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Greece, Google, & Good Content

Over the weekend I decided to plan a big, belated birthday trip, and the world really is my oyster. I have no one else to compromise with on destination or accommodations. My inspiration was a Travel & Leisure article about inexpensive flights, including flights from NY to Milan. This, of course, led to a lot of flitting around the internet researching the many different destinations I might enjoy, and now here I am researching a trip to Skiathos, Greece and weighing all the pro’s and con’s of the political situation alongside getting to check the Greek Isles off my travel bucket list.

Skiathos looks like paradise.
Skiathos looks like paradise.

My point in telling you this story is that the moment of inspiration (as you’ll recall it was cheap flights to Milan) often quickly morphs into an altogether different trip, and the way travelers arrive at their final destination has changed substantially in recent years. Case in point, I have yet to run a Google search on anything about this trip except a remote Greek destination I’d never heard of. This isn’t to say that Google searches aren’t still critical; in fact, exactly the opposite is true. And here’s why.

My search thus far has included Facebook, online magazine articles, and OTAs (I am one of those 51% of travelers who do some of their inspirational searching on intermediary sites). As my decision funnel narrows, I will get more specific about what I’m looking for, and no doubt, I will absolutely find my accommodations using a combination of travel review sites, OTAs, and direct searches.

Because travelers are diversifying their process, and they aren’t relying on the Google search for as many aspects of their decision as they used to, it’s that much more critical that hotels and hospitality providers are front and center when travelers do take to the search engine to compare rates and amenities. Nobody is going to the second page of search results. It’s page one or die when it comes to appearing for your hotel brand name or long-tail searches such as “Athens hotel in Paleo Faliro.”

With Google’s recent algorithm updates, a hotel’s ability to make an appearance on the first page is guided more than anything by trustworthy, quality content. Google really understands what travelers want, and the search engine is looking to see if you do, too. Serving up anything but the most relevant, engaging material will only hurt your cause. Expanding your idea of what constitutes content can, however, make a difference. For instance, pushing out guest feedback surveys that can be fed directly to your website—and to Google—qualifies as unique and highly relevant content. Using that information in the form of rich snippets also qualifies as useful content and can make a hotel website competitive with the high-powered OTAs for rankings.

In terms of more traditional content, traveler- and hotel-generated video and images can offer a powerful boost as long as it serves the traveler (that is, as long as it doesn’t appear to be too gimmicky or promotional). As well, dive deeper into guest segments to craft content. Perhaps your property is after the family reunion market or the military market. Write content specifically toward these groups.

Also consider guest bloggers and their ability to generate social signals that will get attention. For instance, a local food writer may have a solid following and could bring a lot of attention to the hotel blog just by shares and re-shares of a post about local restaurants.

Getting creative is important but being strategic in terms of the value of content that Google desires when considering traveler needs is the ultimate goal in a rankings strategy. Now, I’m off to consider the rest of those Greek Islands. Avtio!