Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is crucial to your hotel’s online visibility on search engines. It’s also a vast topic that is constantly in flux and often misinterpreted. Starting with this post, we’ll break down the basics for you and get you started on making the most of this channel.
What Are Search Engines? What Do They Do?
Think of search engines as answer machines. A user types in a query (called keyword). The search engine scours its data of billions of documents (web pages, images, etc) and in less than a second serves up what it thinks is the most relevant response to the user’s query. Relevance and popularity along with hundreds of other factors influence the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
The search engine spits hundreds and thousands of pages in results, but it’s really the first page that matters. 92% of search traffic comes from page one of the search results, 4.8% from page two, and 1.1% from page three.
What Is SEO?
It is the strategy, comprised of both creative and technical elements, used to increase the authority, visibility, and presence of a website organically in search engine results (remember the page one we touched upon earlier?). These are the ‘free’ or ‘editorial’ results.
Why You Need to Bother with Search?
According to Google (the largest search engine), 60% of the leisure travelers and 55% of business travelers start their travel journey using a search engine. Since these are ‘intent driven’ queries, conversion from here is much higher than other marketing channels. And that in summary is why it all matters.
Yahoo and Bing are other search engines of prominence, while in China, Baidu leads the search.
How Search Engines Work?
If you’ve ever searched for something online, you already probably know more about SEO than you think. In a nutshell, in order for a search engine such as Google to answer a query, it needs to:
- Know that you (business website) exist and are ‘search friendly’
- Have valuable content about a topic that you want to rank on
- Build authority and trust by a factor such as links from other websites
In order to produce the search results, search engines send ‘bots’ or ‘spiders’ that crawl your website (not quite as scary as the real creatures!), store information from it in their data centers or servers around the world and when a search query comes up, it refers to this stored data to find the most useful or relevant result or answer.
Search engines use hundreds of mathematically estimated algorithms and factors, to find content that is most relevant for the query.
For the purpose of this article and series, we’ll focus on Google, the top search engine outside of China.
When a query is typed into the search bar, Google uses a technology called Artificial Intelligence to understand your query and Knowledge Graph to respond to the query. This knowledge bank is built and honed by the trillions of queries that pass through Google’s machines each year. Google also improves its ability to understand the context of the searched queries and content available online, based on a technique called Machine Learning by each passing query. It is important to know that search results vary based on location, device, and even time of day or year.
Where to Begin?
To ‘optimize’ your website – or make it search engine friendly – is a combined effort between technical improvements and front-end content.
Over the next few weeks, we will take you through a step-by-step guide on how to improve your search results. This includes:
Making your website search-friendly via links, XML Maps, good URL structure, site access, and providing a good user experience.
Deliver valuable content firstly by creating content for users and not search engines. This is crucial if you want to improve your backlinks and social shares. We will look at keywords, what role tags and meta information play in your SEO efforts. Link building or off-page optimization needs to be considered.
Last, how do you measure success? Tools to use and understanding the insights.
What’s your burning SEO question you’d like answered over this series? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.