches are there?
So we’ve seen the search results page, and where you could get a listing. Let’s ask another key question; is it worth my effort trying to get these Google searches?
Well, another Google tool has the answer to this: The Adwords Keyword tool. You’ll need an Adwords account (free, no need to spend anything). Sign in an, go to “Tools and analysis” then “Keyword tool” and enter some search terms:
So you can see clearly that people (165,000 a month) search for “hotels in Liverpool”, and it’s a target worth going after. However, where it says “competition: high” it probably means you both have a small chance of getting there organically, and the paid for Adwords competition is tough.
So what can you go after? Well, look down what’s called the long tail, and consider terms like “Boutique hotels in Liverpool” or “cheap hotels in Liverpool city centre”. If you are a property in a smaller or less competitive town, then you should try and hit the main keywords.
More on how to go after these search terms in a bit. Right now, I want you to check and do something that if you haven’t done could bring you a whole bunch of free traffic from Google.
Google Plus Local (merged with Google Places for Business)
The biggest thing that you can do with near immediate impact, for little effort is take ownership of your Google Plus Page. As this is a Google product, guess what!? Google thinks that it’s important. It related to sections I’ve labelled 3 + 4 in the graphic above.
Google is trying to have a page for every business (and probably every coffee cup) in the world. It’s a combination of business classification (like Yellow Pages), and location. Google had to do something as businesses were gaming its traditional organic results. Also, it helps get Google ready for the mobile web, which is all about where you are and feeding you relevant information to what you want and where you are.
Taking ownership of your Google Plus Page is easy! Search for yourself in your city on Google and you should see a red map dot, below your search engine listing, click on the “6 Google reviews” bit (show purple below), if after several searches you can’t find your red dot self, go here and sign up http://www.google.com/+/business/
If you hadn’t seen this page before and wonder where Google got it from Google has bought the data of all businesses from various sources (like Thomson Local, etc).
Okay to take ownership on your Google Plus Place for business page click on the “Manage my Page” the red button on the right hand side of the page. You will then be asked to fill in a bunch of information. and verify ownership, this usually you can chose to do over an automated phone call where they ring your registered phone and give you a pin number, which you put in to their website.
You should definitely include the words “hotel in Liverpool” (or similar!) in your description, make sure your map placeholder is correct, add at least 5 photos, add as many relevant amenities as you can think of: “beach: 5 mins walk” etc.
One top tip is if you have a video of your place on YouTube.com – Wait! What you haven’t?! Go get your smartphone and do a quick guests walkthrough and post it to YouTube.com – Then add your YouTube.com video share URL on this page, because guess what?! As it’s another Google owned website, you are showing you love Google, and in return they may extend you some favour.
Now once verified, you have a chance of appearing in the map section of your search results.
If you encourage a few guest reviews on this new page, then you can also increase your chances of appearing in this section and higher up on the Google Hotel Finder (more in a mo).
The importance of mobile
Also, try searching for hotels in your town on a smart phone, when you click the individual results, it takes you to the Google business page, NOT your website. And as nearly 20% of searches are on mobile, you can’t ignore this platform.
The organic ranking, relevance and authority
So lets go back to the organic results section, I’ve labelled these section 2 in my screenshot at the top of this page.
I could give the you the Google history how it came to be the #1 search engine because it worked out relevancy and authority. But suffice it to say, that to appear in the organic section, you have to have a website that is both relevant to “Hotels in Liverpool”, and authoritative amongst the many websites in the “hotels”, “Liverpool” and “hotels in Liverpool” spaces.
So Google analyses your web pages and works out what they are about, so if you have tons of text on your site about “This is a family friendly hotel in Liverpool city centre”, guess what? Google picks up on this.
So you need to ask your web designer to do a search engine optimisation sweep of your website. This wont take them long.
Here are some things they could do toward your new target keyword “Boutique Hotels in Liverpool”:
- Add relevant meta descriptions to all pages
- Optimise the <title> tag & the <h1> tags
- Include relevant keywords in the first paragraph of each page, particularly the homepage
- Have relevant file names
- Submit a website map to Google Webmaster tools
But often relevancy is not enough in competitive search terms. Google also needs to know that you are trusted. If the BBC news website wrote an article on hotels in Liverpool and linked from their article to you, then this is like a gift from heaven, as the BBC is up there as one of the worlds most trusted sources. By linking to you they are lending you their authority, and thus your trust increases by reference, and increases your likelihood of a higher ranking in the organic section of search results. Phew!
So the next strategy is: whenever you do press to ask for a link from their online news source to you.
You may want to extend this by putting your news out as a general release on a newswire service like http://ukservice.prweb.com/pricing/ or http://get.mynewsdesk.com. Often PR agencies have super accounts at these places can a cheaper price per release.
For a more advanced technique, you can use a tool like http://www.opensiteexplorer.org/ to see which directories and websites your competitor hotels have backlinks on, and consider whether to attempt to get links from these sources too, or to pay for a listing.
The content creation plan
If you are serious about getting in the organic listings, then a content creation plan is the long term surefire way to hit related keywords and eventually your target keywords.
Google likes both relevant content and websites that are frequently updated.
In a nutshell you should post regularly to your news/blog section of you website with posts that mention the words “hotel”, “Liverpool”, and words like “cheap”, “boutique”, “accommodation”.
It’s relatively easy to come up with news and blog posts once you open up what you allow to published on your hotel website:
- Offers that you have running
- What’s new in the hotel? Any renovations, new staff or new menu items?
- Did a guest have an amazing experience?
- Any excuse to post up pics: sunrise, delicious dinners, happy guests
- What’s going on in the town centre, sports local, or the immediate vicinity that you are in?
- Anything to do with seasons, Valentines, Easter, Christmas, etc
A news item can be written in 20 minutes, assuming you have a content management system. Wait! Not got a content management system?! Ask your web designer, how much!?
And you want to post at least 1 news item a week. So that over a year, your footprint on the web will have increased to 52 new pages, that’s a much bigger footprint than previously and more for Google to get its teeth into.
If you really want to embrace this strategy consider finding a student or recent journalism graduate (try www.gumtree.co.uk) that can take on this task for you. Even if they have a 3 minute weekly phone call with you, this is often enough to get ideas for 2 news stories.
There are two more parts to a content creation plan that you can build on once you have the basics:
- Post to your social resources, e.g. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.com. As Google is increasingly taking into account these social signals
- Guest post to other websites. E.g. Travel websites, local news sites, local blogs, hotel industry websites. Ensuring that you get your link back to your website. Most websites want content, so an email asking them if they’d like an article on something relevant, may get a positive response
Google Hotel Finder
So! The Google Hotel Finder (item 4 in my screenshot at the top of the page) appears in Google search results for hotel searches only (not Bed & breakfast) and in larger geographical areas and cities.
In a nutshell it’s a way of delivering more relevant results to users, keeping people longer on Google and of course making Google money. It brings together the hotels, the map, the Google places for business, third party travel agencies and Adwords.
If you have a Google Plus page for Business, you can appear here, and if you use a third party booking agency like Booking.com, then your prices will appear here too, there’s no direct way to get listed (currently).
I’ll probably write a whole post about website Analytics. Suffice it to say:
To effectively search market you should know what keywords people are searching for, and how many clicks you are getting on your website from what search terms, and arriving on what pages. You can then refine your keyword marketing accordingly
So if you haven’t got Analytics set up, get it. And either get your web designer to set up the sending of an automatic detailed Google Analytics report. Or take time each month to understand the: Traffic sources > Search > Organic report.
So here’s an idea for a strategy: For each keyword that you rank on and get traffic for, go back to Google do a search and see where you rank for that keyword. If you are on page 3 with 20 visits a month from that keyword, having a content plan towards that keyword, could bring you to page 2 and 80 visits a month.
N.B. You have to be sure Google doesn’t personalise its results to you. To do this open a private browsing window. In Chrome Press Cntrl + Shift + N. In Internet Explorer press Cntrl + Shift + P.
The advanced strategy is to have goal tracking set up, so that you can see which keywords go through to booking completion, which is a more accurate measure of if a keyword is not only bringing you visits, but they are actually booking.
Adwords to SEO via Analytics
Adwords is a whole post in its own right. However, worth a mention here, is if you’ve done an Adwords campaign, and found that a keyword is working for you. This is a prime candidate keyword for working on as part of your content marketing plan.