Diving into SEO? Focus on Local Search First

Diving into SEO? Focus on Local Search First | By Mitul Gandhi

Perhaps more than any other industry, hospitality is tied to its location. While retail and office work have moved to the internet, hotels remain offline to a certain extent.

The way people find and book hotels, though, has changed significantly in recent years. Consider this timeline:

  • 2015: Google announces that more searches take place on mobile than desktop.
  • 2016: Google announces that that nearly a third of searches performed on mobile are local (think “hotel near the Louvre”).
  • 2017: A study by my company, seoClarity, discovers that about 80 percent of searches are indirect, meaning people are searching “Paris hotel with pool” more than “Acme Hotel.”
  • The Impact of Online Reviews on the Hospitality Industry [Infographic] | By Pranjal Prashar
  • What Travel Marketers need to know about Local Search and Mobile | By Alicia Whalen
  • SEO for Independent Hotels: What, Why and How | By Sophie Tremblay
  • Playing Possum and Penguin: A Hotelier’s Guide to Navigating Google’s Recent Algorithm Updates | By Megan Harr

This means it’s more important than ever to show up in local search. The easiest way to do that is to optimize your local listings. Optimizing your hotel local listings serves a vital purpose to your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and more specifically, what’s known as “local SEO.” Keeping your hotel’s basic information up to date for search engines enhances your local search performance.

I’ll outline four local SEO basics you can execute to maximize your chances of showing up in local search – whether you’re focused on the success of one location or thousands.

1. Compare Performance at Multiple Locations

There are plenty of reasons one location might be performing better than another. But have you considered that local SEO could be one of them?

If you’re responsible for performance at more than one location, consider starting your optimization efforts by seeing which ones need a boost. Tackling local SEO on those locations first could help improve numbers more easily than you realized was possible. Why? Because local SEO deals with these main components…

  • Updated contact information;
  • Hours and location information;
  • Reviews; and
  • Maps.

For those seeking hotels, having these basics in place and easily available can tip the balance toward securing a reservation (or ignoring a listing entirely).

2. Claim & Update Your Google My Business Listing

When you optimize for local searches (e.g., “Paris Hotel 5th arrondisement”), Google My Business (GMB) is the service offered by Google that lets you appear in that “local pack” – three businesses with contact information, operating hours, and images (recently, an additional paid placement was included in the local three pack). There is a schema markup you can add to your local web pages that let local businesses highlight contact information, operating hours, and images from your website.

While you should update your GMB profile for every location you manage, start with locations that are underperforming. If your GMB listing hasn’t been claimed or is out of date (or has reviews that haven’t been responded to), it’s easy to see why people aren’t streaming through the door.

I’ll explain how to claim and update your GMB profile in a minute, but first, let me explain the importance of appearing in Google’s local search results.

More than three-quarters of global searches are performed using Google. Translation: to drive visibility among your potential customers in search results, you must show up on Google. And that means playing by Google’s rules.

The good news is that Google offers plenty of guidelines and free tools to make that process easy.

Now, the how: to update your GMB profile, follow Google’s five-step guide. Be sure to verify your…

  • Address;
  • Phone number;
  • Hours of operation; and
  • Other contact information.

Besides showing up in local search, claiming your GMB profile means you can respond to reviews people leave. With 87 percent of Americans saying they trust online reviews to help them choose a local business, it’s critically important for hotels to manage their online reviews. Ensuring that you see and address negative comments is vital to maintaining a positive online presence.

One final note: Google is king of search, but it’s not the only game in town. Make sure your hotel manages the contact information and reviews on your Facebook page, website, and other third-party sites like Yelp.

3. Monitor and Analyze Current Search Performance

This is a time-intensive process, but it’s useful to get an idea of how your hotel is performing against competitors – and how you can get an edge over those currently outranking you.

Broadly, monitoring search performance means understanding…

  • Most people search indirectly (i.e., for your service but not your brand).
  • You need to know which terms you appear in search results for (ideally, ahead of your competitors).
  • You need to understand your ranking (the position of your hotel website) on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Remember when I mentioned the free tools Google makes available?

The Keyword Planner, m y f a v o r i t e free tool to monitor p e r f o r m a n c e , tracks Google searches from all over the world, meaning that you can type any word or phrase in and see how many people search for it per month.

The tool even suggests a bid price if you want to dabble in paid search, which can serve as a proxy for a term’s competitiveness – pretty handy if you’re trying to figure out where the opportunity lies.

Quick note: what I’m explaining here is the very basics. If you want to drive a lot of traffic through organic search, your best bet is to invest in a SEO specialist, hire an SEO agency, or bring on a SEO platform to scale your efforts. But if you’re interested in seeing some of what’s out there, try this exercise:

  1. Think of terms potential customers might use to find you (e.g., “Paris hotel,” “hotel near the Louvre,” “Paris hotel with breakfast”).
  2. Go to the Keyword Planner and type in some of the terms you’ve brainstormed. You’ll see not only exact-match search volumes but also volume for related terms (like “hotels in Paris,” “hotels in Paris, France,” and “cheap hotels in Paris”).
  3. Mark down some of the most interesting findings. (Excel may come in handy here.) Include the exact term, its search volume, and the recommended bid.
  4. Search the terms you’ve identified, using an incognito tab or your phone, to see whether your hotel is showing up.
  5. If you don’t appear in the search results, consider optimizing your website. Optimization can be an intense, long-term process, but when you implement just the basics, you can make significant headway.

If you see high search volumes and you’re nowhere on the results pages, it may be time to invest in SEO resources to aggressively boost your performance.

4. Make a Plan to Check in Regularly

What you have right now is a snapshot of how your hotel is performing.

But we all know how fast the digital landscape moves and changes. To stay on top of your local search performance, make this check-up a regular part of your marketing calendar.

What you monitor will depend on your goals, but I’d recommend at least tracking the basics:

  • Pay attention to reviews. Hotel patrons aren’t shy when it comes to posting reviews online. Be sure to monitor yours so you can respond to all reviews and feedback and use negative feedback to trigger investigations into possible problems. Having an active presence in the reviews is one way to build trust with potential visitors. One tip: a tool like Local Clarity can help this process by consolidating your online reviews in one place.
  • Track locations in Google My Business. GMB only lets you view one location at a time – no problem if you’ve only got one. If you manage multiple locations, you may need a tool (again, Local Clarity allows you to scale your insights by region, state, etc.).
  • Monitor search results. If you see a big potential win from organic traffic, know that this is a huge lever to pull – and one that you probably can’t manage alone. If organic search is a priority for you, consider outsourcing this project or investing in an SEO platform (seoClarity is a great option!) to make the job easier.