Editor's Note: Today we have a post from PAGES magazine contributor Stephanie Sparks Smith, Founder and Digital Matriarch at Cogwheel Marketing.
Stephanie is also a partner at Cayuga Hospitality Consultants, where she has gained a wealth of experience helping hotels drive growth and revenue for their websites. In her post, Stephanie explains a variety of ways you can earn links for your hotel website.
Take it away, Stephanie.
For years, backlinks have been an integral part of search engine optimization (SEO) and the success of top website rankings in Google and other search engines.
Hotels are no exception to this standard. Today, major online travel agencies like Expedia and Booking.com dominate paid and organic search engine results. So, link building is now more important than ever.
Whether your hotel website is hosted by a major brand or managed internally, you will not see much organic traffic or high rankings without having quality backlinks. Thankfully, link building is not a complicated process. It only requires some research and old-fashioned persistence that will pay off with improved website rankings, increased online exposure, and potential lead generation opportunities.
Start With A Listings Service
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of online directories where businesses can list themselves to be found by potential customers and partners. The large online directories that hotels may recognize are Yellow Pages, Yelp, and Manta. However, there are many other directories that can generate exposure for your hotel website and provide quality backlinks.
Signing up for a directory syndication service makes it simple to secure a listing on these directory sites. This service will push your hotel’s contact information out to these directories for you. Marriott, IHG, and Hilton have all partnered with Yext to provide this service for their hotels. So, if your hotel is independent or if your brand doesn’t provide an online listings service, this should be at the top of your backlinks to-do list.
Ask Your Existing Local Partners
Take full advantage of your hotel’s membership with its local Chamber of Commerce, Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) and state tourism organization. These memberships include placement on each entity’s “Hotels” or “Places to Stay” section of the website, which are almost effortless backlinks for your hotel. The first backlink opportunity on each of these websites is within your hotel’s profile or listing.
In addition to your hotel’s standard listing, tourism websites often provide an opportunity to promote packages and special offers. This is usually found under a separate “Deals” or “Coupons” section of their websites. Inclusion on these deals pages is typically free, as well, but may require you to take an extra step of uploading an offer or package to your CVB’s extranet. Not only is this another quality backlink for your website, but it will also drive incremental exposure for the few hotels that maximize the opportunity.
Promote Local Packages
Every hotel should have at least one local package — built-in partnership — with a nearby attraction to help you align with your target market. Consider partnerships with shopping outlets, event centers, restaurants, or public transit. This provides additional opportunities to market your hotel and help you secure new backlinks. If you’re offering a package alongside a nearby business, ask your community partner to promote it to their clientele, as well. This can be through placement on their website, in an email newsletter, or on social media.
You will also want to do some light lifting by listing your package with a website link in these additional places:
- Social media channels
- Your TripAdvisor listing as a special offer
- Chamber of Commerce, Convention & Visitors Bureau’s deals page
- State tourism website
Check Your Market's Demand Generators
Think about what drives demand for your hotel and your market – attractions, companies, associations, venues, etc. After you compile a list of your top demand generators, visit each one’s website and search for anything related to hotels in the area.
What you’re looking for is a page where they provide a list of nearby accommodations. If you find a hotel’s information anywhere on their website, you want to be listed there, too. This is often done by simply reaching out to their website manager, filling out a contact form, calling, or visiting in person.
When asking for a backlink, show your hotel’s value and how a listing on their website will be beneficial for their visitors. Identifying linking opportunities with demand generators will both help your hotel website and lead to long-term sales partnerships or potential local negotiated contracts.
Partner With Your Local University
Colleges and universities typically provide a local area guide with a list of nearby hotels on visitor, alumni, homecoming, and/or sports sections of their websites. You will want to be listed on each page of their website where a list of hotels can be found, which may require you to reach out to different departments. The effort here will be well worth it, as backlinks on .edu websites typically hold more weight than .com sites because these are usually highly-trusted domains.
Outshine Your Competitors
Performing a backlink analysis of your competitors may help you uncover new linking opportunities for your hotel, as well as present possibilities to establish new local negotiated-rate accounts, group bookings, meeting space events, and local partners.
There are a plethora of free tools that will help you in this analysis that can be quickly found with an online search. Once you find your tool of choice, you will be able to copy/paste your competitor’s website URL into the backlink tool.
Then you will be provided with a list of websites that feature your competitor. Go to each of the websites, and if your hotel isn’t there, you just found a new backlink opportunity. Consider doing this for multiple competitors throughout the year so that you are consistently uncovering new prospecting opportunities.
Mentions in news articles, magazines, and newsletters are reputable sources for quality backlinks. Hospitality industry websites have free editorial, news, and “People on the Move” sections in which you can submit relevant articles. Potential sources are hotel-online.com, ehotelier.org, and hospitalitynet.org.
Also, if your hotel is celebrating a grand opening or recent renovation, you can contact your local news outlets to be featured in an online news story. In addition to traditional media, publicity can also come from partnering with social media influencers and bloggers to be featured on their website or blog, typically in the form of an impartial review of their experience at your hotel.
Dig A Little Deeper
When looking for online backlink opportunities, it also helps to search the websites of:
- Local funeral homes
- Large churches
- Public transportation departments
These organizations usually get a significant number of out-of-town visitors, so it’s common for them to have a dedicated section of their website for local information.
Finding backlinks for your hotel should be built into the sales and marketing plan and addressed quarterly to determine new opportunities. If your hotel does not have a marketing department, this may fall to your sales team. Many times, the sales team already has the contacts. So, securing these links is just a matter of extending those existing relationships into the online space.