In an ever more competitive hospitality sector, it's no longer possible just to rely on word of mouth marketing to attract customers and boost your business' revenue — you need to stand out online. Here, Marc Swann, Search Director at digital marketing agency Glass Digital, shares his top tips for getting your hospitality website ship-shape and ready to rank on Google.
Despite the current economic uncertainty, the hospitality sector is proving to be incredibly robust in the UK. The latest ONS figures have the number of accommodation and food service businesses operating in 2019 at 157,000, which is up from 153,000 in 2018, for a 2.6% growth. However, while this is fantastic for the industry on the whole, it also means that the race for customers will likely continue to gather pace, making it absolutely essential that you're ready to compete.
The battle to win customers is definitely being won and lost on the internet. With 81% of hotel bookings taking place online (ABTA) and 15% of diners saying they wouldn't visit a restaurant with no website or social media (Barclaycard), it's clearly becoming vital to have a strong digital presence. And, because 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine (Adlibweb), the best way to stand out online is by getting your business ranking as far up the Google search results page as possible.
To help you out, here are Marc’s top tips for improving your hospitality website's ranking.
Do some website housekeeping right away
Even if you aren't going to try some of the more advanced tips here, you need to ensure your site is in the best shape possible if you're going to have a chance of ranking well. Aim to make the user experience (UX) as good as possible, with a site that looks professional, is easy to navigate, and runs smoothly. Not only will a great-looking website make a positive impression on potential customers, but Google places great value on UX, so you're likely to rank higher, too.
Remember, getting your site optimised for mobile devices is incredibly important as well — 80% of all searches will be carried out on one of these devices by the end of 2019 (Quartz). As a result, you need to make sure your site loads easily and performs well on mobile platforms — have a look at Google's mobile-friendly test to see how it performs and for further advice.
Focus on that all-important local search
Unless you’re a world-famous Michelin starred restaurant or five-star hotel, it's unlikely that people will begin their online journey by searching specifically for you. Instead, they will probably look for their options in the area they're visiting — for instance, "hotels in east London" or "cafes near Charing Cross". That's why you need to make sure that you're focusing in on that all-important local search to capture those wandering customers.
One of the best ways to do this is by ensuring you have a fully-fledged Google My Business listing, which is the profile you register with the search engine for their local queries. Do so, and you will begin to appear in location-based results with your contact details, map location, and opening hours visible to potential customers. Aim to provide Google with as much information as possible, as listings with more detail tend to appear more frequently, and also add some high-quality photos to appeal to users.
You may have also noticed that Google My Business results often have user reviews attached, which is a service provided to help searchers make a smart choice. I'm sure that your hospitality brand will attract lots of great reviews, but be ready to communicate with both positive and negative feedback as it will show searchers that you’re alive and kicking and really care about your customers.