By Tammie Carlisle, Head of Hospitality, Milestone Inc., and a member of the HSMAI Marketing Advisory Board.
Search engine optimization is a critical strategy in ensuring visitors find your organization’s site and have a user-friendly experience once they get there. Entity search takes this a step further beyond keyword optimization to focus more on the context around search terms. How are marketers in hospitality using these tools to manage and grow their channels?
The HSMAI Marketing Advisory Board recently dove into this topic. Many group members found that, amid the pandemic, SEO functions within their teams were disrupted due to staff cuts or people being recruited by other companies. Some have hired agencies to fulfill this need, while others are focused on finding permanent, in-house talent or ramping up SEO training for their teams that are still in place.
“When I started my position a little over a year ago, the corporate team was cut pretty lean, and then my digital team was getting recruited out and leaving the industry,” one advisory board member said. “After six months of looking, I got someone in an SEO-specific role, but — and maybe this has to do with what our industry pays — it’s hard to keep them in their seat long. So, now we’re using an agency for SEO and digital paid media.”
Despite some of the challenges related to talent, many group members are moving forward with their SEO strategies and exploring how it plays into content development.
“We’re spending a lot on content creation to support our SEO efforts,” one member said. “We’ve done well with paid media, and we’ve been able to reduce some of those costs by being able to drive over index on some of these pages that weren’t getting any organic traffic.”
Another member said, “We’ve engaged a new SEO agency, and we’re looking at making some changes in list management services, trying to do some more automation and maybe even integration into our website, which I think would help with managing a lot of content as well as boost our organic presence.”
“In terms of content,” another explained, “we’re driving toward two KPIs. The first is reducing our ad costs and the other is driving inspiration. We’re focused on trying to get people back into traveling and inspiring them to take that trip or vacation they’ve been putting off.”
Related to content, one advisory board member said, “I pulled my SEO and PR agency together because they are helping us get visibility, and there’s all this content out there. I see some nice synergy there, so it’s not just SEO in a silo.”
The group also discussed how zero click search — or queries that show up on the results page — impact SEO strategy.
“What we’re seeing is that it’s still driving a lot of traffic when you have a good SEO strategy. It’s better to be there and have someone get the information and maybe not click right then, than it is to not be there at all.”
Another advisory board member offered, “Zero-click search is mostly informational, as opposed to somebody looking for inspiration or where they should stay — questions like, how much is parking or how far is it to the airport, etc. You need to optimize for that because that sets the breadcrumbs, for either building the relationship with visitors if they’ve already booked with you, or for them to book directly with you once they’re ready.”
Other key insights from this conversation include the following:
- “When it comes to entity search, helping the search engine understand entities on your website (an entity is a person, place, or thing) and the connections between those entities and the property, it’s more likely you’ll see an increase in traffic and visibility to a website. We’re seeing a shift from just focusing on keywords to more topical themes and entities. Also, with voice search becoming more prominent, it has created more of an ask for questions in search. We’ve gone from the days of Ask Jeeves to two-word search on a mobile phone, back to these long-tail search terms.”
- “SEO is certainly important, and the conversations I’m having with my clients in the travel space revolve around figuring out how they can enhance their SEO strategies because CPCs are increasing so much this year as demand starts coming back, and we’re all fighting over the same leisure traveler.”
- “I think we’re seeing more ads against a lot of our branded terms than we saw probably a year or two ago. We’re seeing a lot more paid space on average and a lot heavier competition. I think that’s partly driven by ad budgets coming back and Google likely identifying that and opening up the market a little bit more.”
- “SEO is a focus for us, but as a management company, we don’t have a lot of control over the technical SEO or the structure of the site, so a lot of our focus is on functional, high-quality content. We’re also focusing on understanding some of the related questions for traffic drivers to our site and building a little bit more of that style of content to answer those questions.”