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SEO trends that hotels should watch in 2018

A new year always brings new changes in the world of digital marketing, particularly for the always evolving world of search engine optimization. This year we can expect some important new SEO trends that will influence our hotel marketing initiatives, perhaps the biggest of which will be the rollout of Google’s mobile-first index, which they have already begun to test for some sites. Security, voice search, video, and search listings will also play an important part in SEO strategy this year as well. Here’s what you can expect for 2018:

Google’s mobile-first indexing

Announced in late 2016 and tested throughout 2017, Google’s going to continue rolling out its mobile-first indexing in 2018, which basically means they’ll be ranking websites based on their respective mobile versions (using the GoogleBot-Mobile crawler). This has a number of knock-on effects, but ultimately you need to check that you have an accessible mobile-friendly website which is fast loading and easy to use without any technical SEO issues.

When it comes to SEO management, fully-responsive websites are much easier to manage with fewer technical issues to watch out for. But if you have a separate mobile version of your website (which will be served from a different URL, normally a subdomain like m.hotelwebsite.com), you’ll want to ensure canonical tags are present and setup correctly, you’ll need to setup and monitor Google Search Console for the mobile version, along with various other checks.

Site speed is going to be even more of a consideration now in 2018 with the mobile-first index, as if your website is slow on mobile devices then its organic search rankings will also drop. There are several methods to improve speed, such as implementing AMP (accelerated mobile pages) technology on your website, using Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), better tag management (and using fewer scripts), and so on. Whatever method you choose, the ultimate goal is to have your website load fast for mobile users, who are often restricted with their web speed.

A more secure web experience

SSL certificate hotel websites

Google’s been very clear about its stance on non-SSL secure websites: if you don’t serve your web content securely and protect users’ information, Google will start to warn your website visitors about this directly within the web browser. This is happening already but is only going to continue in 2018.

So if your website has any kind of contact form, where a user’s information can be entered and submitted, Google will show a “this website is not secure” warning message in it’s browser. This will deter people from sharing information with you, and your site will lose trust with the user. This could really kill your direct booking strategy, especially if your booking engine isn’t making use of SSL.

There’s also a slight SEO boost for those sites that are running securely on SSL, so if the above isn’t enough to inspire you to install an SSL certificate on your site, hopefully the improved organic search ranking will do it. You can read more about SSL implementation on our blog post here about SEO checks when installing SSL certificates.

The rise of voice search (and structured data)

Voice applications like Alexa, Siri and OK Google have surged in popularity in the later part of 2017, and again we can only assume that this will continue to increase in 2018 as the technology becomes more commonplace in devices from smartphones to smart TVs to smart speakers. Morepeople will adopt voice search as it becomes easier and more affordable to use, so the number of voice searches will inevitably grow.

The typical voice searches people may carry out are likely to be non-branded variations, so it could be anything like “find me a pet friendly hotel in downtown Los Angeles” or “what’s the best hotel near Hyde Park for families.” These types of searches will likely be a part of the initial research phase, so again it’s important to try and ensure that your own hotel has some kind of “visibility” here, too.

Voice search makes use of elements like structured data and local listings information, so it’s important to be keeping on top of both of these elements, along with employing a strong local search strategy. We wrote a hotel’s guide to structured data a while ago, which shows hotels how to ensure that website information is “tagged” correctly with the right markup code so that search engines can understand it.

Local listings are going to be vital in 2018—you need to ensure your information is correct and is used consistently across all major local listings (Google My Business, Bing Business Pages, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Booking.com, and so on). We wrote about local listings management for hotels previously too.

More video adoption for content optimization

We’ve been talking about it for a while now, but could 2018 be the year when more hotels grasp the opportunity that video content provides? When used correctly, video provides hotels with an amazing opportunity to showcase their hotel directly within their website. From having a tour of the hotel, to showing some of the attractions on your hotel’s doorstep, video offers a much more engrossing format than plain text or images.

Combining video within your hotel’s organic search strategy could pay dividends even more so in 2018 as Google’s RankBrain algorithm now looks at things such as time on page. Essentially, the more time someone spends on your page after clicking through from the search results, the higher Google is going to rank you for that specific query. Inversely, the quicker someone leaves your page because they don’t find what you’re looking for, the lower your search rankings will be.

Video is one clever way to keep your audience engaged on the page, whether it’s a catchy drone shot of the landscape or a virtual reality/3D video. With such exciting tools now at your disposal, it really is an exciting time for content optimization within the travel industry.

Search listings and third-party sources

Although we touched briefly upon local listings and structured data in voice search, we mention them again here, as listings are worthy of being their own trend this year. It’s more important than ever to ensure that any online business listings refer to your hotel in the correct way. This means your name, address, phone and website address needs to be checked across these sources, plus other key information such as your hotel’s amenities and opening hours.

Google Knowledge Graph
A screenshot taken from Google’s Knowledge Graph for one hotel

Search engines use these business listings to understand more about your hotel, and so if information is incorrect on some of those then you may end up confusing your potential guest, and the search engines too. One obvious way this can really hurt your hotel’s online bookings is visible when you look at your hotel’s information in the Google Knowledge Graph. This amenity info is pulled from a number of sources (some of which are incredibly obscure), so you really have to invest time in managing and reviewing such information in 2018.

Mapping your 2018 SEO strategy

Hopefully from the above you can see the direction SEO is headed this year, especially when it comes to hotel websites. It’s interesting to see that traditional SEO (keyword targeting, meta descriptions, and so on) has become less prominent (although not less important), and that as a whole, SEO is evolving to merge and overlap with areas such as user experience and web design (mobile sites, site speed, etc.). Let’s wait to see which other SEO surprises Google springs on us in 2018!

Nancy Huang

Nancy Huang

Nancy is the Senior Marketing Director at Pegasus and expert in strategic communication, brand development, and content marketing. She is an admitted travel junkie and loves finding amazing hotel deals when booking direct. Contact her at nancy.huang@pegs.com.

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