Hotel SEO tips: Is your site following these URL best practices?

Have you thought about your hotel’s URL structure lately? Probably not, but you should. Aside from the domain name, your URLs are the most important element to the overall structure of your website. Let’s get back to basics and take a look at some URL best practices for your hotel website. This will provide your visitors with a better overall user experience that can translate into increased bookings.

Getting back to basics

A Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is the filing system that allows the internet to work quickly by filing data in an organized, easy-to-find way. When you think about it, the URL is an amazing string of characters. It allows anyone in the world to access a very specific webpage in the billions of pages that exist on the Internet. Amazing!

The URL as we know it today serves as a human-friendly way for these files to be located and organized. They are meant to use understandable words for humans to make sense of, rather than a string of nonsensical IP address numbers. And it matters for computers as well—Google and other search engines use the URLs to glean information about a webpage so that they can properly index it. Having a good URL structure is one of the key foundations of SEO best practices.

The URL KISS principle

Keep It Short and Simple is probably the most important thing to remember when creating your URLs. Having overwhelmingly long URL addresses can appear suspicious or just plain messy to your visitors. It is also not optimal for users to copy and share on social media. Most likely, people sharing your content with a long URL will shorten it to a more user-friendly length. This is bad for your business because the URL will no longer be associated with your brand, but instead associated with the shortening site brand, such as goo.gl or bitly.

Links that are shared without an anchor text will also use the URL itself as the text, so keeping them short and readable will help your brand visibility and search rankings. Consider this example:

http://www.artmorehotel.com/blog/hotels-midtown-atlanta/its-winewednesday-everybody-whoop-whoop-stop-by-after-work-and-enjoy-our-featured-wines-by-the-glass-for-just-7-per-glass-winewednesday-winedownwednesday-artmorehotel-artmorelife-happyhou/

This is exactly what you do NOT want to be doing with your URLs. This URL is 244 characters long, which links to a blog post that is only 212 characters long, including spaces!

While the words in the URL are all very readable in English, they are not serving the purpose that the author was hoping to achieve. Placing keywords in your URL is still a good practice, but stuffing every one you can think of is not. Instead, this URL should look something like this:

http://www.artmorehotel.com/blog/atlanta-midtown-hotel/wine-wednesday

When you look at this short and simple version of the URL, you know exactly what you are going find when you click on it, a nice hotel in Atlanta that serves wine on Wednesdays. This is what all of your URLs should attempt to do for all of your site’s content.

To use subdomains or subfolders, that is the question

Larger hotel chains that have different property names under their corporate name may use subdomains to organize their various brand identities. For instance, Hilton owns 13 hotel brands that have their own identities. Therefore, Hilton uses subdomains to distinguish them as their own brand entities. While each property can be reached and searched for directly, they are all associated with the primary domain. For example:

  • Primary Domain: hilton.com
  • Subdomain: doubletree.hilton.com
  • Subdomain: hamptoninn.hilton.com
  • Subdomain: embassysuites.hilton.com

While this is fine for a large corporation like Hilton that has many branded companies underneath them, it is not necessarily recommended as a best practice for most businesses. The main reason is that it can interfere with your site’s search ranking results. Separating out your blog to a subdomain is better served by filing it in a subfolder instead. For instance:

  • Subdomain: blog.supercoolhotel.com
  • Subfolder: supercoolhotel.com/blog

Search engines have a bad habit of identifying subdomains as separate content from the primary domain due to the way the address is structured. By using subfolders, everything is neatly organized beneath the primary domain and search engines can easily recognize that your blog belongs to your site. Bottom line, both methods do work, but subfolders work better than subdomains.

hotel-seo-101

How to handle multiple URLs for duplicate content

Your hotel’s website may have duplicate content that serves different purposes. For instance, you many have a printer-friendly version of your amenities, which has the exact same content as a landing page. Or perhaps your hotel’s blog is currently located on a subdomain, and you want to move it to a subfolder so that visitors will be directed to your primary domain. Both of these examples can be addressed by using one of two methods, Canonical Tags or 301 Redirect. Here’s the difference:

  • Canonical Tags are used with a page that shares similar content with another page on your site. Search engines will only see one of the two pages, but humans will still be able to see both pages. Adding canonical tags allows you to determine which page you want search engines to rank, but also keeps both versions available for human readers.
  • 301 Redirects are used with pages that are currently located on an old domain or URL address, but get pointed, or redirected, to a new location. Both search engines and human searchers will only be able to see the new page, not the old page. This can be useful when you want your blog that is located on a subdomain, to appear as if it is actually located in the new subfolder.

Depending on your needs, both methods can be effectively used to improve search traffic and make reorganizing your content easier.

Seven rules for creating good URLs

Like the title of a good book, some thought should go into naming your URLs. Visitors who view your URLs should instantly know that it comes from your hotel and be able to reasonably tell what they will see when they click on the link. Consider these steps when creating new URLs:

  • Start big and work your way to small. What this means is that your URLs should funnel down from the big idea to a specific topic: myhotel/specials/girlsgetaway/massages.
  • Make your URLs match your page or post titles, but not exactly. If you have long titles, choose the top keywords, usually nouns, to create the URL. In the example above, you can reasonably expect to find a page that may be titled Massage Specials for a Girls Weekend Getaway.
  • Avoid using unnecessary connecting or stop words (a, and, but, of, the). Unless leaving them out will completely change the meaning of the words around them, keep them out of your URLs.
  • While organization is key, do not go folder crazy. Every forward slash represents a new folder, so try to keep them down to three or four deep. Never-ending folders give the perception of a complicated site structure to both search engines and humans.
  • Keep your redirects short and to the point. If you redirect Page A to point to Page B to point to Page C and then ultimately to Page D, your load times will be longer and search rankings may be affected. Instead, redirect Page A directly to Page D to reduce multiple redirects.
  • Use hyphens instead of underscores in your URLs. Google uses hyphens to distinguish between words, but not underscores. Good: hotel.com/weekend-getaway. Bad: hotel.com/weekend_getaway.
  • Avoid using unsafe characters in your URLs. Although most content management systems for websites are programmed to ensure that unsafe characters don’t make it into the URL, it’s good to be aware of works and what doesn’t:

    Unsafe characters include, but are not limited to: “ < > # % { } | \ ^ ~
    Safe characters include, but are not limited to: $ – _ . + ! * ‘ ( )

Follow these URL best practices to keep your site looking good and functioning even better.

Steffan Berelowitz

Steffan Berelowitz

Steffan is the VP of Digital Platforms at Pegasus. A pioneer in all things web and mobile, Steffan has spent more than 20 years in online services and technology. He loves traveling, the planet Earth, and his amazing wife and sons. Contact him at steffan@pegs.com.

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