When it comes to local SEO, there’s a lot to know. And often when hotels first start learning about local SEO, they have a lot of questions. And to add to those, there are even more questions that hotel teams should be asking, but they simply don’t know that they should be asking them.
To help those that are just venturing out into the world of local SEO, below is a comprehensive list of the most common of both types – those that are frequently asked, and those that should be asked. It begins with questions that are heard most often.
What is local search?
Local search is the foundation of local SEO, or local search engine optimization.
Online searches of course, are those searches that users make millions of times a day all over the world, within the search engines. Sometimes these searches are for general information, and sometimes users are searching for specific products, services, or hotels.
Local search is simply the process of making a broad search more specific by adding a location into the search. So instead of a user searching for “hotel,” they might search for “hotel, New York.” This local search allows Google, Bing, and other search engines to deliver the most relevant results in the search engines results pages (SERPs) by showing them the closest hotels that is located in New York.
Local search did begin with users simply trying to narrow their search. Today however, local search is an actual part of Google’s algorithm, and Google will give websites that have been optimized for location better positions in the SERPs.
What is hotel local SEO marketing?
Local SEO marketing and local search go hand in hand, with local SEO marketing being a result of the recent focus on local search.
Just like with any other aspect of business, there are certain marketing requirements needed for local search. Hotel teams now need to focus on optimizing their website for local search, and this very act is local SEO marketing.
When websites are optimized for local search, it’s really just another form of marketing. And just like print ads and radio commercials have specific guidelines, so does local SEO. And when a hotel team knows these requirements and guidelines and can work within them to better their website, this is local SEO marketing.
What are the benefits of local SEO for hotel?
Hotel teams have so much to gain from local SEO. It can help them connect even more with customers, increase sales simply by increasing visibility both on and offline, and puts their business right in front of the guests’s eyes at the exact time they’re searching for it.
The benefits of local SEO can best be seen when directly compared with other types of advertising. Take for example, a print ad. Hotel teams can spend a lot of money on ads in newspapers and flyers. But they need to hope that the advertisement makes its way to the customer and that the customer needs or wants that product or service at that exact time.
The opposite is true with local SEO. Because it’s made to increase user experience, and to focus on local hotels, customers only see any one particular hotel when they search for a place to stay in a specific area.
In addition to being highly targeted marketing that advertises only to interested users, utilizing local SEO efforts and making small changes to websites and blogs costs hardly anything at all. Even when hotel teams choose to hire outside services, such as a consultant, the cost can be much less than other forms of marketing.
Why do search engine rankings change so frequently?
Once hotel teams understand how the search engines and page ranking works, it’s not long after that they often get frustrated. Just after building up their pages and getting them high in the page rankings, they see their website knocked down a result or two within just a few days or weeks.
It’s frustrating, but it’s not uncommon. There are a few reasons why it happens. One is the fact that new websites and webpages are being put up every day, and the search engines are constantly finding new content. This volume means that new competition is always appearing, and always threatening to knock websites out of their page rankings.
Another reason is that Google is always publishing updates and new parts of its algorithm. However, humans still need to operate websites and make changes within them, and not everyone works at the same pace. When older websites get updates that comply with the latest addition to the algorithm, they can be placed higher up in the rankings, once again knocking out the site that was there previously.
One of the biggest reasons websites start to slip in their page ranking is because eventually the content becomes old if it’s not regularly updated. Google and the other search engines love new content, because it’s always going to be the most relevant to the user. Just being in one of the top page rank spots is not enough. Hotel teams and website developers need to constantly make sure the site is updated with new and fresh content.
How does local SEO work with hotels that have more than one location?
There are many instances in which hotels have another location, either within the same city or in another state; and this can easily be managed with local SEO.
While it may take a bit more time, the hotel team simply has to create different pages for each location. In some instances this may be able to be done through the same listing. For instance, some online directories will include all locations within the same listing. Other directories will require a different profile to be created for each location.
It is absolutely necessary that local SEO is still used when hotels have multiple locations. Remember, local SEO is meant to target customers that are interested in a specific location.
Can a hotel rank in a city they’re not located in?
No, and that’s not really the point of local SEO anyway. The whole purpose of using local SEO is to get more localization specific traffic. That is, the traffic that is interested in a specific place; not in an entirely different city. Because of this, hotel teams won’t find any benefit in trying to rank for a city that they don’t have a location in.
Also, in addition to the hotel team’s local SEO efforts, Google will also take the location of the user into consideration after they’ve made a search.
How long will it take to see results from local SEO efforts?
Like any marketing campaign, this depends. It will depend on the copetitors, the amount of listings the hotel team wants to create, and simply, how much the hotel team wants to get out of it. When more effort is put in at the beginning of a local SEO campaign, results are likely to be seen sooner.
Depending on these factors, some hotels might see results as quickly as within the first week while others may wait a month or two before seeing any results.
How can hotels compete when there’s no time?
Yes, hotel teams are often too busy actually running their business to be concerned with things like online and local SEO marketing. Luckily, there are SEO consultants that do this every day and make a living off of keeping up to date with Google’s ever-changing algorithm updates.
An SEO consultant can greatly lighten the marketing load of hotel teams, and those owners can see great successes, both in their online presence and in their profit margins. All while the hotel team is doing what they love most – doing business!
Why pay for SEO services when I can do it on my own?
Even though it may lighten the load and be much more convenient for the hotel team, some just can’t wrap their head around paying someone to do a job they can do themselves. And it’s true. It is completely possible for hotel teams to perform their own local SEO efforts.
However, there’s more an SEO consultant can do than just lighten the load. These professionals know everything there is to know about local SEO, and they can get the business’ name in places – and in front of customers – the hotel team may have never thought of.
How much do local SEO services cost?
Just like it depends on how long hotel teams will see results, how much it will cost is also dependent on a number of factors. They include the size of the website, the competition within the niche or market, where the website and webpages currently rank within the search engines, how many keywords the hotel would like to include, and what the existing web presence is.
Again, it will also largely depend on the hotel’s commitment. Those who want to invest a lot of time and effort into local SEO services, making sure that they appear in every niche blog and directory available, may have to pay a bit more than those who want basic listings only.
In any event, when it comes to local SEO, it’s not really a question of whether or not hotels can afford to do it, but that they can’t afford not to.
What’s changed in local SEO?
It’s always nice to know where a certain form of advertising has been, and where it’s going, and that means understanding the most recent changes to any particular advertising medium. The same is true for local SEO, and it’s more important than ever, as Google has once again changed its algorithm in a way that changes local search entirely and in fact, makes it more competitive.
The way in which Google had made searches, and in particular local searches, even more competitive, is that it has changed from a “7-pack” to a “3-pack.”
Let’s take a minute to explain exactly what a “pack” is. Previous to sometime in the middle of 2016, Google would display a “7 pack” of local results. These results included hotels that were local, the closest to the user, and included additional information about the company.
For some reason, that part of the “Hummingbird” algorithm that is Google’s overall search algorithm, changed in the summer of 2016. At that time it was pared down to just three local hotels appearing in what is now known as the “3 pack.” With fewer than half of the hotels appearing that once appeared, it’s made local search more competitive than ever, as every business fights to be in one of those three top spots.
But that’s just one of the ways in which Google’s algorithm has changed, and it’s only the most recent. Prior to the “3 pack” change, Google had also announced that it was going to start giving higher rankings to websites that were mobile-friendly.
It’s not really a surprising addition, really. Study after study has shown that searches, particularly local searches, are happening more and more on mobile devices. Considering that Google takes the user’s location into consideration, it’s not surprising that they’d begin to give mobile users, users on the go, the edge in the searches. Today, in order to make the most of Google and its page ranking algorithm, hotel must ensure their websites are mobile-friendly.
What’s NAP and why is it important?
NAP is a common acronym used in local SEO and it stands for “Name, Address, and Phone Number.” Not only are these some of the most important factors to consider in local SEO, as they’ll be the information users are most likely searching for, but they’re incredibly important to Google and the other search engines.
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to any company’s NAP is that it remains consistent online. Not only should it appear on the company’s website, but the same NAP should appear consistently across all directories, social media profiles, and any other part of a company’s online presence.
This is particularly true with online directories such as Google My Business, Yelp, the Internet Yellow Pages, and other online directories, as each directory will often cross-reference with other directories to ensure that the NAP of any one company is consistent across all directories.
What is a local listing?
While we’re on the subject – Google My Business, Yelp, the Yellow Pages, and more, are all online directories that contain thousands of local listings. Those local listings include a business’ name, address, phone number, and other details about the business, such as its hours of operation.
The entire purpose of local listings is to make hotels visible on the Internet, and they are the backbone of local SEO. Every new listing created by a business increases that business’ chances of being seen by even more customers, and increasing profit margins. But that’s not the only reason to create more than just one or two listings across online directories.
Another reason, as mentioned, is that often these online directories will share and exchange information with each other. And the more information – and more importantly, the more consistent information – that appears about one particular business, the higher that one business will rank in the SERPs, especially when the searches are local.
What are keywords?
Keywords and keyword phrases are central to any SEO marketing campaign, and they also play a very important role in local SEO.
Keywords are the text a user inputs into Google or another search engine when they’re looking for a specific business, product, or service. When the content on any one webpage matches the keywords a user has entered into the search engine, that page will be displayed in the SERPs. The more relevant, and the more optimized, a page is for the search engines to pick it up, the more likely those pages are to appear higher in the SERPs.
When embarking on just about any SEO marketing campaign, including local SEO, keywords become increasingly important; even directories will ask for basic keywords when listings are being created.
Many hotel teams have heard about keywords when it comes to their SEO efforts, but few recognize just how important they are. And even more, few realize that there’s so much to SEO than just keywords.
What’s the most important thing hotels can do to improve their local SEO efforts?
All local SEO efforts begin with Google My Business. Google My Business is a free tool for hotels and organizations to manage their online presence. Once a business has claimed their Google My Business listing, they can build on it to improve all other aspects of their local SEO efforts. This, in addition to the fact that a Google My Business listing helps customers find a business, is why a Google My Business listing is the most important thing any business can do in their local SEO efforts.
Another reason why it’s so important to claim a Google My Business listing is because, if the appropriate business doesn’t, someone else can. This will allow them to edit and change your business’ information as they see fit, and whether that’s done intentionally or not, it can greatly hurt a business in their local SEO efforts, and so much more.
What are other strategies a hotel can employ to increase their local SEO efforts?
While local SEO efforts may begin with a Google My Business listing, they certainly don’t end there. There are a number of things, in addition to creating a Google listing, that a business can do to increase their local SEO presence. They are:
- Creating profiles and pages on all other directory sites including Bing, Yelp, SuperPages, YellowPages, and more
- Performing keyword research to hone in on the keywords that are yielding the best results, and those that aren’t
- Creating local tags for all images, headings, and text throughout the company’s website and blog
- Obtaining backlinks and trying to ensure, as much as possible, that the anchor text for those backlinks are strong
- Going mobile
- Optimizing URL structures
- Implementing Schema and its relevant markups
- Obtaining quality citations and mentions
- Obtaining positive reviews
- Creating social media profiles across all major social networks, as well as niche social networks
The list of things that can be done to improve a business’ local SEO is extensive, and as Google continues to change and add to its algorithms, the list of tasks is only going to increase. It’s for this reason that many hotels choose to leave the task of SEO of all kinds, including local SEO, to professionals that can manage the job for them.
Is there anything that can negatively affect a hotel’s local SEO efforts?
Just like there are things a business can do to increase their brand’s presence and visibility through local SEO, there are also things they can do to hurt it. And failing to claim their Google My Business listing is just one of them. The other most common mistakes made with local SEO are:
- Having duplicate listings. There’s almost nothing Google hates more than duplicate content; so much so that they’ll often penalize websites for publishing content identical to that of another website. Not only is duplicate content unhelpful for the user, but it’s also a waste of Google’s resources when searching for relevant results to display. If one business location has more than one listing within any online directory, it’s going to hurt them more than it’s going to help.
- Improper categorization. Checking off those little ‘category’ boxes that all online directories ask for is a delicate balance. Typically, a business will do better in the results if they check off as many of those categories as possible, as this helps the search engines to narrow down what their business is all about. However, Google will also penalize hotels that have checked off categories that are actually irrelevant to the business. This is why, as mentioned, it’s a delicate balance.
- Incorrect contact information on the website. What does a business’ website have to do with their online directories? Other than the fact that many of those directories point to those websites, a lot. Google wants to make sure they’re displaying the most accurate results to the user as possible. If they didn’t, the phrase “Google it” might be a lot less effective. In order to do this when it comes to business listings, Google will cross-reference the contact information within the online directory with the contact information on a business’ website. If the two don’t match up, Google may penalize both pages because of it.
- Inconsistent NAP information. Just like Google cross-references contact information with a business’ website, the online directories also cross-reference a business’ NAP – name, address, phone number – with each other. When inconsistencies occur, hotels can be penalized.
Just like some practices need to be instated to increase a business’ local SEO efforts, these need to be avoided.
What is SaaS?
SEO, NAP, there are a lot of acronyms hotel teams hear when they start to embark on improving their local SEO. At some point, they’re likely to hear about SaaS, and pros and cons to it that they may find beneficial (or not). So what exactly is it?
SaaS stands for ‘software as a service’, and there are multiple applications in which this type of software is used online. Instead of a hotel team buying software and installing it before they use it, they simply use the same type of software simply visiting a website.
Over the past several years, the online marketing world has seen a huge influx of local search SaaS platforms emerge. Typically these platforms allow hotels to store their NAP in one central location, and typically that information can then be automatically pushed to other channels.
Just like every other resource used by business, an SaaS comes with both pros and cons and individual hotels will need to weigh those before determining whether or not using SaaS is for them.
What are the benefits to using a SaaS?
There are several benefits that hotels can reap when they choose a SaaS. They include:
- Business listings are updated with the same appropriate content across all listings
- Citations can be distributed to hundreds of directories at one time
- They often require PIN verification, giving a business the exact latitude and longitude of a location
- Analysis will be made on citations, helping ensure a business’ NAP is relevant and consistent across all directories
- Can compile reviews from different sources
At the end of the day, a good SaaS program will automate many aspects of local SEO, which can be more convenient for hotels, and help maintain accuracy for hotels. However, like other aspects of a business, automation can only take one so far.
What can’t an SaaS do?
While SaaS are great and provide automation that can make local SEO much easier for many benefits, it does have its limitations. And SEO consultants and experts agree that, like many things in the digital age, even the best SaaS programs still need a human touch to manage them. When they don’t, they really show their limitations which are:
- Cannot analyze where individual business listings are appearing across Google My Business and other online directories
- Cannot analyze data accuracy and ranking position
- Cannot perform keyword research or analyze percentage of visible business listings for high volume keywords and keyword phrases
- Cannot optimize or manage content for better user experience and SEO performance
- Cannot track, analyze, or measure strategies against each other
- Cannot determine which channels are actually contributing to conversions
SaaS programs and platforms can be a great help to a business. But they should be thought of as basics that are to be built upon, rather than being able to run an entire local SEO campaign on their own.
Is local SEO a one-time project?
It can be. Like most other projects any business takes on, they can be as ongoing or intermittent as the hotel team chooses. However, the best local SEO efforts, and the most successful ones, will be an ongoing effort. As discussed, things like page ranking and trending keywords are always changing, new websites are always being created and old websites are always being revamped. In order to keep up to date on all of this, and to keep the task as one that may be less daunting, it’s important that hotels continue with their local SEO efforts, even after they initially create online profiles and listings.
Why does my hotel deserve to hold the top spot in the search engines?
Most hotel teams know why they want to hold the top spot in the search engines. But ask them why they deserve to hold that same spot, and they may not be so quick with an answer. In order to be successful in local SEO efforts, they need to be.
That’s because an answer to this question makes all other questions and issues related to local SEO a breeze to answer. Answering this question is really just a matter of determining what makes a business unique, what gives them the edge over their competition, and why customers should choose them over anyone else. Once a hotel team has the answer to this question, everything else will fall in line.
Too often hotels answer this question with “because we’re the best” or “because we treat our customers better”, but that’s not good enough when it comes to SEO. The reasons why any business is better than its competition, and why it therefore deserves the top spot in the search engines, has to be unique to that business and that business alone.
There are lots of questions hotel teams have when they first hear of local SEO. And in addition to those, there are often many more they should be asking, but simply don’t know that they should be asking. While this is a fairly comprehensive list of all those questions, once hotel teams start to embark on their own local SEO journey, they’re likely to have even more questions as they go.
Due to the thousands of websites constantly being created, and the fact that Google’s algorithm is always changing, local SEO is something that is a constant learning game for everyone involved – even the professionals. But by starting with these basics, and giving themselves a basic online presence by implementing basic local SEO marketing techniques, hotels can give themselves the best chance.