It’s no secret that on-page content is only one part of producing a well-optimized hotel website. Search engines have long sought ways to determine the credibility of websites for ranking purposes. Linking has been—and still is—a very important part of the formula for determining search engine results.
At the same time, enterprising SEOs have always looked for ways to use search engine algorithms to their advantage. As long as top rankings remain a source of revenue and ROI, people will try to inflate their domain authority. That’s just human nature.
But the two big Google algorithm updates that have occurred over the past two years have dramatically altered the game. The Panda updates, first released in 2011, cracked down on spammy on-page shenanigans. Arguably even more important was the Penguin update in 2012, which did an excellent job of weeding out link spam and unnatural link profiles.
If you’re wondering why “content marketing” has become the hot buzzword over the last year, it is, in our opinion, precisely related to this. Content marketing is geek speak for “writing stuff that people really want to read.” What’s happening is that as Google becomes better at demoting or penalizing bad or spammy content, the marketplace is responding. The idea is that by attracting and engaging your audience, without directly selling to them, you increase credibility with a larger audience and improve your chances for selling at another time.
So how does all this relate to link building for hotels? As the Google algorithm becomes better at weeding out spam in both content and link profiles, it makes less sense to engage in these tactics. On the content side, we recommend our clients put their effort into blogging or creating infographics that add real value for your audience. Instead of paying for gray hat or—gasp!—black hat SEO, consider hiring a thoughtful blogger armed with your list of top ROI keywords, and start publishing.
On the link profile side, ask your agency to give you a complete link profile for your own site and each of your top competitors. Make sure that every inbound link you have is from an authoritative source that publishes quality content. Use webmaster tools to “disavow links” that may point to your site from spammy sources.
Next, look at the profiles of your competitors. Target any of their links that come from authoritative sites and make sense for you. Don’t target links from sites that have content unrelated to your site content. Do target travel sites, especially those that focus on your geographic area or market niche.
Go after the low-hanging fruit. Make sure that you are included in every CVB or marketing association that offers outbound to your competitors. If they are already linking to you, double-check that they are linking to the most relevant page on your site, which may not be your homepage.
Don’t forget link building when you negotiate with groups. If the planner for that big piece of association business is pushing for a free breakout session, counter with a request for a page on their site that describes the meeting in detail and links to your site. Tell them that you will provide the content. They may see it as a time saver, and you can ensure that the referring page is loaded with valuable content.
Ask your agency to identify real, quality, relevant linking opportunities and to make them turnkey for you to execute. Link requests are always more productive coming from someone on property, but there is nothing that says you have to actually do the work yourself!
The point is not to waste effort with any link spam. You’re not a professional SEO—you’re in the hospitality business. On the product side, put efforts into producing the best hotel experience you can deliver. On the marketing side, produce a beautiful, usable website that’s loaded with valuable content and has a high-quality inbound link profile. And if you want the help of a marketing firm that specializes in hotel SEO, email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.