SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and it’s the art (or science) of getting Google to place your website high up in its search results. SEO for B&Bs matters because very few customers travel beyond the first page of google search results when looking for anything, so if you appear on page one of a search you can get lots more visitors to your website. Not only that but it can get you more commission free bookings because when a visitor books via your website directly you don’t pay any commission!
Google chooses which websites to display based on a number of factors, and if you design your website with SEO for B&Bs in mind, this will help you be more visible in potential guests’ searches. In short, if you create a fast, useful and user-friendly online experience with everything laid out in simple black and white, you can’t go wrong- good SEO equals good business!
We recommend thinking about SEO for B&Bs in 2 steps: Branded vs non-branded searches.
1. Branded search
These are people that know your ‘brand’, and are searching for your name directly (probably after finding you on a website like Expedia or LateRooms), so you need to ensure that you are easy to find when people are looking for your property specifically. You can do this by implementing the following:
- Become visible on all the major travel websites: take advantage of them to make sure people see you and then Google you. Be visible.
- Make sure you have a good URL: For example if your property is called ‘Park House’ you should go for a URL like parkhouse.com or parkhouse.co.uk. Do not call yourself ‘theparkhouse’ or ‘thepark’ or capitalise with ‘THEPARK’ – you just need to have one name and stick to it. (Expert tip: buy both of your .com and .co.uk domains so that you don’t end up competing with another hotel using the other domain!)
- Describe who you are and where you are in your content: You need to use your location e.g. Park House Hotel, London.
2. Non-branded search
These are people who are searching for a place to stay but they don’t know who you are yet. You need to make sure your property can be found depending on what phrase they are typing into the search engine. Below are some other factors Google will take into account:
- Your website needs to be mobile friendly. This means that your site has to re-size and read well on any device. Google will rank you higher if you are.
- Guests need to be able to book instantly. When they find your hotel you need to be able to convert them into a paying guest, 56% of people are put off by having to telephone or email.
- Your content should be relevant to you.Think of 4-5 phrases that best categorise your property and use them throughout your website, for example ‘luxury hotel Bath’ or ‘romantic getaway near Bath’. (Expert tip: don’t pick highly competitive search terms like ‘hotel in Bath’- you need to be specific to beat the competition). However, you still need to ensure that your content looks organic and not forced.Make sure you don’t add lots of ‘keywords’ at the bottom of your page.
- Use links to qualify your content. Google measures how many people link to your website as a sign of its quality. So if you use TripAdvisor, Facebook or Twitter, make sure they link to your website.
- Sign up to Maps. Google Maps is the 3rd biggest search engine in the world, so being featured on there can get you a lot of visitors.
3. Organise your site: Keep it simple
The first thing to bear in mind when you build your site is that it needs to be fast and user-friendly. Less definitely means more here, so make sure that the layout is appealing to the eye and that it’s easy for your customer to find what they want in as few clicks as possible. Make sure the booking button is easy to find and the information on your site clear, so users don’t get frustrated and leave. People love to see what the property has to offer, so high-quality images of your rooms, outdoor areas and even some great shots of food will give them even more reason to stay.
Don’t forget to include social buttons which link to your Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts too! (If you are looking to promote the quality of your menu, make sure you post as many pics on Instagram as possible to attract all your foodie fans.) This will make it easy for the users to share your pages with family and friends online or follow your latest news and updates.
4. What are keywords and why are they important?
Keywords are types of words and sentences that people type into Google, in this case terminology used to search for accommodation in your area. Looking at keywords that are relevant to your business will help you get a better grasp of what information you need to include and what to cover in your website content.
Use Keyword research before you begin to write the content on your site. We recommend that you use a keyword research tool (like this one from Google) to ensure you are using the right keywords.
You need to get the attention of your audience and give them every reason to enjoy the time they spend on your website. For this reason, it’s vital to write all content in a natural and engaging manner. If you do that, you will create a better online experience for your users, and therefore Google will be sure to send more traffic your way.
5. How much is too much?
It’s a bit of a balancing act, this one. If you overuse too many keywords, Google will start to drop your ranking, which means you don’t show up in search and will ultimately lead to a loss of business.
Google doesn’t like it if your content is written with as many keywords or phrases as possible. The content needs to be seen by Google as something your users are reading, sharing and engaging with and it’ll then keep ranking it higher and higher. Make what is written on your website sound as natural as possible – if you write what you would say to a potential guest over the phone, you can recreate that kind of human experience, and this will give your site a more personal feel.
6. Make yourself useful
It’s always helpful to include some interesting content which relates to the surrounding area, as it could give potential guests even more reason to come and visit. If your property is out in the Yorkshire Dales, providing useful information on some of the best walks and finest local pubs will help keep the user engaged.
Compile a list of all the questions a customer would have when they first visit your site, and be sure to write content that aims to answer them. The more open and honest you are about every aspect of your business, the more trust you will build. Ensure any additional services and charges are clearly laid out so that your guests know exactly what they will be getting.
Always include a screenshot of or link to Google maps, as well as directions to and from your property to ensure your guests don’t get lost! It’s simple to do and looks great.
7. Use appropriate links
Listing and providing links to nearby attractions, restaurants and places of interest that visitors might enjoy can encourage other local organisations to return the favour and link to you on their website. Just be careful to only link to reputable sites and make sure you get into the habit of checking the links to ensure they are still working, for example, not leading to a webpage that doesn’t exist anymore.
8. Use meta tags and descriptions
Meta tags and descriptions are the information displayed when your property shows up in Google search results and lets users know what they have searched for is the right thing, and they are key to mastering SEO for B&Bs and hotels.
The meta tag (or meta title) is essentially a short, snappy title (try sticking with less than 65 characters) which best describes the content on the page. Whereas, the meta description is a brief summary of the page’s contents. If all this sounds a bit too technical for you, specialised platforms, like eviivo’s ‘Website Manager’, will help you to create a visually attractive b&b website that your guests will enjoy using, which works on mobile, desktop and tablet.
9. Optimise your site for multiple devices
In an age when everyone is glued to their mobile or tablet device, it is important to ensure your site works well on whatever device someone likes to search on.
If your site uses video, for example, try uploading it in a format that can be read across all devices (iPad and iPhone will not play certain kinds of videos for example) to guarantee maximum exposure.
Your audience will have a very short attention span and if your site is slow to load, people will move onto other websites.
10. Will SEO for B&Bs replace using travel websites?
Absolutely not! Travel websites like Expedia, Booking.com and LateRooms have huge, global marketing budgets running into billions of pounds per year. That means sites like these will be how the majority of people look for a hotel or B&B in any given area. So, if you’re not on these sites you will be missing out, particularly if your competitors are!
11. Is SEO worth paying for?
We don’t recommend it. SEO for B&Bs is relatively simple and your website designer or website template provider should do most of it as part of the service they provide you. Paying an ongoing fee for SEO services is probably a waste of money.
12. Ask for help
If you’re quite new to SEO for B&Bs, or you’re not the strongest writer, you can still have a great website to promote your business without having to get a degree in art or web design. You don’t have to break the bank by hiring agencies and designers to do it for you either, as eviivo are here to help!