Using Travel Reviews In Your Hotel’s Content Strategy

Have a look at any hotel marketing strategy, and the words content marketing will appear with almost 100% certainty. In 2015, content marketing is virtually synonymous with SEO. This is largely because traditional optimization techniques like keyword-rich copy and link building are now ubiquitous. Otherwise put, the search engines have had to up their algorithm game in order to return quality results since most companies finally got in on SEO.

So now Google values new kinds of content when ranking websites—the kind that is traveler created, the kind that is earned, quite possibly the kind that is posted on social media (though Google doesn’t admit to this, yet), and so forth. At the end of the day, content marketing is the rather complicated and most successful path to organic search rankings.

Do hotel search rankings still matter, you may ask, with the proliferation of OTA and meta-search sites that dominate hotel search engine results? And what about the fact that travelers are using social media more and more to research and plan travel?

The answer is still yes, organic search matters. According to Forrester Research organic search continues to be the #1 way US adults find websites. However, in order to compete in one of the most competitive industries in the world, hotels must be two steps ahead when it comes to organic search optimization. This means moving from traditional optimization techniques to using content as optimization across all channels.

While most hotels recognize the importance of travel reviews—in fact, reputation management has been listed by hotels as one of the top areas for budget increases in the coming year—reviews haven’t been considered under the umbrella of content. But that’s exactly what they are, and they belong in a content strategy for the following reasons.

Travel Reviews Are Earned Content: Encourage More of Them

According to MMYG there are four categories of content: earned, owned, curated, and sponsored. Earned content is the most valuable—and travel reviews are most definitely earned content.

Sure, you can set up elaborate strategies to encourage guests to promote your property, but you can also simply encourage them to complete a short survey to let their words do the heavy lifting (and gain unique content for your site).

User Experience Counts: Integrate Travel Reviews

TravelClick’s 2015 marketing strategy guide includes a very clear call to focus on user experience, as it “sits at the forefront of on-site optimization in 2015.” They suggest considering the 2:41 minute average time on site, 2.71 pages/visit, and 46.43 bounce rate (all on desktop) when determining how to improve user experience for increased search engine visibility. The bottom line really is that anything that truly improves the guest experience on a hotel website should influence organic rankings. To that end, it’s worth noting that 51% of American travelers desire user-generated content on a website.

Consider also that the more visually informative (note that this is different from visually attractive) a site is, the more likely a traveler is to recall it. A visual representation of travel reviews—such as Meta ReviewsTM—both improves the user experience but also offers a quick visual summary of how your hotel is performing across all verified review sites. Consider Meta ReviewsTM a form of visual storytelling for the travel consumer.

Travel Reviews are Branded Content: Branded Content Increases Rankings

With the introduction of Panda, Google is using implied links as a powerful ranking tool. Implied links simply indicate when a brand or website is mentioned even though it doesn’t include a URL. writer Jason DeMers notes that building relationships with brand advocates will become increasingly important in organic rankings, while MOZ suggests, “brand building is the way to win the organic visibility war.”

This is all to say that travelers are natural brand advocates, and they have the potential to exponentially increase brand content. Encourage guests to post reviews on travel sites, which will increase the prevalence of branded content. Additionally, a TrustYou survey pushed out to guests translates into another travel review rating and provides unique branded content for your hotel site.

The search landscape changes often but content has always been the foundation. At this stage, search engines are simply fine-tuning the way they consider content. For hotels this is fortunate, because travelers want reviews and giving this content to them also means increasing organic rankings.

*TrustYou’s Meta-Reviews are based solely on verified travel reviews from more than 250 sources worldwide. They do not include data from TripAdvisor.