Google is constantly updating its search algorithm – the method used to determine your websites ranking in search results – making it harder for businesses to keep their websites competitive in an already fiercely competitive environment.
The most significant update in 2011 is the Google Panda Update – its release has made many hotel websites obsolete, with strict requirements for content, interactivity and page download speeds. The ‘set and forget’ websites are a thing of the past – unique and constantly changing content will increase the site’s ‘stickiness’ and is necessary if you want your website performing well in Google rankings.
Google has since gone a step further by releasing an update that will have even more of an impact for hotel and tourism websites – the ‘Freshness’ update. The Freshness update has the potential to affect 35% of total searches – it’ll allow for more relevant information to be displayed for a great number of search queries.
Why are these updates so important to the hotel and tourism industry?It’s all in the numbers – 50-70% of your website visitors and bookings originate as leads from major search engines – including Google.
The Freshness update is an ‘add-on’ to Google’s Caffeine update in 2010 – enabled to make search queries 5-% ‘fresher.’ For example, your search for election results would show the latest and most relevant articles. But the number of searches being entered and the number of articles being posted has risen dramatically in just one year. Each story is being discussed, reported on, and discussed hundreds of times over – the internet is available, and immensely effective.
Who does this ‘Freshness’ update affect?Every single website. It has become harder to distinguish the difference between a news website, a blog, and a content website that has ‘local news’, events, and promotions – such as hotel websites. It will become increasingly difficult to compete with news sites that are constantly updating content as it happens; if searcher’s settings have no specific time period, Google will generate the latest results.
How does the new Google algorithm apply to my hotel website?Unlike news sites, your website isn’t going to have a constant stream of ‘fresh’ content. Your static content has the important information about the hotel, its facilities and services, for example – but news is less easy to come by.
How can I respond to the latest Google updates?Content is king. You need to constantly update your website with new content pages, event and promotional landing pages, promo codes, tiles and banners with information on specials and events.
Each local promotion, or event page, has ‘micro-formats’ applied to them, these are rich snippets of data that signify to a search engine that these events are stand-alone, current events, with exact starting and ending times. This ensures they are viewed as ‘current’ rather than repetitive or stagnant.
What else can we do?
· Announcements: Announcements serve as a section of your website that constantly provides new content about both hotel-related information and regional topics that people can share with their networks. It’s a great way for you to instantly highlight and promote specials, events, services and general hotel news. Announcements are a convenient and easy way to generate new content for your website.
· Social Media Interaction: There’s no denying it – social media is the way of the future and you simply can’t do without it. Having real-time Facebook and Twitter feeds on your website ensures interaction is instantly recorded and is relevant. Having a strong presence on social media guarantees you’ll have constant news updates, promotions and announcements – leading to frequent interaction with your business. Your website should reflect your usage of social platforms, this is where widgets and live feeds are beneficial.
· Sitemap updates: For every update you make to the structure of your website, make sure this is reflected in the sitemap – when search engines crawl your website there is no missing pieces or erroneous information. Your sitemap will appear as up to date as the visible content on your website.
· Schema code – a relatively new code-based element that Google released in 2011. They can be viewed as augmented meta data – allowing you describe, in-depth, details about a given page, sale, or event that otherwise wouldn’t be included on your website. These enhance each page in terms of information and search engines can more easily understand what the page is about and what is being targeted.
You need to be constantly updating the content on your website; highlight what you’re proud of on your website, through social media and within blogs and press releases. The more content you add, the more likely it is that your website will appear higher than your competitors.