Local SEO strategies have become an important trend in digital marketing over the last few years, for good reason. Searches for businesses in a particular area of a city are important and valuable for businesses that are actually in that area! But what exactly does local seo actually mean when it comes to a hotel business for which many if not most searches include a geographical reference? That is the topic of this article where we will investigate the top tips and best practices for local seo when it comes to hotels!
What is local SEO for hotels?
Local SEO usually refers to two slightly different but intersecting aspects of online searches. The first is simply ‘normal’ SEO aimed at searches for a business that include some sort of geographical indication of interest. The second involves the specific ways in which Google My Business (GMB) presents map data for these kind of searches, usually in addition to regular text based search results, and how businesses can optimise for these results. The latter aspect also includes an emphasis on searches being done by users geographically close to the business in question.
Now for a hotel, location is always an important aspect of its operations and marketing. Depending on your market, location based keywords including either city or country (or both) are likely to be an important part of your SEO strategy. For more information on location based keywords and how to find them check our recent article on how to find and choose the best keywords for your hotel.
For this article we are going to focus on optimising your Google My Business profile which has some data points specific to the hotel industry and a number of best practices for hotels in particular. Following these best practices will ensure your GMB hotel listing is set up for success, so let’s get started!
How do you optimise GMB listings for hotels?
Optimising your GMB listing for local SEO success is largely the same for any local business, be it a hotel, a restaurant or a digital marketing agency like ours! Over time, Google’s map based ecosystem has evolved to allow certain business types more granular data specific to them.
Restaurants have the ability to add their menus, and hotels have the ability to markup their room and property amenities. Local SEO in regards Google map listings is not a set it and forget it process, the ability for users to add reviews and even send suggested edits mean a hotelier needs to have a process in place to monitor their listing for changes and to stay ahead of the ever changing local SEO game!
Don’t worry, it is not too difficult. Follow these steps which will take you from initial setup to efficient monitoring of your Google My Business listing and rest easy, secure in the knowledge that a good percentage of your competitors are likely nowhere near as organised!
Step 1: If you do not have a listing – create one!
If you are just opening your hotel for the first year of operation then you have a lot on your plate! Do not overlook the basics when it comes to setting your hotel up for online success. Along with your website and the photography that is being done, make sure to set up your initial Google My Business map listing!
You will need to verify the business by requesting a PIN that is usually sent by mail. Once you receive this PIN you enter it in your listing’s admin and then your hotel will be enabled to appear in map results for relevant searches. The PIN usually takes 1-2 weeks to arrive, but sometimes can take longer – so be sure to set up your GMB as early as possible to be ready to go!
Step 2: Fill out all relevant data
You will need to fill out the basic information about your hotel including its name, address, contact details and category. Have in mind both the category you pick and your hotel’s NAP.
What category should I choose for my hotel?
Most hotels will likely want to pick ‘Hotel’ (seems obvious right?). There are a number of more specific categories for hotels which are not always very clear including: Hot Springs Hotel, Love Hotel, Wellness Hotel, Capsule Hotel and Extended Stay Hotel. There are also some hotel like categories including: Motel, Resort, Holiday Apartment and (oddly) Holiday Apartment Rental.
The best rule of thumb is to pick the category that is closest to what you accommodation really is. You can also do a Google search and see what other similar businesses around you are listed as. If in doubt, go for ‘Hotel’.
What is my hotel’s NAP?
NAP stands for: Name, Address & Telephone Number. It is important that this information is standardised across all the online instances where your hotel is mentioned. Having the same data everywhere makes it easier for Google to confirm that each online reference is in fact referencing the same hotel.
The most common problem we usually see in NAP for hotels is in the name, where perhaps in one place the hotel is referenced to simply by its common name (say Aphrodite) and in other places as “Aphrodite Hotel” or “Aphrodite Suites”. It is important to decide which name you want to use and then be consistent in your usage!
Problems with phone numbers are also a common issue, where a hotel has multiple lines into a call centre or similar and for one reason or another different phone numbers have been used on different online channels. Again, decide which phone number is your main contact number and use it consistently!
Step 3: Make sure your hotel amenities are up to date
Once you have selected ‘hotel’ as you business category you will see a section called Hotel Attributes.
There is a long list for property amenities including data on swimming pools, check in times, dining options, activities and other services and much more along with some details for room specific amenities (AC, bathrooms, kitchen facilities etc). Select all the relevant options that match with your hotel.
Step 4: Upload photos and videos
A picture really does tell a thousand words in the hotel industry and we should take advantage of that by being very thorough in uploading high resolution images of our hotel!
GMB gives hoteliers the option to upload photographs of their property in a variety of specific categories including room specific photos, photos for food and drink and photos for hotel common areas. Upload a good selection of high quality photographs and if you have video or 360 images upload these too. Ensuring that google has a good selection of high quality photographs means you will have less problems with low quality or user uploaded images showing as the default image used in your map listing!
Step 5: Create a schedule to update your listing regularly
Once you have done the initial setup of your listing you are done right? No, you are not! It is important to setup a regular schedule to review and update your information on GMB. New features are added regularly and users are able to send in edits to YOUR business which you will want to confirm or reject as needed!
It is also crucial to update your listing if some aspect of your hotel has changed. Have you added a new restaurant this year? Have major renovations taken place that have changed the available amenities?
Step 6: Always ask for and answer reviews
It is crucial for all hotels to actively solicit reviews from their guests and to answer them promptly. While there are many places that a guest can post a review for your hotel, all of them are important in building your online reputation.
GMB is an important review platform since it is usually very prominently featured in search results for your hotel’s brand name. So be sure to include GMB in your review acquisition policy. Equally important is to ensure that you have a process in place to answer reviews (both the positive and the negative). It is possible that the frequency and context of reviews and responses is incorporated to a degree into Google’s search algorithms, so let’s make sure we are prompt in replying to our guest’s comments!
Bonus Step 1: Don’t forget your restaurant or spa service
Many hotels have in house restaurants, bars or spas that are accessible to non guests also. In this case it is often possible and wise to add separate GMB listings for these “businesses inside a business”. If your restaurant or bar is not typically open to non guests then do not push the issue, but if they are then look into it!
Bonus Step 2: Don’t ignore non GMB location based services
Google can seem like the only game in town when it comes to SEO, but there are other map and location based services that can have some value for your guests if they are looking for a nearby business or indeed looking for your business! The most relevant for hotels are usually Bing Maps (the closest ‘competitor’ to Google Maps), Apple Maps which are used a lot on iPhones and Foursquare. There are others and new apps appear regularly. No need to go crazy but stay informed and when relevant add your business to help users find you easily!