By Eric von Starck for HSMAI newsletter, 2005 Summer

Charlotte’s Web- a feature from the webyard

The hackneyed phrase, Search Engine
Optimization for Hotels, what does it really mean for Hotel and Resort Marketing?

It does not mean putting a list of key words or “search words” within things called “metatags” on your hotel's website.

That's what we did in 1996.

Now, it's all there for you to read on the page.

Copy is king.

I know, that’s what most everyone tells you is “search engine optimization” for hotels and they would have been right five to seven years ago. But not now.

“Search Engine Optimization” now means the art/skill of juggling lots of elements and techniques so as to make your hotel website visible - findable - on the web when folks type in a set of search words.

Let’s say someone types in “denver hotel economy”, will the hotel that you represent come up on the first two pages of the search engine being used? Will it be your own site that comes up or a Third Party Portal Site on which you are listed?

If it is your own site that comes up and it is on the second or lower page, then you are gong to want to discover ways to get your ranking on the search engine higher until you are on the first page and then as high as you can get on that page.

How can you do that?

The different search engines find things (you and other Denver economy hotels) differently and then rank those things in different ways. The ways that they do these two things change every couple of months. This is what makes it tough for your web designer to keep up.

As of Yesterday

So, let’s look at how (we think) Google does it as of yesterday. Who knows yet about today? - someone but I’m not enough of a geek to keep with the search engines day to day.

Google’s going to look at its databases of pages and the COPY on those pages. It likes LOTS of copy, it wants to find pages with lots of substantial copy and the words denver . . .economy .... hotel repeated throughout the first couple of paragraphs of the copy, then it’s going to want to see a headline with the words in it ( Best Western’s Denver Hotel Offers Its Valued Guests Exceptional Economy), then it’s going to want to find a subhead with the same words in it (Economy Hotels in Denver Offer Mountain Biking and Trail Running), and then finally it will check back into its databases to see how many sites have links coming into the page of your site and if those links have the same words in them.

Why do this?

Google has decided that the way to rank the “value” of your page can be predicated on how many people have linked to that page. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

The killer for you and all of us representing hotels is that the portal site will win on the final set of criteria. How are we, on our single hotel site, going to be able to get 1000 links? We can’t. Therefore, for Google, the third party portal sites will regularly be ranked ahead of us.

The same criteria do not apply to Yahoo, Inktomi and Teoma search engines as well as the results that you see on MSN search. With these search engines, incoming links are weighted lightly, so you will come up much better - even ahead of portal sites which may lose ranking because they are a list of links! No good, substantial copy, just commercial blah. See how the perception of “value” and “ranking” can be turned on its head? That is what the search engines do to differentiate themselves from their “comp set”. Tit for tat.

What Can a Single Site Do?

1) Rewrite your copy, add much more copy, reformat the copy, and add pages so that you are more visible.

2) Register a few related web domains like (available), (available), and (also available). They only cost about $15 to $30 a year to register. Ask your web designer to write and conceive a useful site for you with good general information, giving the primary copy and Links to your own site. You win in two ways: incoming links and peripheral marketing.

3) Setup a blog with Internet access participation. Over time the blog will develop it’s own series of links. The nature of the copy and the fact that the copy changes will add value to your site. Yes, it takes work to maintain. But how many more folks will be able to book you through the web if they can find you. Further - is this not a great PR tool that reveals how your property and its staff see the world- without the soft focus of collateral.

4) Set up a Forum. All the same reasons apply as for a Blog. How valuable would this be as a resource in revealing the honest open communication of your property. What are the subliminal messages of a forum? And, yes, you can delete entries that are too problematic for you and the management. No, it won’t cost you a bundle. I can set one up in a few hours - one with all the bells and whistles.

5) Get links, get links, get links.

6) Add copy, add copy, add copy. The search engines cannot “see” a photo. The viewer gets to see your photos only after you’ve been found - through your copy!

Now you need to apply this knowledge to every one of your hotels markets.
SEO for hotels should be done market by market, page by page.

As a sample of what such aggressive marketing on the web can do a hotel's business, have a look at this Caribbean Family Resort Hotel in Puerto Rico >

This website brings in 2300 separate search phrases for each known market and hoped for market. 18,000 to 23,000 searches a month for a small obscure hotel in a busy market place - a market dominated by Disney's power.

Here with a managed and SEO'd hotel reveiew wesbite for guest reviews of this Caribbean Beach Front Hotel, we deepen the web around the hotel.

The result: 750 increase in web & 1800 res center business, reduction in incoming calls by 5/6ths and increase in 1 800 revenue of 250%.

It really is possible.

Just don't take "no' as an answer.

from Eric von Starck, Web designer at Panetiere Marketing Advisors,

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first we need to get the looker to have a look.
that's copy.
that's words.
that's lots of pages that deal each with every market that we want for the hotel.