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Changes in SEO for Hotels 2020

03 March 2020

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Changes in Hotel Search Engine Optimisation 2020

Search engine optimisation has been a movable feast for decades. Companies have charged small fortunes to their clients for keeping abreast of the algorithm changes; ideally faster than anyone else. This has lead to a self-fulfilling cycle of Google striving to deliver more and more and more relevant results, with SEO specialists constantly playing catchup to master techniques and give a competitive advantage to their clients

Throughout 2020 we are expecting to see some changes that significantly change how people discover content as well as how hotels can succeed in generating organic traffic. In this short post, I will go through a few of these so that you can have them on your radar as we progress through another year in hotel marketing.

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Organic visibility will continue to be harder to come by

While there are naturally winners and losers, organic visibility in its original, purest form is becoming harder to come by. This is primarily down to a sheer lack of screen real estate available to users. If we compare the results from 3 years ago to now most organic listings are actually now below the fold (dependent on the keywords and ads). This is even more noticeable on mobile where we might have to scroll past rich snippets, Google My Business listings and ads until we get to some organic listings.

For hotels specifically, we are seeing the Google Maps three pack as well as Google Hotel Ads draw significant attention away from the organic listings. Rich snippets are also dominating the top of the page as Google tries to restrict outbound clicks on non-paid searches (more on that later). Adverts are also looking more and more organic which backs this interesting trend in some cases, we are also seeing brands (and even booking.com in a few cases) take control of a hotel’s Google My Business listing, rendering organic traffic harder and harder to come by.

Even Google search is not longer about search

In July 2019, Google reported more than 50% of its searches were “Zero Click”. This means that over half of all visits never actually left the Google platform. So much for a search engine that we thought was trying to send users to content, paid or otherwise! This trend shows that Google is not simply trying to keep increasing outbound clicks and usage of its “traffic distribution” functionality, it is trying to own the full browsing journey from search to fulfilment.

This has a massive connotation for hotels and travel as Google will no longer be prioritising the distribution of traffic to third-party sites. It will be focussing on retainer users and fulfilling the browsing session. Google Flights and Google Hotels are examples of this in action where it is now possible to actually browse and booking rooms and flights from within Google. This is content for another post but has the potential to significantly change the entire booking travel industry.

Rich snippets have become a double-edged sword. We have seen that they do get people higher up SERPs but the click-through rate (CTR) is far lower due to the information being readily available without the need for a click.

Online Reviews are now affecting SERPs

Given the rise in the importance of local SEO, our Google My Business profile is more important than ever. Including Reviews! It is now very much shooting yourself in the foot if you’re leaving Google Reviews without response, Google is now actually punishing the rankings of sites that do not respond in a timely manner. Make sure every single review has a response – they’re used more than you know and not just for guests consideration!

Adoption of voice search will accelerate

Google predicts that voice will be used in over 30% of browsing sessions by the end of 2020 which has significant connotations for hotel SEO. The search terms that we enter through voice are very different from those that are typed – namely the fact that they are a lot more long-tail and are more likely to be question-based rather than keyword based. This affects how we write content as we’ll need to be even more focused on answering specific questions than we were before. Further to this, it has effects on acceptable site speed on hotel websites. We might be willing to wait a few seconds for a page to load but are we going to be willing to wait this time for Alexa to respond? Probably not! The content that is proving to be most successful in this search landscape is the evergreen, long-form content (typically over 1000 words) answering questions that are asked year after year.

What’s next for Hotel SEO?

There are a number of other interesting developments in search that we’re innovating around – should you wish to discuss how we might be able future proof your SEO strategy then please drop us a note, and we’ll be happy to chat further!

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