When it comes to your hotel’s website, there are likely a number of online marketing tactics you’re aware of such as content updates to your website and promoting your site on social media. What you may not know is that there are many non-visible online marketing initiatives and updates that go into producing and maintaining a website. These essential marketing initiatives have a tremendous impact on the overall performance of a site, but, as they are “behind-the-scenes,” they often go unnoticed by the naked eye. Our team at Blue Magnet Interactive works so hard on these “behind-the-scenes” features because we know how important they are to the success of your hotel’s website and, ultimately, your hotel’s bottom line.
In an attempt to spare you a lengthy blog post full of technical jargon, below is a summary of 7 extremely important, but lesser known, elements that go into improving the performance of your hotel’s website and making it a major revenue driver for your hotel.
1. Site Speed Optimization
2. Link Profile Cleanup
Link building has proven to be valuable for improving the credibility and ranking of a website. In addition to making sure we seek out relevant, quality links to support (link to) a hotel’s website, Blue Magnet audits the hotel’s current inbound link profile and flags spammy sites or poor links pointing to the hotel’s site. Then, we consolidate all poor, low-quality links (especially those that come from link directories) and submit them to Google through a link disavowal request. Ultimately, a hotel with a strong link profile full of links from sites that are relevant to the hotel can generate more traffic and a better conversion rate. For instance, winery tour or wine-related websites pointing to a hotel in the center of wine country will not only make the most sense for the hotel but could improve the chances of generating more booked revenue from someone looking to stay in wine country.
Having a robots.txt file is crucial to making sure Google and other search engines are able to crawl your site effectively. If your robots.txt file is not properly configured to only allow crawling of the most important pages on your site, you’re going to have a hard time getting people to find your hotel website in the first place (and make search bots pretty frustrated). Likewise, if you allow crawling of too many files (particularly the technical ones that are often part of the structure of your site), you could end up having files you don’t want indexed and make it even harder for search engines to piece together the important content of your site. For example, most robots.txt files will block the page that contains the administrator login from appearing in search engines (see below). While this page must exist so the webmaster can login to the backend of the site, search engines don’t need to index that page and show it in the search results.
Pro Tip: Don’t use your robots.txt file to get pages removed from a search engine’s index. Rather, use it to stop these pages from being indexed in the first place.
4. Sitemap Creation & Maintenance
If you don’t tell Google about the pages on your website, it may not crawl and index them – meaning no one searching the web will be able to find your hotel’s website via search results! It is essential that you create a sitemap for your hotel’s website which lists all relevant pages on your website that you want searchers to access. It is also extremely important to update the sitemap on a regular basis since you are likely adding new pages and PDFs or removing old pages and PDFs on a regular basis. At Blue Magnet Interactive, we keep track of new landing pages added to your website, update your hotel’s sitemap and re-submit it to both Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools to make sure they index new pages right away. We also ensure that a link to your sitemap is provided at the end of your robots.txt file to further help search bots understand the content and structure of your website.
Pro Tip: Run a “site:domain.com” search on Google to see what pages and PDFs on your website are indexed.
5. Site Backups
If your site crashes or goes down, your hotel risks losing potential online bookings, so it is imperative that you proactively back up your website on a regular basis. Blue Magnet pulls backups of a hotel’s website database and server files on a weekly and monthly basis, just in case we need to revive your website or pull old files from previous versions.
Pro Tip: Set a recurring calendar reminder on the same day of every month and create a website backup checklist to ensure that you are routinely covering your bases.
6. Crawl Errors
Crawl Errors can be detrimental to the SEO and usability of your website in many ways, including: Googlebot and other search engines could have trouble crawling your website Your website could be pegged as being lower quality by search engines due to the number of crawl errors your website generates Users visiting your website can run into “dead ends” when one of your pages doesn’t work or if you link to a page that no longer exists. At Blue Magnet, we regularly check for broken links on your website, in addition to broken links on other sites pointing to your hotel’s website. Have you ever come across a 404 Error page (see one of my favorite 404 pages from The Huffington Post below) and had to click the back button or try your search query again to find the information elsewhere?
Aside from causing SEO issues, crawl errors negatively impact the visitor’s user experience, so we strive to find and fix these errors before others run into them. If a link on your website breaks or if someone links to a page on your website that no longer exists, we can work on the backend of your website to redirect old pages to newer, relevant pages. We also reach out to webmasters from other sites and ask them to update their websites to point to the correct URL for your hotel.
Pro Tip: Use a free tool like Google Webmaster Tools or Screaming Frog to check crawl errors regularly.
7. Responsive Testing
The Blue Magnet team strongly supports responsive website design which means your hotel’s website will adapt to the size of a user’s device screen, whether it’s a desktop computer, tablet, or mobile device. Since responsive website design uses the same page for all devices, it’s necessary to perform regular testing to make sure that a visitor has a flawless user experience when using any version of any browser type (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, etc.) on any type of device (iPhone, Android, iPad, Kindle Fire). Additional testing should also be conducted to make sure forms (contact, request for proposal, email sign-ups, etc.) can be submitted on any screen size and that all elements of the website (font styles, copy, images, etc.) automatically adjust to the user’s screen size. Making sure that all elements of a responsive site work together cohesively will drastically improve the user experience of your website and the overall conversion rate. At Blue Magnet, we perform “Mom Tests” before new responsive sites launch. This entails having a dedicated QA person perform various website tasks on different browsers and devices to provide feedback.
Pro Tip: Use a free tool like quirktools.com/screenfly for screen-size testing before your hotel’s website launches. Ask colleagues, friends, and family to test out the site on their preferred browser and device.
Are you feeling tech savvy now?
As you can see, there is a lot more that goes into the upkeep and performance of your website than what meets the eye. While on-page SEO efforts are often easy to explain since you can see the physical changes being made, off-page and technical SEO and user experience efforts are often just as (if not more) time-consuming and important as more visible updates. I challenge you, hotelier, to ask your online marketing account manager what they are doing behind-the-scenes to improve the performance of your website. What types of updates and reporting are they providing you to show these under-the-radar efforts? Are you seeing an increase in overall traffic to your hotel website and booked revenue because of these updates and maintenance? Hopefully they are working on all of these essential elements, and if not, run, don’t walk to Blue Magnet Interactive!