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Free SEO Checklist for your Hotel Website

How often do you get emails from companies promising to get your hotel website ranked first on Google searches? These emails come out of the blue and share very little or no information about how exactly your site will get to the top.

Google strongly advises against making use of SEO services and make it clear that the claims made in these emails are false:

“No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.” – Google

SEO services are not only expensive and often ineffective – they have also caused many small businesses a lot of trouble by bringing about the exact opposite of what they promise…lower long-term search rankings.

A far better approach is to follow Google’s guidelines on what you could do on your own site to show that your hotel website is worth visiting. You or your web designer can make a big difference to your search engine performance without using SEO companies, and do so without breaking the bank.

In this post we’ll share two practical ways to improve your hotel website’s search engine optimisation by following best practices: Optimize page titles and create shareable content. We included a short checklist that you can use to get your website up to scratch.

1. Make sure your page titles are unique, short and relevant

What is a “Page Title” and how do I change it?

A page title or title tag is a short phrase that serves as the official name of any page on the internet. It is not clearly visible on a page, but defined in the HTML of your pages. Note that it often differs from the heading of your page.

A screenshot illustrating how a page title differs from a heading. The page title is found in the 'Title bar' on your web browser, while the heading is what you see on the page.

At this point you might be thinking: “HTML-what?! How am I supposed to see, let alone change, HTML?”

The simple answer is: you don’t have to! Most content management systems (the software used to build your website) make it easy to edit page titles. If you edit your own website, you should be able to find a section in any page’s settings to change the page title. The setting is often found under a “SEO Settings” section and labeled as “Meta title”, “Title tag” or “Page title”.

If you can’t find the SEO section or your CMS does not allow custom page titles, a quick email to your web designer should be enough to get your page titles updated.

Why page titles are so important for SEO

Search engines, such as Google, use the page title tag to identify what a page is about. Search engine users often see the page title in search results, where the title serves as a link to your page:

A screenshot of a Google search result, displaying how the page title is used as a link to your page.

Choose unique, descriptive page titles

Google’s webmaster guidelines make it clear that every page on your website should have a unique title, different from all the other pages on your site. Search engines and users need to have a quick way to distinguish pages.

Page title examples

Let’s imagine a boutique hotel, Beach Manor in Knysna, with two different room types: Double rooms and Suites. The hotel has a unique page for each room type, describing the rooms, amenities and rates independently. If the page title for both room types were simply “Accommodation” or “Rooms”, search engines and users who find your hotel in search results will have a hard time knowing what the page is about before actually reading the content.

In the example above, good page titles for the two different room types would be: “Affordable Double Room Accommodation, Beach Manor Hotel, Knysna” and “Luxurious Suites, Beach Manor Hotel, Knysna”. These titles give the user a short, unique insight into what the pages are about, while showing the products in a flattering light, using keywords travelers might use to search for accommodation. Note the differentiation of product features in the titles.

Page titles should be shorter than 70 characters

Google does not display more than about 70 characters of a page title in search results. Make sure to get the most important and descriptive words in the first 70 letters, or your users will never see what you think is important.

Relevant page titles

Simply choosing keyword-rich page titles to try and fool search engines will not help your search ranking. In fact, if Google thinks you are using page titles to cram in as many keywords as you can without offering value to users, they might penalize you with lower search rankings.

Make sure the page titles you choose contain only a few important keywords, focusing on the main content of that particular page.

What you can do right now:

  • Make sure page titles are unique for every page, throughout your website.
  • Check that page titles describe the page’s content in an enticing manner, so that users will want to click on search results.
  • Keep your page titles short (under 70 characters), or at least get the important parts in the very beginning.
  • Don’t stuff page titles with irrelevant keywords in the hopes to fool Google.
  • Save our Hotel Website SEO Checklist and assess your website’s page titles.

2. Create quality content worth sharing or linking to

When we talk about web content, we refer to the text, images and videos that make up your web pages. We’ll discuss three different types of pages with different content goals: Product description pages (e.g. room types or the hotel restaurant), location or amenity pages (e.g. activities near the hotel), and blog posts or news articles:

Quality content on hotel product pages

Product pages should inform prospective guests about exactly what they can expect at your hotel. Make it clear how the hotel looks, what they will get and how much they will pay to enjoy your services.

All of this is extremely important, but only once a user is actually viewing your page, but how do we ensure they find and visit your product pages?

An obvious way to get more eyes on your pages, is to use stunning visuals that users would want to share and link to. Professional photography is extremely important on hotel websites.

With regards to text, describe your product in a way that highlights the unique experiences that they offer. For example, instead of describing a room as having “Sea Views”, you could describe what is unique about your hotel’s sea views. Flowery adjectives do not make your content more unique, any seaside hotel can claim to have “spectacular sea views” or “the best sea views”. Try describing what a visitor will be seeing and what she could experience, e.g. “180 degree views of the Knysna Heads meeting the Indian Ocean, perfect for a scenic sundowner”. Make your products sound unique and desirable without using flowery language, and website visitors will want to share your content with others.

Special offers and packages are also often shared by visitors. If you have a special rate for popular dates or events, make sure to make it clear how great the deal is or what makes your package a unique experience worth linking to.

Location and Attraction pages

Location is just as important to your hotel online as it is offline. You are surrounded by great content!

Illustration showing how there might be attractions all around your hotel worth finding. The illustration consists of a stylized hotel in the center, with icons representing attractions surrounding it.

Travelers searching for accommodation or planning a holiday often search for keywords that are not directly related to your product. For example, a traveler might search for “golf holidays in knysna”. Make sure you have pages that are tangentially related to your hotel. A page about the golf courses near your hotel in Knysna might have caught the traveler in the previous example’s eye.

If your content about the surrounds is thorough and truthful, others may even see your hotel website as a valuable source of information for your location and link to you.

Bonus tip: If you are fortunate enough to have a concierge, use them as a valuable source of content for your website.

Shareable blog posts and news articles

When creating timely content on your blog, make sure to highlight current events or recent positive news in your area. Even if you only have the time and resources to write an article a week, a blog post every now and then can vastly improve your reach on search engines.

Once again, focus on content that users will want to share. Something funny, romantic or unique happened at your hotel? Write a three paragraph blog post about it and throw in a photo if you have one! A blog is all about being social and sharing content.

Blog posts don’t have to be focused on your hotel, though. You can write about events and happenings in your surroundings if you have the capacity – website visitors will thank you for it and once again see you as an authoritative source of timely information about your location.

Helping users share your content

Now we have covered the basics of content that website visitors might want to link to, make sure you enable them to share your content as easily as possible. We have a great post about social sharing on hotel websites with tips on how to include sharing buttons on your pages.

You can also kickstart sharing by using your personal or business social accounts (Twitter or Facebook Pages) to share content with your followers.

What you can do right now:

  • Highlight unique features on your product pages.
  • Get a professional photographer to take some stunning pictures of your products and add them to your product pages.
  • Create pages for special offers and packages (make a note to update them to indicate that the special has ended once over)
  • Create pages about your location and attractions near your hotel. (Make use of your concierge’s knowledge here.)
  • Write timely blog posts and articles about events at or around your hotel.
  • Read our post about helping users to share your content.
  • Save our Hotel Website SEO Checklist and assess your website’s content.

SEO Checklist for your Hotel Website

Download our short SEO checklist here to measure your website’s current SEO and see where you can improve step by step.

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