Research The Independent Hotel Series – Part II: Optimizing Your Website Laura Badiu // October 12, 2017 // 8 minute read Last week we started our Independent Hotel Series, as an extension of our latest eBook: Branding Without The Brand Name - An independent Hoteliers Guide To Building Brand Value. In the first part of the blog series we discussed why it’s crucial for independent hoteliers to acknowledge what makes their hotel stand out in a highly competitive market and how to make sure that the best traits and features of the hotel contribute to the traveler’s booking decision process. Now it’s time to talk about your hotel’s virtual business card: the website. It’s no secret anymore that we live in the era of technology, online world and social media and that’s not at all a bad thing. We all embrace the changes and the evolution of things and ever since its debut, the world wide web has been making our lives easier. For businesses, having a strong internet presence is a must and it’s the only way of getting a great level of visibility, that you would not get otherwise. Therefore, it’s only natural to strongly focus on your hotel’s website; in the eyes of the traveler, this is the first impression and we all know that there are no second chances when it comes to the first impression. Not having a properly optimized website means automatically losing points in the eyes of the travelers and it can cost you bookings Let’s dive a bit into what can you do to ensure that your independent hotel’s website is noticed by travelers and how you can turn it into the number one source for direct bookings. Starting with a highly popular and important feature, SEO is definitely something that hoteliers need to focus on. Basically, anyone in charge of a website should learn the basics of the SEO, since it’s the thing that can make or break your online presence. Search Engine Optimization is a methodology of strategies, techniques, and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine, including Google, Bing, Yahoo, and others. A properly optimized website will rank higher in the search results, which translates into more chances of being noticed by travelers. The great thing about SEO is that it enables organic visibility, which means that there are no costs to it and it does not discriminate. Big hotel chain or independent hotel, when it comes to SEO, everyone gets a fair chance. A strong and optimized SEO enables a higher visibility on Google Now that we know what SEO does, let’s see how you can improve it. First of all, making sure that your website contains links (both internal and external) means that you enable more access to both your pages and other websites. Internally, you can link to your contact page, the gallery or any other relevant page and externally, it’s recommended to refer to other websites, such as local restaurants, attractions, anything of relevance to your hotel and its location/features. SEO also depends on user generated content (UGC), which is, as the name implies, content coming from users (in this case, guests/travelers). This is one more reason why it’s crucial to constantly engage with your guests and to have them participate in the overall visibility and success of your business. The best ways of receiving UGC is by asking for reviews and overall feedback from your guests. A survey tool such as the one integrated into the TrustYou platform can help you reach out to guests and ask for their feedback, which can ultimately be integrated on your hotel website, resulting in better SEO. We are now making our way to rich snippets, which you might have heard of already. Nevertheless, here’s a proper definition: rich snippets are basically extra pieces of information that Google allows websites to display in the search results, under the page title and URL. It has been proven that rich snippets have the power to increase the click-through rates up to 30% if they are used properly and they provide additional, engaging and relevant information. Rich snippets provide the perfect way of displaying the most important features of a hotel, in the eyes of the traveler: location, price, and rating. At first glance, implementing rich snippets can seem a bit harder than it actually is - it’s all about adding rich snippets within your site’s HTML as microdata. Just start by displaying relevant information, such as your hotel’s positive reputation, and ensure that travelers don’t scroll past your hotel. Don’t forget that rich snippets can help improve your ranking, ultimately driving more bookings and revenue. The Meta-Review provides a summarized overview of your hotel’s most notable traits Although feedback has been around since the beginning of time, it has recently developed into this new concept: Meta-Review. We live in a fast-paced world and today’s consumers want the quickest and most effective way of evaluating a hotel’s reputation, in order to be able to make a booking decision. A previous study of ours revealed that today’s travelers actually prefer summarized review content. The Meta-Review comes to the rescue, by providing a summary of the hotel’s overall reputation and features, as seen through the eyes of the guests. As a result of having all the necessary information on the actual website, visitors will access it more, which can translate into a higher conversion rate. A MetaReview, such as the one provided within the TrustYou platform, does not only contribute to the website’s visibility and optimization, but it also allows your hotel’s reputation to influence a large number of travelers. Last, but not least, mobile optimization is something that should definitely become a priority when focusing on your hotel’s website. In the last few years, mobile devices have taken the world by storm and it’s no secret that we all depend on them. Studies show that in 2016, 65 percent of hotel reservations were completed via a smartphone. Now try adding millennials to this equation and think from their perspective: being so tech-savvy and mobile-dependent, it’s easy to understand why a website which is not properly optimized for mobile use will instantly lose points. Always keep in mind that hospitality is such a vast industry and consumers have so many options, so when put face to face with a less than perfectly optimized website, they quickly move on to the next one, which can cost you bookings and revenue. It’s crucial nowadays to take the time and make sure that you allow the same smooth and seamless experience when it comes to your website, both on a computer and on a mobile device. The overall guest experience does not depend only on the accommodation itself, but also on its online presence. As a hotelier, you have to make sure that your website is in its best possible condition, that you constantly work on the SEO, the rich snippets, the meta-review and on the mobile optimization process. The bottom line is, make the most out of what technology throws your way - it’s an extra work that you have to put in, but the outcome is worth it. Key takeaways: Learn how to optimize the SEO, for higher visibility Make use of rich snippets, to provide relevant information from the beginning of the search process Use the meta-review, for summarized review content Optimize the website for any type of mobile device Don’t forget to download our free eBook to get even more insights and tips on how to make the most off your hotel’s website and your non-branded status!