The travel industry is changing. The lower costs of travel combined with the ease of booking online has created more business for the industry than ever. In 2014, Google conducted a study of leisure and business travelers that provided great insight into how potential guests conduct their travel planning online.
A website that works well and ranks high in search engines is no longer optional. With new players in the industry like Airbnb competing for traveler interest, it’s important to understand how search engines see your hotel and what can be improved to capture more business online. As players like TripAdvisor and Google themselves enter the hotel reservation business, independent establishments need to create ways to set themselves apart and take advantage of these new trends.
This is an excerpt of our Hotelier’s Guide to Google SEO. CLICK HERE to access the full guide.
Creating a Mobile-Friendly Website
With over half of travelers using their smartphones during the travel planning process, a mobile-friendly website is no longer optional to compete in the modern web. Today’s best SEO practices are not just about keywords and content, but also about providing the best possible user experience for the users of your website. According to Google, that now includes mobile usability, as it has recently made mobile usability a direct ranking factor in its Search Algorithm. Though mobile devices have come a long way in terms of power and speed, it’s easy to forget that great-looking pages might not always load properly on smaller screen sizes.
It’s a good idea to take advantage of the diagnostic tools Google offers to see how usable your website is on mobile devices. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool includes diagnoses on mobile User Experience.
According to the latest statistics, internet usage on mobile devices is now higher than traditional desktops. It is not unsurprising then that Google just recently announced another ranking boost for mobile-friendly websites. As of March of 2016, mobile-friendly websites are now prioritized in search results. So, if you don’t optimize your website for mobile, your site’s search results will suffer dramatically.
In the past, it was a much simpler task to increase rankings in Google, but as technology has evolved, so has Google’s Search Algorithm. It is no longer enough to have keyword optimized content and an aesthetically pleasing website, as Google now takes mobile usability very much into account when determining the rank of your hotel’s website in the search results.
The websites of today need to look great and work well and all devices. In the end, it is about allowing your guests to easily obtain the information they need and providing a positive experience. Not only will this help to increase your website’s rankings in the search results, but it will also drive more direct bookings.
With over half of business and leisure travelers using their smartphone at some point during the travel planning process, it is essential that those users are well accommodated in your hotel’s digital experience.
Printed marketing materials are manufactured at a printing company and distributed as needed. Every person who receives a brochure from your hotel gets the same final product. This is not the case for digital materials. Websites are viewed on a variety of devices with varying screen sizes, which means your website needs to be able to adapt on the fly.
Of all the methods of achieving mobile usability available, responsive design is the preferred one. Responsive design helps smartphone users browse the internet without having to constantly zoom in and pan across pages that were designed for computer monitors. It is able to accomplish this by dynamically reorganizing the elements on the page based on the size of the screen displaying it.
If the website for your hotel is not responsive, discuss options with your team. While you will not receive a penalty for a lack of mobile-friendliness, Google’s Search Algorithm will be giving ranking boosts to your mobile-friendly competitors.
As user experience is becoming a more important factor in SEO with each passing year, it is becoming increasingly critical that your pages load at an acceptable pace. Google has even spoken on the issue specifically, suggesting that PageSpeed is a direct ranking factor in their Search Algorithm.
Even though your site quickly appears on a computer, the same may not be true for mobile devices. Fortunately for hoteliers and webmasters, Google has provided a set of diagnostic tools for exactly this in Google PageSpeed Insights. Google PageSpeed is a combination of tools and analytics that allow you to understand how well your page is loading on both mobile and desktop, as well as correct problems uncovered in the analytics. Pass these tools along to your developer or webmaster to start taking advantage of these insights.