By Will Jerome and Sue Wiker
What’s the Issue?
Unlocking the confusion behind local search rankings can be frustrating. Why are good local search rankings important for hoteliers? Over a third of all searches are local in character. Hoteliers have noticed that local search listings (e.g. Google Places) generate a lot of website visits and bookings – as many as 30% from the total website revenues often come from the property’s local listings.
Many hotel websites enjoy solid if not spectacular organic search rankings for keyword terms that they have strategically targeted site-wide, and yet they can’t seem to break into local search i.e. the Google map pack. That “map pack” – the bunched display of listings connected to Google Places pages and closely tied to the physical address and contact information – is formulated using a separate algorithm than general organic listings. It appears because of the intricate local search algorithm. In addition to local search listing optimizations (Google Places, Yahoo Local, Bing Local), local link building and property profile optimizations on the main data providers, what else can hoteliers do to improve their local search rankings? Here we would like to offer some insight into how citation listings can enhance the property’s standing in local search, and provide tips to getting over the hump and getting your property to claim a pole position in your market.
What Does it Mean for Hoteliers?
Building links back to your website is still the most important task to undertake when attempting to improve keyword standing, but a local strategy requires a modified approach. This is where local citations come into play. GetListed.org explains them in the following way: “Citations are defined as “mentions” of your business name and address on other webpages, even if there is no link to your website.” You might be asking yourself, ‘No link? Where’s the value?’ The truth is, these link-free localized listings have immense value within the local algorithm, which directly affects your placement in the local search engine results. Without these listings the chances of gaining significant traction for those map-associated listings is much tougher. Their prioritization should be a focal point from the inception of an SEO campaign.
What is the Solution?
When your hotel is listed on Google Places you ensure that the address, phone number, email, URL, and official name of the property are all correctly listed. A citation is a place where that exact same information lives as well. There are countless citation sources out there, from local business listings, directories, blogs and newspapers to chambers of commerce, colleges, and regional CVBs. Oftentimes, these citation targets do offer links, but even if they don’t it is vital that your information be placed on another online source. Because hotel searches are so geographical in nature, the presence and strength of your local listing becomes paramount to a quality SEO campaign. Citation acquisition is sometimes an afterthought because claiming local listings may be seen as a source of only minimal traffic, and if no link is associated no site-boosting ability is assumed. In fact, every local listing, if you properly curate them, has immense value with or without links.
Spreading address-driven location information across a number of regionally-relevant sites has a direct impact on how your site fares within the map-pack. You can easily go from not appearing on the local listings on page one to rising up through the lettered ranks all the way up to A. Claiming listings that already exist is a key component of this process. There are countless business directories online, with a large number of them being legitimate directories that properly categorize websites as opposed to a link farm. Within many, if not most, of these directories are either placements for your property that are ready to claim or the opportunity to develop a new property listing. The best part about seeking citations is that webmasters are much more willing to provide them, since they don’t require adding a link on their end. This means no meal vouchers, discounted rooms, or any other form of material link bait that a hotel could offer is necessary. This makes the acquisition rate much higher than link-building.
What do the HeBS Digital Marketing Experts Recommend?
At HeBS Digital, we recommend the diligent practice of finding business listings about your property, claiming them, and standardizing their information. This will yield great returns in local search. By cornering all markets, from the main data providers to the localized directories, as well as using tools like WhiteSpark and GetListed to find citations that aren’t so obvious, is essential in boosting local standing. Beyond standard directories like YellowPage, Yelo, and Manta, there are countless online locations where your address and contact information are listed. We find that searching for a property’s phone number typically yields a generous amount of new citation leads. Shining out amongst your direct geographically-relevant competitors is a challenge and staying ahead of them by solidifying your property listings is vital. Citations are not the only component of the local search algorithm, but they are an oft-forgotten SEO element that frequently gets ignored or only lightly addressed in favor of link-only acquisition.
At HeBS Digital, local search is a priority in each and every one of our hotel SEO services and campaigns. Hotels serve localized areas and through a proper citation acquisition plan we seek to bring that local relevance to the forefront of your search engine listing. We’re all about finding those citations, locking them down, and watching your local search standing elevate. We do this by offering our clients the “Local Listing Optimization / Enhancement Package, including setting up/claiming/optimizing your listings on:
- Main search engines (Google Places, Yahoo! Local Directory, Bing Local Directory
- Main data providers
- In-car navigation, telematics services, 411 operators, portable navigation units
- Main online Yellow Page directories
Contact us to learn more about the Local Listing Optimization / Enhancement Package.