How can hotels stand out in local SEO?

Local SEO has grown in impor­tance over the last few years and I’ve seen this no bet­ter exem­pli­fied than in hotel mar­ket­ing. Local SEO seems pret­ty self-explana­to­ry – it’s a branch of SEO that impacts local results, which are often per­son­alised for the con­sumer. But the...

Stacy Nelson By Stacy Nelson from Big Partnership. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Local SEO has grown in impor­tance over the last few years and I’ve seen this no bet­ter exem­pli­fied than in hotel mar­ket­ing. Local SEO seems pret­ty self-explana­to­ry – it’s a branch of SEO that impacts local results, which are often per­son­alised for the con­sumer. But the imple­men­ta­tion of this, like so much in SEO, has become a fine art: a del­i­cate bal­ance between a com­pre­hen­sive cam­paign and toe­ing Google’s guide­lines.

As hotels fight against the gar­gan­tu­an SEO pow­er of online trav­el agents (OTAs), local map pack results are a key oppor­tu­ni­ty to get to the top of search engine results pages. And even there, the com­pe­ti­tion is stiff. Where there used to be sev­en avail­able spots to rank in local results on page one, now there are only three. And the recent intro­duc­tion of four ads on top has pushed local results down below the fold.

There are plen­ty of resources avail­able to guide SEOs and hote­liers through the basics of local SEO. But if everyone’s doing the same thing, how can one hotel come out on top? Here are some advanced tips to get into the map pack.

More than citations: local outreach strategy

As qual­i­ty links are a key rank­ing fac­tor, local links are essen­tial for your local SEO strat­e­gy. This means find­ing geo­graph­i­cal­ly rel­e­vant web­sites – news, blogs and direc­to­ries – and build­ing a rela­tion­ship with them to cre­ate nat­ur­al links. Just as links from sites in your indus­try build top­i­cal rel­e­vance, links from local web­sites build local rel­e­vance.

Since links to a near­by busi­ness in a local pub­li­ca­tion are actu­al­ly use­ful for their read­ers or vis­i­tors, you’re also more like­ly to get rel­e­vant traf­fic to your site with these links. And it works both ways, so don’t be afraid to return the favour by link­ing to some attrac­tions that guests can vis­it from your hotel. Out­go­ing links to near­by busi­ness­es and web­sites increase the link between your site and local­i­ty for search engines, fur­ther boost­ing your local rank­ings.

You can also lever­age exist­ing rela­tion­ships in your area. Part­ner­ing with neigh­bour­ing busi­ness­es or spon­sor­ing a local sports team are both great ways to get your brand name out there and cre­ate nat­ur­al oppor­tu­ni­ties for links.

Creating useful local content

A lot of hotel web­sites fol­low sim­i­lar pat­terns when it comes to con­tent. They include plen­ty about their hotels – rooms, restau­rants, offers and events – but con­tent about the town or city is often sparse. Some real­ly use­ful local con­tent that your guests will be gen­uine­ly inter­est­ed in is a great way to break away from the pack.

It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that many hotel guests are not there to see the four walls of their room and the hotel bar. While some guests will choose your hotel because it’s con­ve­nient to what they’re in town for – a wed­ding, meet­ing or event – most of your guests will be tourists dur­ing their stays. Push for their book­ings not only with sales talk, but by get­ting them inter­est­ed in what they can see and do around your hotel. This can include mon­u­ments, events, walk­ing tours or shop­ping streets.

Most hotels shy away from men­tion­ing oth­er bars and restau­rants, as they want guests to fre­quent their bar and restau­rant. While your in-house facil­i­ties are a great way to upsell to your guests, it’s like­ly they’ll want to dis­cov­er the local area, too. Be brave and let them know the best places to go around and about your hotel – your guests will thank you for it.

In-depth local con­tent is also inher­ent­ly more link-wor­thy than sales pages and pro­mo­tion­al con­tent. This is espe­cial­ly true if you’re men­tion­ing busi­ness­es in the area that may share the con­tent with their users or if you’re pro­vid­ing a unique take on your area. If you’re not sure where to start, get some great ideas for unique local con­tent here (or get in touch with some friend­ly hotel mar­ket­ing experts).

Promote your individuality

As of 2015, there were 1,494 hotels in Lon­don with over 70,000 rooms. There’s no doubt that all of those hotels would like first page rank­ings for high-vol­ume terms like “hotels in Lon­don”, which is searched for over 100,000 times in an aver­age month.

But high search vol­ume and a flood­ed mar­ket make this a high­ly com­pet­i­tive term. In the local map pack for that search, the aver­age room rate is £375 per night. Essen­tial­ly, the hotels with more mon­ey to invest in mar­ket­ing are win­ning the top spots. The next organ­ic hotel rank­ing is at posi­tion 15, halfway down the sec­ond page of the search results.

So with only 0.2% of London’s hotels on page one for such a com­pet­i­tive term, how can small and medi­um hotels fight back? The key is in your hotel’s unique aspects. “Bou­tique hotels in Lon­don” has a not unim­pres­sive month­ly search vol­ume of 720 and there are arguably few­er hotels that fit the bill. Or maybe your hotel is near the Lon­don Zoo (1,000 search­es) or you have a spa (1,600 search­es).

Pro­mot­ing these unique aspects on your web­site allows you to stand out against your com­peti­tors and makes it eas­i­er for your ide­al guests to find you quick­ly. With less com­pe­ti­tion, you’re more like­ly to rank in search and with more spe­cif­ic search terms, you’re more like­ly to get the right guests onto your site.

Don’t forget about secondary offerings

Ear­li­er I men­tioned pro­mot­ing near­by restau­rants and bars in order to build local rel­e­vance for your hotel – and I’m sure many hote­liers gasped at the idea. But I haven’t for­got­ten about your sec­ondary offer­ings and nei­ther should you!

If, like most hotels, you have facil­i­ties open to the pub­lic as well as guests, it’s worth pro­mot­ing these with their own local cam­paigns. This means cre­at­ing indi­vid­ual Google Maps list­ings for the restau­rant, bar and any oth­er facil­i­ties, like spa, gym or café. Then, like any oth­er local SEO effort, build cita­tions, links and pro­mote local con­tent for them, too. If done prop­er­ly, this will result in a broad­er key­word pool that reach­es a wider group of poten­tial cus­tomers.

This can be a time-inten­sive under­tak­ing for hotels with mul­ti­ple loca­tions, but it can be even more reward­ing. Build­ing a cus­tomer base for one hotel cre­ates brand advo­ca­cy and loy­al­ty – and those cus­tomers will like­ly need a hotel room at some point. If they’re already famil­iar with your brand, they have more rea­son to book one of your hotels when they trav­el.

It can feel like SEO in the hotel space is an uphill strug­gle, with OTAs dom­i­nat­ing the top organ­ic search posi­tions. But what OTAs lack are fixed address­es – so hotels are only up against each oth­er in local search results. To get ahead, get focused on an advanced local SEO strat­e­gy – it’s now more essen­tial than ever before.

Stacy Nelson

Written by Stacy Nelson

SEO and Analytics Manager, Big Partnership

Stacy Nelson oversees everything SEO at Big Partnership – an integrated PR and digital marketing agency in Glasgow.

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